We're in a time where most collaborative work happens on video. Video meetings allow remote team members to stay connected, no matter where they are in the world.
But the fact that video meetings power modern work doesn’t necessarily mean that people know how to navigate them well.
If you find yourself struggling to understand what’s expected of you when organizing or attending meetings online, you’re in the right place! Let’s jump right into the do’s and don’ts of video meetings.
10 video conferencing etiquette tips every pro should follow
You’ll be a more productive (and respected) meeting participant if you follow these video-conferencing tips.
1. Check your equipment and software before the meeting
You’ve probably heard the popular Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”
The same principle applies to planning for a video call. It’s important you’re well-prepared for the meeting by ensuring your equipment and software is working. No one likes to see “reconnecting” in meetings multiple times or to hear a speaker constantly repeat “can you hear me?”
Dealing with technical issues that could’ve been avoided wastes people’s time — so test everything before you start!
Your meeting software (like Vowel, Zoom, Google Meet, etc.)
Your personal computer and other equipment (e.g., microphone, webcam, headset)
Your background (more on that later)
Your internet connection (wifi or ethernet)
2. Prepare a meeting agenda
When it comes to getting ready for video meetings, setting a meeting agenda is essential because it shows the goal of the conversation and what will be covered.
If you’re the meeting host or moderator, create an agenda and send it to participants at least a day ahead of time so they can prepare for the meeting.
If you use Vowel as a meeting tool, you can set agendas, tag contributors, and include the goal of the meeting.
As a participant, ask for the agenda before the meeting so you can prepare to contribute, if needed.
3. Check your outfit
In video meetings, you usually only see the face and shoulders of participants. But it’s still a good practice to be properly dressed (and groomed) during meetings.
That’s because the way we dress can affect the way we approach the meeting: confidently or unsure of our ability. Respondents in a study by Peluchette and Karl said that when they wore formal clothing, they felt more authoritative and competent, and felt friendly when they wore business casual attire.
Another study described how clothes influence the wearer’s psychological processes.
Follow the dress code of your organization if they’ve got one and, if not, let the questions below guide you:
“Put yourself in place of the person or people that have to look at you during the teleconference, and ask these three questions:
1) Does [how you look] demonstrate personal respect for the position you hold?
2) Does it demonstrate respect for your peers?
3) Does it demonstrate respect for the institution of which you are a part?”
― Cindy Ann Peterson, My Style, My Way: Top Experts Reveal How to Create Yours Today
4. Make sure your background looks good
Aside from your face, the next thing people see during video meetings is your background. The video “box” of every participant in a meeting is like a TV so you’ll always see what’s going on in the background if you’re watching it. In video meetings, this leads to distractions.
You can adapt the popular “less is more” motto when preparing your background. Sometimes, even nothing is more.
Remove or take down objects that might cause distraction
Ensure you don’t use an open window as your background
Ideally choose a neutral background color
Need help with your background? If you’re traveling or in a location where the background doesn’t look right, most video-conferencing tools (Vowel included!) have a “blur background” option, or a way to add a virtual background.
5. Mute your mic when you’re not speaking
Make it a practice to always press the mute button when you’re not talking. Leaving it unmuted can lead to distractions, as your mic may pick up background noises like sneezes, barking dogs, or your partner in the other room.
Don’t be one of those people who forgets this important rule as it could result in a longer meeting. Only unmute when you’ve got something to say.
If you need to chime in while others are talking and you don’t want to come off mute, try using Vowel’s comment feature or in-meeting emoji reactions.
6. Pay attention to lighting + frame your camera properly
Lighting is an important factor to consider when preparing for a video conference, as it can set the mood for the meeting. When used properly, it can even change the way you appear on the screen and bring some color to a bland environment.
