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Video Chat Etiquette

Image of EJ Phillips
EJ Phillips

Despite what your slippers and elastic waistband may tell you, there ARE rules of etiquette when it come to video chats. No matter if it is new to you because of COVID-19 teleworking, or you are an old pro at the work from home gig, you’ve probably recently found yourself in a meeting with co-workers via a video conference call.  Whether it is via Microsoft Teams (our personal fave), Zoom, Hangouts, or FaceTime, there are do’s and don’ts to video chat meetings and you should follow them. Yes, wearing PJ pants is fine.  But that strappy tank top you slept in? Not so much.

We have rounded up our TOP TEN RULES OF VIDEO CHAT ETIQUETTE for you so that you can tackle these calls like the professional you are.

Download Crisis Communications eBook1. Be Punctual!

Don’t all social graces begin with being on time? The same holds true for video chat etiquette.

Most likely you will have set up the meeting with a reminder on your calendar.  Set an alert for 15 minutes prior to the video call so that you can quickly run to the restroom, shove that last slice of pizza in your face, or refill your drink. Then have a reminder set for 5 minutes prior and dial up your call.  Think of these few casual minutes before the meeting as your “water cooler” time.  You can check in with your co-workers, introduce your dog, and find out who still hasn’t watched Tiger King.

2. Make Friends with the Mute Button.

No matter how many times it is said on a call, there is always one person who forgets.  Sometimes it may just be extra white noise that makes it hard to hear the speaker.  Sometimes it is Karen’s dog barking.  And sometimes?  It is a Supreme Court Justice flushing the toilet.  It is the red microphone icon and usually in a corner. It is your new best friend.  And if you aren’t talking, you better click that puppy.

3. Look into the Camera.

Sometimes we wonder if other people are even aware that they are on camera.  No one needs to see the top of your head and for goodness sake, at least pretend you are happy to be there.  Be aware of camera angles when you position your laptop or phone.  Zero people look good from an upwards angle.  We do not want to see up your nostrils.  Additionally, no matter your size, an upwards angle gives everyone extra chins.

Your best bet is to position the camera slightly above eyeline. Set your laptop on a box if need be.  Position yourself either in the center of the shot or off to one third.  A good rule of thumb is to have three fingers of space above your head. This way you are not a body hunched at the bottom or a head dangling oddly in the frame.

Also, if your grooming habits have taken a hit under quarantine, make video chat day bathe day.  Brush your hair.  Go crazy, maybe even put on some make up.  Take off that hat.

4. Do Not Interrupt Others.

This seems like it would be a no-brainer.  But it needs to be said: video chat etiquette includes not talking over people.

If there is a moderator or leader of the call, allow them to control the flow of the meeting. Alert the moderator with a nod or gently raised finger.  If there is a group chat associated with the meeting where all participants can see what your comments are, post questions you may have that you would like addressed there.  A good moderator will be looking for cues from call participants’ body language.

5. Turn Off All Sounds and Notifications on Your Phone and Other Devices.

You shouldn’t be texting or checking Facebook during your meeting, so silence your phone.  Treat the people in the video chat with the same respect you would give them if you were actually in the room with them.  Would you scroll your phone during a sales meeting?  Probably not.  Don’t do it in the video chat, either.

6. Pay Attention.

See above.  There are few things more annoying than when a participant in a video chat says something that makes it painfully clear that they have no idea what is going on.  If you start the call on video, remain on video for the entire call.  Don’t go to audio and then go fix nachos.  We know what you are up to.  We like nachos too.  But they can wait.  Along these lines, if it is a large call, presentation, or webinar and you are not a presenter?  Ask the moderator if you actually need to turn your video on, or can you just use your audio ON MUTE.  (Then you can have your nachos.  We won’t see them or hear them.  Live your best life.)

7. Dress Appropriately.

Context is key here.  If it is a casual team meeting to discuss a project, that Rolling Stones t-shirt  is probably fine.  If you are presenting to a prospect?  Is there a uniform you normally wear? Perhaps a button down with your company’s logo embroidered on it is appropriate. We are big fans around here of what we call the business mullet:  work wear on top and jammies on the bottom.  Because soft pants are where it is at, especially if you are eating all those nachos.  However, be aware of how much skin you are showing.  Check your necklines.

8. Be Aware of What is on Camera.

If you are rocking a business mullet, make sure your lower half isn’t accidentally on camera.  You may end up like Superman’s son on Good Morning America.  Also, what is in the background of your shot?  Is your kid practicing TikTok dances?  Do you have piles of laundry?  If you cannot control where your home office is, which is understandable under quarantine, make use of the various backgrounds available in conference call apps or blur the background.

9. Don’t Carry on Side Conversations.

So maybe your boss IS going on and on.  Maybe that client is being ridiculous. Maybe you do wonder what is in that cup your co-worker is drinking. Now is not the time.  It would be horrible for this side chit-chat to accidentally show up on a shared screen that the client can see, as a completely hypothetical and randomly specific example.  Working from home can mean you often feel disconnected from your co-workers.  But during a business video call is not the time to catch up or try to figure out just exactly what Becky was thinking when she cut her own bangs.  Give Becky a break; she is going through some stuff.

10. Relax and Read the Room.

Not every call has to be stuffy.  If you are planning a call for your team, suggest a theme.  Make it pajama day.  Have everyone wear a funny hat.  See who can come up with the silliest background.  Smile and have fun with the fact that you are presenting to the CEO in your flannel pants and slippers. She won’t know because your coat and tie are on point.

In the end, all etiquette is about courtesy and respect.  Grant to your fellow video chatters the same courtesy you would show them in the workplace.

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