After six weeks of isolation, home office and distance rule, the air is out. We sit statically in front of our computers and complete one video conference after another. We can’t change the initial situation for now, but at least we can optimize the circumstances. If we all adhere to a code of conduct, everything becomes a little easier. From audio quality, to appropriate dress, to the small but subtle cultural differences – we’ve summarized the ten don’ts of video conferencing for you.
1. technical problems
Use technology that is easy to use, with simple instructions so that other participants can dial in quickly and easily. This is the key to a successful video conference. Make sure your Internet is stable. Since your nerves are currently strained anyway, don’t make it worse. Nothing is more stressful than a long wait for participants who don’t come in or fly out, as well as poor sound and image transmission.
2. background noise
Mute your microphone when not speaking to avoid unwanted background noise. Typing or writing noises, coughing, your neighbor’s hammering, the lawn mower with the window open… It’s exhausting for conference participants to filter your background noise from what you’re saying. Being able to understand each participant well is critical to a successful video conference.
3. camera turned off
If you can not only hear but also see your counterpart, communication simply works better. Non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures, provide crucial clues as to how statements are meant. Apart from that: It’s a video conference, so turn on your camera. For everything else, there’s the traditional telephone. There are numerous colleagues and project partners who consider it rude if the camera stays off.
4. bad camera settings
Check before the meeting if your camera setting is suitable, if you can be seen clearly and if you can look into the eyes of your conversation partners via video. Backlight, too little light, too far away or filming into your own nose do not contribute to a successful meeting. Before joining a virtual meeting room, the most common systems offer you a camera check – use it.
5. cell phone and signal sounds switched on
Switch your cell phone to silent before the meeting. An incoming call or the Outlook beep to incoming emails is just as distracting as in “offline” meetings.
6. do a few things on the side
Doing other things on the side during a video meeting, even if you don’t have an active speaking part at the moment, is a “no-go”. Your colleagues will notice your “absence”. Just checking Facebook or quickly finishing an email – you look bored and that lowers the mood.
7. restless place
The background of a video conference can be distracting. Flashy decorations, political posters or even virtual backgrounds with movement draw too much attention. But this also includes pets spontaneously joining the conference or (not an easy topic in times of closed daycare centers and schools) playing children. You leave an unstructured, chaotic and thus unprofessional impression and give too deep an insight into your private life.
8. inappropriate clothing
Among the 10 most popular tweets about #homeoffice are the lines of Drosten Fanboy “3 days not showering, eating ravioli, good music and always sitting lightly one. Others go to festivals for that, I do home office.” Well, we should still have a certain self-preservation instinct and present ourselves appropriately to our colleagues and project partners. A suit would be too much of a good thing, but a shirt or a clean sweater – without a hood – and washed hair would be appropriate in many situations.
9. eating during videoconferences
While we’re on the subject: The canned ravioli should then be eaten after the conference. No one wants to watch you eat, or hear the corresponding sounds through the microphone. Simply take a hearty bite of the apple before the meeting or arrange joint lunch breaks with colleagues. At a lunch meeting, it is then also allowed to eat.
10. disregard cultural differences
Meetings with colleagues are one thing, with external project partners something else and with international participants something completely different. Participants from the U.S., for example, expect input from everyone at the meeting. If there are participants who only listen, this can quickly lead to mistrust. With Chinese partners, some behaviors are quickly interpreted as a sign of lack of respect, and English people like to discuss their decisions openly in the group.
Corona has shown that video conferencing can definitely be used more often. Why travel all the time and spend a lot of time when arrangements can easily be made online? With respectful, digital cooperation, this trend will prevail, even if video conferences will never replace personal and direct contact.