Poor lighting can make things look pretty dull so you want to avoid that. Here’s how:
Avoid backing onto natural light sources like the sun
Get another source of light if your space requires one
Place the light in front of or above you, not behind you
Use multiple light sources if possible, for balanced lighting
When you’ve got proper lighting set up, ensure that you frame the camera correctly. Positioning the camera in a way that makes it easy for you to look at it (camera lens at eye level) is key here.
7. Be ready to share your screen
If you’re going to share your screen during a video meeting, you need to have it ready — and have your desktop decluttered, if necessary — so other participants can easily see what you’re sharing.
It can be embarrassing and lead to delay if you only start closing out private conversations when it’s time to share the screen.
That’s another reason why you need a meeting agenda. To be ready to share your screen, you should:
Close unnecessary or private documents
Mute notifications (e.g. Slack) and calls
Only open the window you’re presenting from
8. Respect everyone’s speaking time
A great way to ensure an effective meeting is to "time-box" each agenda item. If you’re in charge of the meeting, ensure every contributor speaks during their time and that they respect other people’s time, too.
You want to avoid any possibility of participants making the meeting run longer than it should.
Vowel’s agenda timers enable you to assign time for each talking point to ensure everyone stays on track (it provides a gentle reminder when time is almost up or expired). You can also see talk-time percentages to see how much each person in the meeting is talking.
Tip: Some occasions call for long meetings. Ensure there are planned breaks in those meetings, so participants don’t get bored or stale.
9. Eliminate background noise
Ideally, remote workers need to have a home office or a space that’s quiet enough for meetings. If you don’t have that, find a place where people are less likely to be, reducing background noise for your video meeting.
This is important because when there’s no background noise, you get better audio quality.
If it's an important meeting where you'll be presenting, pre-warn your roommates, family members, or partner that you’ll be having a meeting, so that they reduce noise as well.
10. Speak clearly and look at the camera while speaking
It’s important you articulate your words while speaking in meetings so others can understand you and chime in if they need to.
And don’t forget to make eye contact with the camera to get people’s attention and make your meetings feel more interactive!
3 video conferencing don'ts
There are a few things you want to avoid during a video meeting, to increase your chances of having productive meetings and leaving a good impression. These include:
Meeting etiquette says it’s important to devote your full attention to the meeting and leave every other activity until you’re done. Even though remote work is flexible, it doesn’t mean you should do everything all at once.
Avoid munching on snacks, trying to meet deadlines, or scrolling through social media when you’re on a video conference call.
Of course, there are some instances when it’s okay to multitask, like when a participant asks for something you don’t have prepared yet. In such cases, you can go on mute and do your thing, then catch up on anything you might have missed.
That’ll be easy if the meeting software you’re using comes with automatic transcription, like Vowel. It can help you keep track of what was said when you weren’t paying attention.
Make it a practice to always join meetings on time. Even better: try to arrive a minute or two before the meeting starts. Being punctual is a subtle way of showing respect to other participants, whether they’re your colleagues, employees, or customers.
When you realize you’ll be joining late or missing the meeting altogether, reach out to the meeting organizer and let them know.
If you arrive late, you can show courtesy by apologizing to meeting participants, preferably in the comment section so you don’t interrupt whoever’s talking.
❌ Interrupting others
Avoid interrupting people’s conversation, no matter how important your point is. Aside from being rude, interrupting other people can cause them to lose their train of thought or prolong the meeting.
That’s why most top video meeting software (like Vowel, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams) has a comment or chat box. You can use that to make any urgent points, share feedback, or use emojis to react.
If you feel it’s important you speak, raise your hand and wait until the current speaker is done.
Build a better meeting culture with an all-in-one tool
Preparation is key to having a better meeting culture, and that extends to the kind of video conferencing software you use.
You want software that helps you set agendas and keep track of important things that are discussed. Enter Vowel: it’s an all-in-one tool that allows users to allocate time to different topics, transcribe and record the meeting, bookmark important moments to come back to, and more.
Sign up for free to start having better video meetings today!