Video call etiquette: The unwritten rules
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Video call etiquette: The unwritten rules

10th April 2020
By Tom Ladle

Regardless of whether you’ve hosted or participated in a video call or not, there are unwritten rules. To most, it seems straight forward; you join, connect your video and then your meeting is underway. Often what they don’t tell you is that there are certain expectations i.e. video call etiquette. So it’s time that someone tells you about the simple yet fundamental rules.

1.  Come prepared: the pre-meeting essentials

If you’re the organiser, then enter the meeting early.  Unless you already know how to use your video call service, it’s worth entering your room a couple of minutes before your scheduled meeting because participants never want to be left waiting for you to figure out how to use the service you chose; not to mention that it looks unprofessional.

Most video products have screen share, file storage and/or document share capabilities.  It’s best to upload relevant files prior to your meeting because this is a short but valuable investment of your time to add visuals to your presentation and ensure that all relevant material can easily be transitioned between.

2.  Create and stick to the agenda: minimising meetings running overtime

One of the biggest (but most common) mistakes that is made when scheduling meetings is forgetting to include the details for that meeting.  To prevent this from happening, it’s best practice to include the login details in the calendar invite, as this ensures that the dial-in numbers, the URL and PIN are all easily accessible.

Conversation in meetings often end up unrelated to the intended purpose, so creating an agenda and including this in your calendar invites provides a more structured approach.  Not to mention by providing a clear and concise outline as a reference point for all attendees, the prospect of topics diverting away from the intended aim is minimised.

3. Engage with those on the call

Whether it’s audio, video or in real life the point of any meeting is to collaborate. Many assume that any kind of conference call is their opportunity to sit back, throw a stress ball around or YouTube funny videos…but this isn’t the case at all.  Due to the nature of a video call (by providing visuals), everyone in the meeting can see how  topics or ideas are being received as well as identify whether people are paying attention or not.  So it’s not only important for everyone to pay attention, but it’s also important that you keep the meeting engaging so that people don’t lose focus.

4. The mute button is there to be used

If you’re under the assumption that it is bad etiquette or rude to put yourself on mute, then you’ve been misinformed.  It can be a time-consuming task and a big time distraction to identify which person on a video call has background noise of people discussing what they had for lunch or what their weekend plans are during your meeting.  Often people think that putting themselves on mute shows a lack of interest but instead, it actually allows speakers to be heard without interruptions.  For those who have experienced the frustration of background noise before, they will be able to tell you that trying to pinpoint the source of background noise can be painfully time-consuming.

These rules for video call etiquette shouldn’t be very hard for anyone to follow. They share similarities with common courtesy you’d show in a real-life meeting. Come organised, have an objective for your meeting, pay attention and avoid unnecessary distractions.

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