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Video Meeting Tips – I Do Not Want to Count your Nose Hairs

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

What is the new etiquette?

If we are still working, most of us are working from home. That means we are now having meetings through some type of video interface. Although this provides many benefits, just like everything in the “new normal,” it adds just a few more hurdles to overcome to simply get work done.

Whether you have heard the story of the spouse walking completely naked behind his or her spouse’s webcam, Zoom bombers broadcasting pornography to elementary schoolers (use a password on meetings), or you have perused the sometimes highly entertaining Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) on Twitter, here are some things to consider with your video meeting.

Basics

  • Turn your video on: You were asked to attend the meeting for a reason, you should be present and attentive. Your facial expressions can show many things to people. Hopefully, the meeting was called to get your input (and couldn’t have just been handled in an email or phone call). Be there with your smiling face. EXCEPTION: Very large meetings (more than 15 people). It is completely acceptable to have your video off during a company all-hands-on-deck meeting, webinar, or large gathering.

  • Turn your audio off: No one wants to hear screaming kids or, in my case, dogs barking in the background while trying to conduct business. Remember, this is a work meeting and your attention, although at home, needs to be on the business at hand. You can turn your audio back on when it is your opportunity to speak. EXCEPTION: there is no exception to this rule.

  • Work attire is a must: You cannot wear a tank top or a bikini top to your staff meeting in the office. Just because you are at home, it does not mean workout gear is appropriate for your video call. Speaking of workout gear, you also would not show up to a meeting dripping in sweat from your workout, so be presentable. EXCEPTION: If you can master the meeting with no pants, go for it at your own risk.

  • Multitasking is a no-no: Just because you are in front of your computer does not mean that you should be answering emails during the meeting. You should also not be scrolling through your phone or aggressively typing at your keyboard (another reason for the audio mute, by the way). Remember you are on video and you can be seen. EXCEPTION: If you need to attend to something non work-related (a child or a spouse), then turn off the video and audio and address it. The meeting host should allow for this in his or her review of the ground rules prior to the start of the event.

Techie stuff

  • Remember this is video: Just like in photography, light is key. People do not go to a meeting to sit in a dark corner, that is what you are doing if you do not have proper lighting. You want to have a front-facing light source behind the computer camera. There are multiple useful webcam/computer lights available on Amazon and from Best Buy that are about $30.

  • Landscape camera format is standard: Almost every video conference service uses landscape format. This means the camera view is longer horizontally than vertically. Do not be the one person with black bars on the sides of your video display.

  • Know your room/background: This usually means know your audience but here it is literal. Check out @ratemyskyperoom on Twitter. People can be very critical of the knickknacks, books and all the things on your desk or walls. This can vary industry to industry, but be mindful of your surroundings that show up on camera. Some people recommend a blank wall to have the focus exclusively on you, but most prefer a balance of personalization without being too busy. If you think it might be too busy, it is.

  • Camera angle/positioning is important: No one wants to see up your nose and see your ceiling in the frame of the video. No one wants to see you decapitated either. A good rule of thumb for portraiture fits well here—your shoulders are visible at the bottom of the frame and your eyes should be about one-third down from the top of the frame.

The show on Apple TV+ called “Mythic Quest” did a really good “Quarantine” episode that highlights many of these issues in a hilarious way. Rules like "no eating" (do you have snacks to share with the group) and "be prompt" (the college rule of the professor showing up late means that class is cancelled) are tackled in our new normal.


A good simple rule of thumb is if you did not do it in an in-person meeting, you should not do it in an online meeting.

—Steve Jozwiakowski

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