One of many professional challenges associated with the current coronavirus pandemic is how to use videoconferencing systems to engage in clear, tactful communication. The sudden ubiquity of these platforms has made us more aware of basic communication do’s and don’ts. As the novelty of working in quarantine fades, it is more important than ever to bring your video communication “A” game to every meeting. Missteps that were initially met with amusement at the beginning of 2020 will likely not be as well received today. Your communication blunders could even be contributing to your teammates’ Zoom fatigue, a term to describe the additional drain that comes from using videoconferencing platforms in place of in-person communication. Check out our recommendations to achieve optimal video conferencing etiquette below.
Meetings are more likely to run smoothly when attendees come prepared and Zoom gatherings are no exception. The medium does, however, require different considerations. Although it may be tempting to wear casual clothes while working from home, dressing as if you were going into the office gives others the impression that you take your work seriously. Experts also recommend avoiding visually distracting clothing such as bold prints. Choosing solid colors to wear in advance of an important call makes it easier for attendees to keep their focus on the discussion.
It is impossible to anticipate every possible technical difficulty, but it’s best to address any consistent issue on your end in advance. This approach not only saves you from embarrassment, but also prevents the loss of valuable time if technical issues need to be addressed during a meeting.
Home environments (and particularly ones where others are also trying to work or study remotely) are often more distracting than office spaces. For this reason, employees should be mindful of the potential to accidentally arrive late to a virtual meeting as a result of becoming absorbed in other tasks. Although this show of poor video conferencing etiquette may seem relatively harmless, it can actually come across as more negligent than not being on time for an in-person meeting because signing on requires so little effort. As with all scheduled work obligations, check your calendar regularly and let others know if you’re running late.
Zoom etiquette includes controlling the way you look on a screen. Establishing a welcoming presentation negates visual distractions for your coworkers and indirectly communicates your competence and agreeableness as an employee.
It is generally best to turn on your video if you can. Occasionally exceptions should be made to this rule (for example, if you need to share a space with your children at a specific time). Allowing others to see you contributes to a sense of connectedness, which supports better communication. This Zoom etiquette “do” is particularly relevant when getting to know others on an external call.
Additional presentation basics include positioning your webcam at eye-level and having a light source (and ideally one that is natural) face at you.
Be sure to also conduct video conferences from a neutral, well-kept area of your home. Stories of a boss who takes video calls in bed or a coworker with a distractingly messy room are not uncommon. Giving work colleagues some insight into your home life can reveal your humanness and actually improve team cohesion. At the same time, it is important to present a part of your space that still takes into account the boundaries of professional relationships.
Studies have repeatedly shown that we’re not as skilled at multitasking as we think we are. Not only that, but stressors associated with the pandemic have taken up our cognitive resources and made it even harder to stay focused. For this reason, minimizing distractions for yourself and others is critical to good Zoom etiquette. While attending a virtual meeting that you are not leading may seem like a reasonable time to eat lunch, doing so may irritate and distract your coworkers (in addition to creating a distraction for you). It is also important to avoid multitasking in the form of trying to tackle other work projects in addition to participating in a meeting. This practice creates a false sense of efficiency because in reality we are more likely to miss most of the conversation and make little progress on other tasks.
Digital distractions should be limited as much as possible during calls. Turn off notifications, mute your phone, and close or minimize windows that don’t support the purpose of the meeting. By aiming to make virtual meetings your sole focus when they are happening, you are more likely to support everyone on the call in feeling less stressed and more tuned in to the task at hand.
Because videoconferencing tools are increasingly commonplace, it is easy to overlook the ways in which communicating through a screen can obscure the clarity of communication. A key difference between in-person and virtual meetings is that it is not as easy to recognize the nonverbal cues that are normally used to gather feedback from participants. For example, it is more difficult to infer that someone is waiting to share their thoughts without also being able to read their body language. A way for managers to overcome this oversight and encourage greater participation is to make sure that specific questions are directed to all individuals on the call before it ends and to wait for responses.
What’s more, a core video conferencing etiquette “do” is to not take away from the person who is speaking by interrupting them with outside noise. Limiting background sounds and muting yourself if you’re not leading the discussion can go a long way in moving a meeting forward and conveying respect for your colleagues’ ideas.
Being an effective communicator includes being a good listener. But again, it is more difficult to convey the fact that you are listening through a screen. In order to make your intent to really listen clear, try using body language such as nodding your head and leaning in when someone makes an interesting point. Slight verbal responses such as “okay” also let the person speaking know that you are engaging with their thoughts and ideas.
While it may feel counterintuitive, it is recommended that meeting attendees at least periodically look directly into the camera rather than at the screen. This practice is particularly important if you’re the one presenting because “making eye contact” (albeit superficially) conveys confidence and authority in the same way that frequently looking at an audience would during an in-person presentation.
Finally, it can be tempting to leave a meeting without comment rather than potentially make things awkward by interrupting a meeting to state that you need to leave. However, finding a way to say goodbye shows better video conferencing etiquette. In order to incorporate this Zoom “do,” wait for a break in the conversation to politely sign off.
At InspiringApps, we are adjusting to the new way of conducting meetings virtually and committed to follow the “do’s” listed here. We are also committed, as always, to helping you bring your app idea to life. Contact us today to learn more about how our consulting services can support your next project.