Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
I don’t need to produce any statistics to convince you that video calls are popular. Over the past year, the use of video call technology has grown exponentially – to the point where we actually have video call fatigue.
Personally, I think one of the reasons that we have video call fatigue is because we haven’t developed any universally accepted rules or etiquette. Video calls aren’t going away any time soon. Even when we start traveling and going into the office, video calls are still going to be a regular occurrence. Maybe not as much as today, but we will still be using them.
So, I thought it might be helpful to create a list of rules for video calls. If you see one that I missed, be sure to drop it in the comments. Hopefully this can become a resource for organizations.
PRIOR TO THE CALL
When scheduling, let participants know if it will be a video call, if they will be on camera, and if the session will be recorded. Many people use video call software platforms for voice-to-voice calls. If the expectation is to use the video feature, tell participants. And please please please stop the last minute “Oh, let’s all turn our cameras on! And you don’t mind if I record this, do you?” Share in advance the expected level of participation and allow everyone to prepare.
Test your equipment. I’m sure organizations have a preferred reliable platform for video calls, but it’s still a good idea to do a quick microphone and video check before going live. I recently discovered that my headphones were acting funny through a mic check and I was able to fix them before the call. Better than trying to deal with it during the call.
Remember lighting and backgrounds. My office has great lighting, but I still find that a ring light helps. And we’ve discussed this before – make sure your background looks the way you want it to. I’ve heard stories of some very weird and inappropriate things in the background of video calls. You do not want to be the topic of conversation for your questionable video background. Trust me on this one.
Consider your attire. I don’t want to turn this into a conversation about wearing pants. I’d like to think we’ve all figured that one out by now. Keep in mind that in the future, you might be doing video calls at your company’s workspace. Remember that solid colors are better on video than patterns. Again, you want participants to remember what you said not what you were wearing.
DURING THE CALL
Use good meeting etiquette. I like to think of video calls as a form of meeting. We should remember all of the rules of conducting a good meeting. Even if it’s a one-on-one meeting. Have an agenda. Start and end on time. Take notes. Do a quick recap at the end outlining what was accomplished.
Mute yourself when you won’t be speaking for a while. There are often points in calls when someone is giving a presentation. During these times, participants should mute themselves, so the background noise doesn’t come through to the call. And if you’re a meeting organizer, feel free to tell people they can put themselves on mute. “Leonard is going to present the Q2 sales results. Feel free to mute yourself during his report and then we’ll unmute for questions.”
Use the chat feature, if available. Most video call platforms include a chat feature. This can be a really helpful way for participants to ask a question or make a comment during calls. One word of caution: the chat feature shouldn’t turn into a backchannel. That could become distracting and potentially derail the call.
Try not to multi-task. It can be very tempting to multi-task during conference calls. The same temptations exist with video calls. We need to train ourselves to stay engaged and a part of the conversation.
AFTER THE CALL
Make sure the call is completed. Some video call platforms are still open even after the call has ended. This could be problematic, and I don’t need to explain the reasons why. I’m sure you’ve read stories. Making sure the call is completed is just a good practice to get into.
Reset your privacy and security settings. We’ve all seen articles about security breaches during video calls. Because video call software requires you to give permission to use the microphone and video camera on your computer, it could make some sense to disconnect those permissions after the call. I realize this is an extra step each time, but a little peace of mind might be worth it.
Now that we’ve discovered the advantages to video calls, organizations are going to continue to use them. Granted, they need to be used at the right time and for the right reasons. If we all get better at using video call etiquette, maybe we can reduce some of the fatigue and burnout and focus on the content of the call. Which is the benefit of video calls in the first place.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in Washington, DC21