As we welcome the arrival of 2014, we again conduct the annual ritual where we look back at the previous year and reflect on what was good and bad. In the process of doing so, many of us also make a list of resolutions for the New Year.
In keeping with tradition, looking back at 2013, one of the things that I would like to do better in 2014 would be to have “better video etiquette”. Let me qualify this. It’s not that I have extremely bad manners when it comes to taking a video call. However, it is usually the smaller things that we take for granted.
Given my geographically dispersed team and the need to work across many different regions, video conferencing has become an integral part of my daily routine. So much so that we’ve taken it for granted and on many occasions, ignored the little things that prevent us from having a great video experience.
Here’s a list of things that I plan to do better this year:
1) Manage calendar invites
Be sensitive about the time zone that participants are joining from
Always make sure that you’ve setup your meeting invite properly with the correct details and participants
Check the participants’ acceptance to make sure that participants who are required to attend the meeting have accepted the invite
If you’re the recipient of a meeting invite, make sure that you accept or reject the invite (if you can’t make the meeting)
2) Check the connection and equipment before the call
Make sure that your connection and equipment is functional before the call and if you work in a large organisation, double-check that there’s no IT maintenance scheduled to take place at the time of the meeting
If any participants are using the platform for the first time it is always good to do a dry run to make sure that everyone is familiar with the setup
Consider the support of the technical support team in advance if it is a very important (or customer facing) call – just as you would ensure you had technical support for any very important offline presentation
3) Check your background and lighting
Clean up clutter in the background, and if you are sat at a desk, think about what others can see on your desk and behind you
You may want to put up a “video in progress” sign if you are taking the video call at home (just in case anyone at home decides to be funny or noisy!)
Check your camera angle before the call and position yourself in a way that others can have a clear view of you
Make sure the room is well lit, and if there’s a window behind you, draw the curtains/ blind to reduce the amount of backlight (this will ensure you will not appear too dark on screen)
4) Other logistics
Prepare earphones if required. If you’re at a desk in an open office, your colleagues might find the audio from your call a distraction. If you’re working at home, your family members could be sleeping, and you don’t want to wake the whole family!
Be sure to put on appropriate attire, even if you’re taking the call from home
5) During the video conference
Greet and make introductions, especially when you’re meeting the other parties for the first time
Check if anyone is joining the call via audio only – this way, you won’t miss out anyone you’re not seeing on screen
Check if the connection is fine and all parties can see and hear each other clearly
Put yourself on mute if you’re not speaking so that any background environment noise doesn’t distract others
When sharing content, check with participants that they can see the content clearly before you continue your presentation
And finally, be focused and don’t try to multi-task during the video call (i.e. work on email or instant message)
I wish everyone a very Happy 2014, and look forward to a wonderful new year.
Eric Wong left Polycom as of March 2015. This blog post is his personal view and reflective of his thoughts while at Polycom.