With budgets trimmed and communication lines blurred by the ambiguity of email, videoconferencing has come into its own as a legitimate channel for business meetings.
In fact, it is all part of living in a video world. The informality that rules Skype and Google Hangout has made us all quite comfortable on camera. And that's the problem when it comes to videoconferencing with business associates. It's not informal. It's a business meeting.
Sally French is a reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco. She and her team talked to experts on etiquette and videoconferencing. She reported their findings in a recent article for the Wall Street Journal.
10 Ways to practice proper business etiquette in a videoconference.
1. Don't type. It creates a distracting noise and it says you are not paying attention. If you're taking notes, go old school and write them down on paper. According to Angie Hill, general manager of audience marketing at Skype, typing while on a videoconference is the biggest faux pas of all.
2. Make eye contact. This can be a little tough. Obviously, if you are in a business meeting, eye contact is critical to building trust. In a videoconference, if someone else is talking, it's okay to look at the different people in the room. But if you're talking and presenting, look into the camera.
3. Don't eat. "I'm now watching you eat instead of paying attention to how brilliant you say you are," says Lindsay Pollak, a workplace etiquette consultant in New York City. "And let's be honest. Nobody looks good eating." Find some other time to eat. No one cares that you couldn't find time for lunch.
4. Discourage Interruptions. While you're on a video conference, it's sometimes hard for coworkers in your office to know. After all, you could just be looking at your computer. If you're in an office, put a note on your door. If in a cubicle, devise a signal in the company to let people know.
5. Don't leave without telling anyone. Have to go to the bathroom? If you're on the telephone, it's easy just to mute the phone and the problem is solved. Not so on video. If it's a small meeting, just mention you have to take a brief break and resume the meeting shortly. If it's a large meeting, email or text one of the other participants that you'll be gone for a few and slip away quietly.
6. Pay attention. In an in-person meeting, you wouldn't wander off. In video, everyone can see your eyes drifting away or your fingers typing. They can see if you're distracted. Stay focused and don't look away from the screen.
7. Remember attendees elsewhere. It's easy to forget about the less active attendees in other places. It's important that people participating outside a group are included in the conversation and that they are given cues and opportunities for questions or comments.
8. Control your background. Simple, interesting objects or designs can be okay, but if your environment is out-of-control messy, it's a distraction. The same is true of excessive background noise. If your usual environment is inherently distracting, move to a quiet, uncluttered place. If you have a pet, this isn't the time to show it off.
9. Anticipate technical difficulties. Be prepared for the videoconference. You don't want to join the conference only to find out you should have upgraded some software and you can't get in. Such things can mean you join late or miss the conference altogether. You don't want to appear to be a person who is technologically challenged. Some advice from Ms. Field: Join the conference slightly early, and definitely make sure you end the call properly when it's over. On this subject, Lizzie Post, descendant of venerable queen of etiquette Emily Post says, "The worst mistake I have ever heard of is someone thinking the call is over. They didn't hang up properly and ended up saying something disparaging about the call. It was awkward for people on both ends.
10. You may be at home, but act like you're at work. More and more people have an option to work at home frequently. The rule of thumb is, when you're on a videoconference meeting, act like you're at work.
For those of you thinking, what's the worst that can happen? How bad can people be on a videoconference?
As part of Ms. French's article, she shares the results of a Lab42 survey of 2,000 respondents ages 22 and up, conducted in 2015.
- 24% of Americans have said making a video call from the bathroom is the worst thing someone could do on screen. 6% have seen it.
- 21% of people have admitted to attending a videoconference wearing a professional top and pajama pants.
- 17% of Americans have seen an attendee's pet make an unexpected cameo in a video call.
- 7% of people have seen someone participate in a videoconference from bed.
MDB Welcome Rob Gerds
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Rob brings deep marketing, agency management and strategic planning experience to MDB. He’s led teams at national agencies like FCB in Orange County, Hal Riney & Partners and Grey Advertising in San Francisco, as well as at regional creative powerhouses like BaylessCronin in Atlanta.
He started and managed two companies, his own ad agency and later a consultancy focusing on brand planning and the 50+ market. Perhaps his most interesting role was as senior consultant at Wanamaker Associates, the leading marketing management consultancy in Atlanta, helping clients in agency selection, compensation development and relationship management studies. In addition, he has been a client as well, as VP/Marketing & Sales for Elder Care Alliance. Rob’s career has been built on a simple premise: creativity drives business forward.
Elder Care Alliance: centralized the marketing function, and led the organization to record NOI through an innovative integrated marketing campaign.
BaylessCronin: grew agency from 6 to 60 and sold to Omnicom, while building programs for Coca Cola, Johnston & Murphy, Wachovia Bank and BellSouth.
Hal Riney & Partners: Launched Saturn Automobiles, and Riney Bradford Huber, the wholly-owned design division.
He has built successful programs on national brands like Ford, Mirage Resorts and Mazda, as well as regional accounts like Reliant Energy, AmSouth Bank, and Waffle House.
In his spare time, Rob believes in giving back, including a role as a grocery van driver at a low-income senior community that led to being President of the Board, as lead volunteer in his wife’s Atlanta City Council race, and a volunteer ombudsman for Long Term Care in DC.