Tips for getting the most out of your video conferences

video conferencing

Video conference etiquette: how to best put yourself in the picture

Attending meetings in a virtual room saves valuable time, can be just as effective as a face-to-face meeting and the same rules apply as for a real meeting – with a few special features. Here are the most important dos & don’ts. 

Prepare the video conference

 

If you are the organizer of the video conference, the right initiation is the first step towards an efficient appointment. If, for example, there is already a problem when dialing in because the dial-in data is incorrect or incomplete, the desire for the appointment drops to zero. Advanced tools automatically send this data (link, PIN, user ID, phone number, etc.). If this is not the case, it is best to make sure in advance that you have correctly passed on all the important information to the participants. 

This also applies to the agenda. It should be clear and slim and attached to the invitation. This will help the others prepare and will help you focus on the chosen topic and come back to it if the discussion drifts away. 

Check the technology in good time

 

If you are a participant and have never worked with this conference system before, you should test your access at least 15 minutes before the start of the conference so that you can start on time. The settings of your company network are often so restrictive that you are not allowed to use the respective service at all. Or the conference system requires that special software or an extension for your browser is installed on your computer. In this case, you should contact your IT administrator in good time. Entering a conference too late with the sentence “Sorry, I had to do an unplanned software update” becomes a taboo with the increasing use of video conference systems. 

Before starting the conference, do a test run to ensure that your picture and sound quality are OK and that you need to readjust them yourself in the call.

Don’t forget: Video means “I see”

 

Since the participants not only hear each other in video conferences, but also see each other, one should appear in front of the camera accordingly. Avoid business style at the top and casual look at the bottom, for example if you work from home. You may have to get up briefly during the call – sweatpants under a jacket are no good, no matter how hip they are. 

The camera angle should also be tested beforehand so that the image of you is not distorted. Make sure that you and the room are adequately lit. It is best not to sit in front of the window, but across from it. Light from above or below can cast unfavorable shadows on your face, which distracts others. 

A camera positioned too high, too low, or too close will distort your face. It is best to make sure that your camera is positioned at eye level and that you are not sitting too close. 

Finally, the surroundings displayed in your image section and the desk should be tidy. Pizza boxes, crumbs and dried-up coffee mugs do not look particularly serious. 

Do not fall into the microphone trap

 

If you are sitting in the same room with other colleagues, it is best to use a headset. This filters out background noise, you are understood better and it reduces the risk of feedback. Make sure, however, that the microphone is not too close to your mouth, otherwise you will sound like Darth Vader – you can hear every breath. 

Use the mute function. It should always be on when you are not speaking for a long time. In this way, they also reduce other background noises, such as the small talk of colleagues in the office. And of course, don’t forget to unmute when you want to speak, or your post may be lost. 

Stay present

 

Inattentive conference participants come across as rude and disinterested. And they go unheard. It’s best to stay focused and don’t read emails or work on other tasks. You can also be seen at video conferences when you are not concentrating. 

Typing e-mails is also a no-go. It’s too distracting – not to mention the fact that you can hear the typing (see microphone trap). If you want to take notes, it is better to do it by hand. 

Incidentally, with the right camera angle you also improve your presence, especially if you look into the camera while speaking and work with facial expressions and gestures.

Rules like in the “real” appointment

 

A video conference comes close to a face-to-face meeting. Therefore – apart from the special features mentioned above – the same rules of conduct apply. However, the intervening technology makes these rules even more important, as errors can have an even stronger effect. Remain polite by letting your interlocutor finish speaking, speak clearly and greet or say goodbye according to the appointment. 

It is also useful to take minutes of the appointment at the end of the conference, especially if you are the initiator or moderator. If you send the minutes to everyone afterwards, ideally combined with a call-to-action or new suggested dates, you avoid misunderstandings and work in a results-oriented manner.