Breaking bad habits: A how-to guide for video conferencing etiquette

Video conference calls are a godsend for folks at many businesses, and chances are that you’re one of them. They let you work remotely more often and cut down on costly trips. Their magic goes only so far, though — you can’t wave a wand to get rid of your bad meeting habits. And usually, those bad habits carry over to your virtual meetings too.

We looked back at some of the most common and embarrassing video conferencing faux pas from our notes, anecdotes we’ve heard, and our (less-than-suave) personal experiences and embodied them in that customary fallguy of fictional corporations, Acme Corp. Read on for a few video conferencing etiquette do’s and don’ts as demonstrated by the unfortunate (and possibly self-destructive) employees of Acme Corp.

What an interesting outfit

Fashion plates José and Sally liven up employees’ days at Acme Corp. The dynamic duo keeps the workplace fresh with bold, colorful outfits, many of which put a capital B in busy and a capital I in innovative. However, when they’re on video conference calls, people on the other end of the camera rarely listen. The problem is that their too-flashy clothing detracts from the message.

The solution: There’s actually no need for José and Sally to stop wearing their popular clothes. They just have to keep camera-friendly tops or jackets handy. Think solids in colors such as white, green and light blue. It may be a good idea to also take off showy jewelry for the calls.

Hoarders, Inc.

Newspapers and magazines pile up in the Acme conference room, but after a while, the employees don’t even notice. During a video conference, anything and everything goes on the table — their cellphones, the oversized Dr. Who toys, the sunglasses and even their lunches. Big mistake. The various forms of clutter make Acme look unprofessional and distract the folks on the other end of the call.

The solution: The solution may be easier than you think. Employees could clear the newspapers and magazines from the video conference room and make a point to allow only pens, pads of paper and water cups on the table.

Out of sight, out of mind

Josh, a manager at Acme, talks a lot in video conferences. Much of what he says is valuable, and Acme is happy with his input. Only when the CEO gets a call from another CEO does he realize that no one at the other end of the video call knows who Josh is, and he always seems to be out of camera range.

The solution: The Acme CEO decides to institute video conferencing best practices like making introductions at the beginning of a call and investing in a tripod for the camera. An operator takes wide group shots, and when Josh and others speak, he zooms in a bit on them (but not too much). This approach also takes away from the bore factor of a static camera and makes the video conference more like an in-person meeting.

Houston, we have a problem

The employees at Acme are used to conducting video conferences on the fly. No one checks equipment before meetings, and little thought goes into seating arrangements. As for slideshows and audio clips, eh, why wouldn’t they work? But when Acme is on the verge of landing a huge account, technical difficulties get in the way and they can’t make the deal.

The solution: Acme’s CEO quickly learns from his mistake. Now, he selects someone to check the video conference room and equipment at least 45 minutes before any meeting starts. This person designs seating arrangements, gets them approved, and verifies the camera angles work. They also check that everything, including software, is working properly.

So, don’t be like Acme! Prepare for meetings, dress for the camera, and prep the video conference room appropriately. If mistakes happen, own up to them and move on. While Highfive devices can handle the nuts and bolts of video conferencing, it’s up to you to fulfill the bells and whistles of social interaction.

By Sara Moseley