With a large chunk of the world already working from home, there’s going to be an awful lot of video calls happening in the weeks to come. As we get used to the idea of self-isolation, home-working and the coronavirus lockdown, it’s the humble video call that’s likely to be our saviour over the coming months – keeping us all from going slightly crackers.
So, if you’re new to the ‘joys’ of video meetings and video conference calls, here are a few etiquette tips to turn you from a newbie to a seasoned video ninja.
1. Make sure you’re suitably dressed
Yes, you’ve been at home for over a week now and have worn pyjamas for at least 50% of that time. But if you’re going on a video call, you do need to look vaguely presentable.
Get dressed well before the call and make sure you look in the mirror before dialling in. You don’t want to spend the entire meeting with your MD wearing your tshirt back to front, or with a random bit of hair sticking up in a ‘There’s Something About Mary’ fashion.
Whilst on lockdown, no-one’s expecting you to be wearing full business attire, so a tshirt and jeans is fine. Just try to not look like you slept in them. And if you REALLY want to impress, why not invest in these ‘Suitjamas’ – pyjamas that look (almost) like a business suit.
2. Dial in on time, you muppet!
An online meeting has all the same rules and etiquette as a real-world meeting, so turning up late, or dialling in halfway through, are real no-nos.
We’ve all been in those meetings where ‘Darren from Accounts’ rocks up 20 minutes in with some feeble excuse about ‘problems on the Northern Line’ – and you also know the unkind name everyone called Darren once the meeting was over. So, don’t be a Dawdling Dave.
If you don’t already, make sure that you have a reminder and notification set up on your phone or laptop, and ensure you’ve got time to prepare yourself, make a coffee and get all your notes and presentation materials ready to go well in advance.
3. Get your mic and headphones sorted beforehand
‘Can you hear me?…Hello?…is it working!??’. This is not a productive start to any video call, so do make sure you test your microphone and headphone set-up well before the call.
If possible, wear Bluetooth headphones or a headset with a microphone, so you can minimise the potential for background noise, feedback from laptop speakers or being too quiet (and therefore inaudible and unintelligible) during the call.
Speak clearly and aim for a moderate volume, so everyone on the call can hear you. Mumbling into your beard is not an option.
4. Listen and don’t interrupt
Listening and staying silent (at the right times) are absolutely crucial skills if you want to become a true video call ninja. If everyone talks at once then you just end up in a giant, confusing mess.
If you’re having a team meeting, or a call with more than two people, it makes sense to put one person in charge of the call. Have someone lead the call, make the introductions and set the agenda. This way, you’ll end up with some clear direction behind the call and (hopefully) won’t end up with 5 people all trying to talk about why this quarter’s sales figures are so crap.
5. Don’t make it all about work
Yes, this is a work call. But don’t make the entire call all about boring old work. In these isolated online-only times, a team video call is also a GREAT opportunity to socialise and build some team spirit.
When you’re used to being in a busy office environment, being stuck at home in your box room/conservatory/shed for 8 hours a day can seem stifling and depressing. Video calls serve a very important function, keeping the team connected and giving us a chance to offload, share our lockdown experiences and mull over the latest gossip and in-house grapevine news.
So, don’t feel that you can’t deviate from the agenda. If conversation naturally moves to discussing who caught the last episode of ‘The Good Place’, or how Boris Johnson increasingly looks like a rabbit in the headlights, then run with it.
Become a video call pro
We’re all in uncharted waters at the moment. The prospect of months of home-working and coronavirus lockdown can seem highly daunting, even to the most committed introvert (points at myself).
But if we can get our heads around this video call lark, then at least we can all stay in touch and keep the wheels of industry turning.
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Whilst I have your attention, there are plenty more productivity tips for remote workers in my new book ‘Going Freelance: Building Work Around Your Life’.
The book is a comprehensive guide for anyone setting out on the freelance journey, with clear advice on setting up your own self-employed business.