The latest video conferencing technology is drop-dead simple to use. It’s as easy as pushing one button to join a video conference. Yes, you heard it right: one single button to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime with pristine quality.
So, the technology has arrived but how fluent are you in the language of video conferencing and mastery of online meeting etiquette? Much like perfecting your golf swing or getting a swim cap on your head properly, becoming well-mannered on video conferences requires awareness of a few important nuances. Some are so subtle that it doesn’t matter much, like knowing exactly when to look directly into the camera to mimic eye contact, or choosing to nod your head instead of saying, “uh-huh.” Others are more significant.
In the Entrepreneur article, “Is There Proper Etiquette for? Videoconferencing,” Ross McCammon, Articles Editor for Esquire magazine, states, “Video conferencing is one of those things that we all generally endorse but is still new enough that we haven’t fully adapted to it.” That observation was made in 2011. Now, in 2016, video meetings have moved beyond a hot new trend to an everyday part of work life, and video etiquette has become even more important with a greater number of remote workers.
“The workplace is no longer defined by one centralized location. More employees are working remotely and high-quality video conferencing solutions from companies such as Polycom have become an integral tool for those workers to remain connected with colleagues globally,” said Jacob Morgan, best-selling author, speaker and future of work consultant. “With platforms like Facebook buying in to the video market, video conferencing is becoming more ubiquitous.”
We’re past the Wild, Wild West of video conferencing stage, but we haven’t all arrived at the stage in which we all follow the same code of conduct. For video veterans, this is a time to reach out and help your neighbor in need of video decorum. For video novices, this is a time to learn how not to be a Vidiot (video idiot).
Video etiquette goofs happen
First, allow me to acknowledge that mistakes happen. Just as the proverbial cobbler’s children have no shoes, video etiquette goofs happen to even the most technologically savvy—even those who work at Polycom, the maker of industry-leading video conferencing solutions with a remote work friendly culture.
As a five months employee of Polycom using video collaboration technology daily, I still occasionally forget to unmute the microphone, enthusiastically speaking for a while before realizing the other meeting attendees can’t hear me. But these things happen, just as most Americans regularly walk out the door without their car keys. Or when we have a brain hiccup and can’t remember the word for oven, so we call it a “baking station.” These things happen.
Jokes. Wait for it…
For instance, jokes. McCammons says that jokes are about 30% less funny on video conferencing. I have more to add on that.
When video conferencing in real time, your voice takes about one second to reach halfway around the world—not bad! You learn not to be disappointed when no one laughs at your joke immediately. The first time I told a joke on a video conference call, I assumed the joke fell flat because no one laughed immediately. As I began to internally comfort myself from the embarrassment of delivering an unfunny joke, everyone laughed. It had just taken a second to land. Now I deliver the joke, wait a beat, and let the laughs roll in. If my joke is still not funny when it lands, I blame audio problems.
Vidiocy on a global scale
The beauty of video conferencing is that it brings worldwide colleagues together into one virtual room, defying even the furthest of distances. As with any international collaboration, you learn to be attentive to regional norms. For instance, having your pet in the room is generally okay in the UK, France, and Germany. Your Labrador Retriever Mr. Bojangles may not be as welcome on camera when you’re working with colleagues in India and Poland. Polycom commissioned a global survey of 1,205 business decision-makers in 12 countries, and found enlightening results you can read about out in Your guide to video conferencing trends and etiquette.
Great tips, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a sort of video conferencing sergeant standing over your shoulder to drill the video conferencing violations out of you?
Introducing Polly Calm
Meet Polly Calm, the video-centric Emily Post (no relation to Huffington Post). She’s frank, she’s funny, and she’s on a mission to save you from being a Vidiot. You may love her, you may hate her, or you may love to hate her, but one thing’s for sure: people need her. Through a six-episode video series, Polly Calm will share important tips and tricks designed to educate even the most seasoned video conferencing professionals on proper video etiquette. Polly Calm will prepare everyone, from interns conducting their first video job interview to C-level executives leading business meetings, to make a great impression.