Videoconferencing’s growing in popularity as a travel cost-saver, but with it come some new rules of etiquette.
Raising travel costs, telecommuting and international business discussions are making videoconferencing more attractive for more businesses — both large and small. It’s inexpensive and convenient when dealing with multiple schedules.
But what about potential behavior blunders when working in the virtual environment? There are obvious ones that should be followed for any meeting — whether in person or virtual — such as arriving on time and dressing appropriately.
Remind staffers in these types of meetings to:
- prepare before the meeting. This includes making sure everyone participating has the materials necessary well before the meeting. This will give them time to review the material and think of any questions they may have.
- check and adjust the equipment prior to starting the meeting. Cameras should be aimed at everyone’s face, instead of that designer suit jacket. Also make sure the microphone’s in a location away from shuffling papers but will pick voices up clearly.
- test the connection and be seated before the meeting’s supposed to start. It’s bad form to show up to any meeting late, and remind staffers that a videoconference is just as important as any other meeting.
- introduce yourself and others in attendance if necessary. This is often overlooked when everyone’s not in the same room. Nameplates can also come in handy if the participants don’t know each other.
- act normal and not like you’re in front of a camera. People tend to change their gestures and mannerisms when they’re in front of a camera. Encourage your staffers to look straight at the camera when speaking and use natural gestures, and
- limit movement to small gestures. Making large gestures won’t translate well via the camera. Try to stay seated for the entire meeting — take a trip to the restroom pre-meeting and have all of your papers within reach. No one will want to stare at an empty chair so remind staffers to double check that they have everything before the meeting.
Staffers should avoid:
- giving in to distractions like checking e-mail or a blackberry. It might even be a good idea for them to shut e-mail down during the meeting so they won’t be tempted to read that e-mail that just came through.
- wearing distracting clothes that are bright, have busy prints or large, shiny pieces of jewelry. The clothes will not only translate poorly via the webcam, but will be distracting to other participants. And employees who are participating may need to be reminded that their clothing choice still matters, even if other participants are only seeing them from the waist up.
- talking over other participants. Let them know that there’s probably going to be a delay and to resist the urge to fill the silence. Implementing a way for participants to signal that they wish to speak could help alleviate potential problems.
- having non-meeting conversations or looking off camera. It will make you appear uninterested in the attendees and the topic. Let staff know you won’t be available for that block of time and take care of any potential problems before the meeting.
- eating during the meeting. Sipping some water or coffee is ok, as long as it’s not every ten seconds. But eating — including gum chewing — is distracting and rude, especially since the microphone’s likely to pick up on those chewing sounds. Staffers may want to have a quick snack before the meeting to tide them over.