Whether it’s a small video meeting of three staff members or an expansive national event, good video conferencing etiquette makes everything run more smoothly. Just like the best in-person meetings, positive video conference experiences start with good preparation and a shared understanding of how the meeting will proceed. With those two elements in place, you can shift your attention away from technology issues and back to the true goal of any meeting: effective communication.
Tony Erwin, principal consultant for NASFAA’s Blue Icon Advisors, uses video conferencing extensively in working with colleges, universities, and career schools on their unique financial aid challenges. He feels the key to a good video conference experience is concentrating on the meeting rather than the medium.
“If you stop treating video as special and just focus on being a good organizer, facilitator, lead, or presenter – or whatever the role is – then you will be effective,” Erwin said.
At the same time, he does advise managing the video conferencing technology well to keep attention on the meeting content.
“If you’re fiddling with the technology and trying to share screens and it doesn’t work, you’ve just introduced a distraction to the goal of the meeting. … [But] with preparation the technology disappears as a distraction and you can focus on being an effective facilitator or presenter,” Erwin says.
A large part of managing the technology is simply preparing well while considering the needs of everyone involved. The following etiquette tips for presenters, organizers, and participants will help you prepare, so when the meeting time arrives, you can focus squarely on achieving your goals.
- Test all aspects of the platform at least a few days in advance – don’t make your participants wait while you “figure something out” during the event. Check the video feed, audio, screen-sharing, presentation, recording, and chat features. Don’t neglect to test your sound system, too. Remember, the real star of your event is what you say, not how you appear.
- Be sure all presenters and guests know the basics of using the video conferencing platform, such as how to mute/unmute and switch from one presenter to the next, as well as how you’ll handle questions. Test everything one more time about 30 minutes before the meeting starts.
- Notify participants in advance of important details for login and participation and, if possible, send them a reminder the day before or morning of the event.
- If you plan to record a session, make sure all participants give consent – either in writing, on the recording, or both – before you begin to record a meeting or presentation.
- Keep it professional. Wear office attire and direct the camera on you and away from glare, background distractions, and noise. Ensure the area behind you is neat and tidy (or put up a screen to hide any mess.) Avoid hot-mic moments by never assuming your microphone is fully turned off.
- Assign someone to take notes, track questions, and handle anything unexpected so you can focus on your presentation.
- Close background applications on your device, turn off notifications, and silence your phone.
- Speak clearly and look into the camera rather than watching your own image on the screen.
- Greet participants at the scheduled time, announce the meeting will start in two minutes, then actually start it in two minutes. This allows extra time for those who may be delayed by login or software issues, but still keeps on-time participants from waiting too long.
- When the meeting begins, briefly remind everyone how the meeting will run — especially how and when participants may ask questions and how to mute/unmute their microphones.
- If you switch applications, such as from video to screen-sharing, check with your audience to ensure they are seeing what they should on the screen.
- Respect your participants’ schedules by sticking to the announced meeting start and end times.
- Approach video conferencing like an in-person meeting. Show respect and remain engaged – avoid texting, multitasking, sideline chatter, or interrupting or speaking over others. While on video, raise your hand to avoid interrupting or speaking over others.
- Silence your phone and all computer notifications.
- Wear office attire and keep background visual and sound distractions to a minimum.
- Download and test the functionality of any needed software or browser system in advance – don’t wait until the moment the meeting is to start. You may need to involve your schools IT department if you need to download software, so plan for this well in advance.
- If you are in a room with multiple people, position your camera, microphone, and speaker so everyone participating on your end can be seen and heard.
- If your group does not have a formal video conferencing setup, consider participating by using individual computers in individual spaces. This avoids everyone huddled in front of one computer or awkwardly passing a laptop or microphone among participants. Make sure everyone has a working camera, speakers, microphone, and any needed software.
- Make note of how to mute/unmute. Only unmute while speaking, and quickly mute again immediately afterwards.
- Enter the meeting a few minutes early in case you confront unexpected login steps or software updates.
- On systems that don’t identify each speaker, start all comments with your name and, if relevant to the discussion, your school name.
- If you must arrive late or leave early, handle it discreetly, just as you would in a live meeting.
- If you must leave your video viewing window, turn off your camera before doing so as an indication you may not be available.
Submitted by Tanya Patterson-Stanley, Xi Omega Chapter and Chair of Toolkits