In a rapidly evolving digital age, video conferencing has become standard practice. Most organizations have turned to video calls for meetings, conferences, and all manner of daily tasks. It is important to understand what’s acceptable on a video call. In this part of the series, we’ll discuss some video call best practices.
Meetings conducted over video calls have 2 big constraints – time and participation. For an online meeting to be productive, all participants should know the agenda in advance. They must be fully prepared with their speaking points. Recruitment agency FlexJobs suggests asking for a brief outline of what topics the meeting will cover. Preparing your contribution to the meeting in advance facilitates a smoother exchange of ideas. Something that can be easily resolved over email or text-based collaboration platforms should ideally never be discussed in video conferences.
Mute by default
Using a high-quality noise-canceling headset is recommended on video calls. Otherwise, there is bound to be some background noise in the audio stream. The microphone captures the slightest sounds in the room. ABC News recommends that participants should start their meetings with the audio mute by default. Only the person who has to speak the most can have their audio always on. Other participants should only ‘unmute’ themselves when it’s their turn to speak and only for the duration they are speaking.
The New York Times suggests going a step further. An article points out that, “There’s no practical value in people watching you silently look at your camera,” Participants should turn off their cameras by default until they want to speak to the group. This practice can also save some internet bandwidth, which is helpful for participants logging in from remote areas. However, it is best to check with the host or organizer if this is OK. Some organizations prefer to have attendees visible throughout calls.
Millions of migrant workers in the US regularly send money online as remittances to their families back home. Important tasks such as this are always on our minds. However, it is best to pay attention to what we are doing. Even on mute and with the video off, participants must suppress their urge to multitask. The Harvard Business Review says, “Close any tabs or programs that might distract you, put your phone away, and stay present.” A Stanford study found that multitasking impedes mental performance and hampers an individual’s ability to recall.
Bryan Lovgren, the co-founder of TrustaFact and a guest writer with Entrepreneur.com, echoes similar views. He strongly advises against checking emails or perusing articles while on a video call. He explains how “It’s easy for other participants to tell if you aren’t fully focused and present during the video call.” Many experts advise against having beverages on video calls. “Drinking from a mug filled with tea or coffee can be off-putting for others on the call,” explains a Daily Mail column.
Speak at the right moment
Avoid interrupting when another participant is speaking. An attendee can very easily disrupt the flow of the speaking participant by interrupting. This impairs the rhythm of the meeting and potentially its timeline. Speaking out of turn is unacceptable. Instead, take notes. Put questions during pauses or towards the end of the session when questions are invited. One should pick up on visual cues to help find the right time to speak. Participants must account for the occasional sound delays as well. Wait for a few moments of silence before speaking. Speak slowly and clearly at your normal volume. According to The Guardian, it’s important to look into the camera occasionally. This makes the other participants feel like they are being addressed directly.
Treat it like a real meeting.
Professional conduct on video calls must resemble real-life meetings. TechRepublic strictly advises against sneaking out of a virtual meeting simply because you can. If an attendee must leave for some reason, always inform the meeting host and let them know why. A BBC article suggests asking the other participants on the call if it’s okay to take a break from the session. For calls lasting an hour or longer, this is likely to be OK.
Prof. André Spicer of Cass Business School advises that participants hold back their urge to indulge in private chats with other participants. “Your employers can record these messages, and people can be held accountable for them.” As a rule, individuals must behave on a video call just as they would in an in-person meeting.
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.