Etiquette for Video Conference Calls

(adapted from TechRepublic)

1. Always have an agenda

Don't schedule a meeting if you don't have an agenda and have a time plan for the meeting and its individual discussion points. A brief outline of what topics the meeting will cover is usually good enough.  

By providing participants with an agenda, attendees know what to expect, can estimate how long the meeting will run, and have an opportunity to prepare talking points. If possible, have the outline displayed for all participants during the whole duration of the meeting, or at least show it again when moving on to the next point.   The leader of the meeting must be clearly defined. The leader has the responsibility to bring the remote attendees to focus and direct the group’s communication effectively. The leader should prepare a number of appropriate hand-offs, to encourage group participation and avoid awkward transitions or lulls.

2. Starting the meeting

Be on time. If you are not going to be at the meeting, or if you're going to be late, tell the person leading the meeting (or a trusted team member) as soon as you know. Use Mattermost, email, call or text. Conference calls are often held up waiting for specific attendees. Sometimes conference calls are held up because everyone is waiting "a few more minutes.”

Greet other participants collectively when you join the meeting. It’s rude to enter a live meeting room without a word, it’s rude to do the same in digital rooms. Be brief however.

Skip the small talk about weather and the corona virus. Discuss issues. Being on time also minimizes the need for everyone else to make small talk while waiting for late joiners.

Being seen on video is an important element of conference call etiquette. Keep your video on, at least while the meeting is assembling, to indicate your remote presence to the Leader as well as other participants. Video adds a human touch to meetings, which can combat isolation and strengthen team relationships.

And it can help the meeting facilitator identify whose attention is wandering, so they can bring them back into the conversation.

The leader of the meeting should decide and state the video-on/off policy of the meeting in the light of inter-personal communication versus bandwidth.

3. Prioritize updates

Set time constraints and stick to them. This allows each person to talk about what is relevant and can cap the overall length of the meeting.    The leader should ensure that the agenda is relevant to most of people in the meeting. Otherwise, send a message on Mattermost or an email on the topic or conduct a smaller meeting. Being mindful of time is key to conference call etiquette.

4. Test equipment

Don't wait until a couple minutes before a meeting to sign on. 

On a mobile phone -- make sure you have a strong signal.

On a computer -- Use a wired connection rather than Wi-Fi. Make sure: the computer camera works (and is uncovered); the speakers work; the microphone works.

5. No sneaking out 

This is not a third-grade music performance. Don't sneak out. In a virtual meeting, there's enough flexibility for you to attend part of it and then jump off. However, it's important you tell your supervisor or the person leading the meeting.    In some platforms, you can just sign off, and no one will know; in others, your face or name disappears from the shared screen. And if you use the former, don't cut out just because you can. If you have a conflicting appointment, tell everyone at the start of the meeting or send an email ahead of time.    If you have something else scheduled, you're more likely to be called on to share updates and add feedback early on. You don't want to be called on or asked a question and then appear to have suddenly vanished. Transparency, people.

6. Be prepared

It's bad conference etiquette to be called on and be unprepared. It's also a missed opportunity. Just because it's on a platform/phone doesn't mean your meeting prep is any different. Have notes next to you, and bookmark anything you need for reference. Clear your desktop of unnecessary files.

Check for Mattermost/email messages and download beforehand or in case there are unexpected updates for the meeting.  If it's a check-in or update meeting, discuss your current project and any recent accomplishment. Be clear and concise, and if you're uncomfortable with speaking to a group, practice beforehand. Let attendees know that if they have questions, you'll answer them. Be alert to the ‘hand raised’ flag on Zoom.

7. Choose a quiet, well-lit location

It's easy to forget that there is a microphone picking up not only your voice, but if you decide to eat/chew something, that sound will be transmitted. If you make a cup of tea, the sound of your making it will be amplified. Wait until the meeting is over.

If possible, sit somewhere with plenty of daylight,

Mute your microphone when not in use. Remember to un-mute when you speak!

8. Place pets, children and other distractions in another room

Or at least out of view of the participants. Make these arrangements before the meeting begins!

Remote business meetings are professional. The participants must focus on the task at hand.

If you wish to have a remote meeting with other participants to share social issues, arrange for that separately.

9. Stay on track

Accustomed to constantly checking into social media? Love getting those Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok updates? That all needs to be turned off during the meeting.

Multitasking is rude to the other participants in the meeting, who will be able to sense that you aren't fully engaged.

It may also be tempting to watch a captioned movie or show during the meeting, but proper etiquette deems you be 100% focused on the call.

10. Speak up

You may have a great connection, a crystal clear view of participants, and sound like you're in the same room. However, everyone won't have the same connection. Even if you can hear teammates perfectly well, it might not be so in the other direction. Always speak clearly and loudly (but of course, don't shout), and ask if you can be heard by everyone. This isn't the time to mumble or speak softly.

Conference calls have a slightly slower tempo than live meetings. Make sure to listen to others until they are done talking. Be particularly careful not to interrupt all the time.

11. Say your name

When you begin talking, identify yourself, "This is Jane Doe, and I have a question," or "Hi, this is John Dough: and I'd like to add to the last point.

If you are on an audio-only call and people can not see you, then express your agreement (don’t simply nod in isolation!). If relevant, narrate what you're doing, so that there are no long stretches of silence while you're searching on your desk for a report, etc.

12. Appearance on remote video:

Professional appearance (well groomed) and behavior - as if we were

meeting together physically.

13. Say goodbye when you leave the meeting.

It is rude to leave without a word in regular meetings, it is also rude to do it in conference meetings.

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