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Unspoken rules of Video Conference Calls

2020-10-05

Video conferencing has been around for a long time. Whether it is Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Slack or the 2 dozen other platforms, more people are having virtual meetings than ever before. Here are some quick etiquette tips for having virtual meetings.

What should I wear?

Because of the pandemic, many of us are working from home. While this might already the case for many, plenty of us are having to adjust blending in workspace attire and home attire. While we don’t have to change out of our pyjamas if we don’t need to, changing to something you would normally wear to the office when you have a video conference meeting is definitely showing your professionalism.

If you insist, pants are optional, just remember to not stand up when the webcam is still rolling.

Make the best out of your hardware

Most modern laptops, phones and tablets are equipped with speakers and microphones that are good enough for video conferencing, but sometimes the surrounding environment is just not ideal. Here are some tips that might help.

Audio

  • Find a quiet spot in your home. This would boost your audio quality because the built-in software of your device usually has some type of noise-cancelling feature, and often times if there is a lot of background noise, the device will constantly try to minimize it and accidentally adjusting the level of your voice while doing so. Your voice might get cut off from time to time by accident.
  • Use a pair of headphones. Simply use a pair of headphones instead of using the speaker of your device can prevent the sound bleeding into your microphone. This means that the audio from your speakers won’t be picked up by your microphone and sending it back to the meeting room. Although most video conference platforms have some kind of software to reduce the noise, removing the source of the noise is definitely more effective.
  • Use an external microphone. Most headphones that come with your phone has a built-in microphone. If there are a lot of road noises, or subway passing nearby, wearing the headphones with the built-in microphone increases the proximity of your voice and the microphone, this reduces the microphone from picking up surrounding sounds. This also applies to if you have other people at home such as kids in the room next to you. Wearing headphones might also let you hear other people talk better.
  • Test your microphone and speakers before the call begins. Most video conferencing platform has the ability to test out your microphone and speakers before the meeting starts, make use of it, get familiar with the settings of your device to ensure that it works. This will save you and the other participants’ time and this also shows your professionalism if you are meeting with a client.
  • Invest in a good pair of headset. While most devices have adequate speakers and microphones, if your job requires meeting all the time, it might be a good idea to purchase a pair of headset that is designed for video conferencing calls. These headsets have better sound-isolating microphones and don’t pick up other sounds. These are great for if you have multiple people working at home and the space you have doesn’t allow being in different rooms. With these specially designed headsets, both of you can simultaneously be in meetings and won’t interfere with each other.
  • If you are not talking, mute your microphone. This not only stops your microphone from introducing background noises, such as typing on keyboards, doorbell ringing, or your neighbour’s dog barking. Because video conference meetings can have large numbers of participants, most platforms have the built-in feature that overrides the audio when a new voice is introduced. For example, if a participant is doing a presentation and everyone else is just listening, if your doorbell rang because your Amazon package arrived and you didn’t mute your microphone, your doorbell sound will overtake the presenter for a few seconds and everyone will miss the audio of whatever that person was talking about for a few seconds. Some platforms such as Zoom even highlights this “new voice” coming in and everyone will know whos doorbell rang.

Video

  • Position your webcam right in front of you. This way the other participants in the meeting will feel like they are talking in front of you and not to the side of your face, your nose, or your forehead.
  • Mind your surroundings. Lighting is key to the quality of your video, most webcams can adjust according to your surroundings, but if you are positioned right in front of a window, the webcam might have a hard time adjusting between the indoor and outdoor lighting.
  • Try to stay at the same location. Walking around with your phone or iPad creates distracting motions on your video and introduces noise to your audio. If you really need to change your location, mute your mic and turn off your webcam before you start moving around.

Be on time

Before the pandemic, team meetings or weekly standups in an office were usually a bit more flexible, it is acceptable to fix up a cup of coffee before heading into the meeting room. Usually, the participants that arrived in the meeting room first would have a bit of side chat and small talk while waiting for everyone to be present. But meeting online is a bit different, people are expected to be ready to go right at the scheduled time. So give yourself an extra few minutes to get positioned and make sure your mic and webcam are working properly before the scheduled meeting time.

Whether it is through Zoom, Slack or Google Hangouts, having meetings online might be the “new normal” going forward, whether it is work-related or just seeing friends and family, these are some tips that might help you. Feel free to share this article with something you think might need it.