We are all using virtual conferencing and video calls more than ever before, myself included. I’ve always prided myself on holding predominantly face to face coaching and training sessions (I’m an avid watcher of body language and facial expressions– they tell me far more than anything a client could every say/not say). However, our current circumstances have necessitated significant changes in the way we communicate.
As I’ve been speaking to clients this week, understanding their needs and how the lockdown has been affecting them, every single one has mentioned the challenges of holding virtual meetings. In fact, practically everyone I’ve spoken to has suggested that writing some guidelines on ‘Virtual Meeting Etiquette’ would be helpful.
Therefore, based on their feedback (and illustrated with their real-life examples – no names mentioned to protect the innocent), here are my top 5 tips:
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Take a look at what is behind you. Other participants should not be side-tracked by the life-size picture of you kissing your other half – or worse still, magazine cut-outs of bodies. If your room isn’t particularly attractive, position yourself in front of a blank wall. No-one wants to be distracted by your clutter either!
DO NOT video call from your bed; that is hugely unprofessional. Your colleagues should never have to see you in a state of undress.
Try to keep family interruptions to a minimum. Avoid having your family barge in on your during the call. If your family is home with you, ask your kids to play outside, put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, or try explaining the importance of no interruptions and that you’ll spend 10 minutes with them when it’s over.
Just because you’re working from home, does not mean that you shouldn’t be professional. Whilst you’re not expected to be suited and booted, at the very least, brush your hair and wear something clean and ironed (smart but casual). PJs are 100% unacceptable.
If you can’t seem to muster the energy to be ‘presentable’ (I know some people are struggling to find the motivation to wash their hair right now), then turn the video aspect off and join in the call by voice only.
Use the ‘Mute’ Button
Unless you’re talking, you should keep your microphone muted; this is useful on a few levels:
- No-one can hear you muttering when you don’t agree with something a colleague says.
- No-one has to listen to your crazy family going mad in the other room or your partner shouting if you want a brew.
- No-one can hear the distracting sounds of you rustling papers or your phone ringing.
The ‘Group Chat’ Function
Where there’s a group chat function, set it to private. I’ve heard horror stories of people sending highly inappropriate texts to each other, only to realise that they have been seen by everyone.
- Check that your technology is working BEFORE you try to access the call.
- Log in at least five minutes before it’s due to start. Often it takes longer than you think to enter passcodes, record your name, etc. Being late for a call is every bit as unacceptable as being late for a face to face meeting.
- Turn your phone off or put it on silent. If it does ring, unless it’s urgent, avoid answering it and turn it off immediately. If you have to answer, make sure that the video call is on mute. No-one wants to listen to you blabbing away in the background, it’s hugely distracting for the other participants.
- Avoid talking over others or interrupt, let them finish before you say your piece.
- Be mindful of your facial expressions and body language. If you know your face tells a thousand tales, be aware of your physiology, especially if you hear something you don’t like or disagree with.
- Have an agenda and stick to it. Also, re-cap any agreed action points at the end and follow-up with a confirmation email, if appropriate.
In summary, behave professionally! Virtual meetings are still ‘work’ and should be viewed that way. If you wouldn’t do it face to face, avoid doing it virtually!