The new normal: video conferencing etiquette and practical tips
Dr.sc. comm. Olga Kazaka, „A. W. Olsen & Partners” partner, author of the „First PR book”, LU docent
The general quarantine and the transfer to remote working mode has given new insights to the virtual meetings and has imposed an interesting question: is videoconferencing the same as face-to-face meetings or something else? What rules of conduct apply here? How does it differ from face-to-face conversation? Here are some tips to help make videoconferencing more effective.
1. Prepare well
First and foremost, prepare technically. A good microphone and headphones, as well as a good lighting shining on your face from a window or lamp (do not sit with your back to the lit window) have become the basic hygiene elements. The camera should be positioned at eye level. Fully charge the computer and leave it connected to the charger during the meeting. Close all unnecessary windows and programs. Make sure that the background is quiet, so that children or pets do not interfere in the conversation at any important moment. Try out the technique and program beforehand, but do not forget to turn off the microphone when you are not talking.
Many questions arise about the choice of background and clothing. Recent research shows that interlocutors pay most attention to background, less attention to clothing style and color; however, these are still important aspects. All these elements are especially important when communicating virtually with men or younger generation.
So, when it comes to clothing, the neutral color scheme and business style will help you to look authentic, trustworthy, as well as an expert but patterns and bright colors will emphasize creativity. If you are about to have a conversation with a superior or important new customers, it is better to choose conservative business suit in neutral tones.
Without going into details, an important principle is this: if you work in an industry where business attire is a norm, it is useful to keep the same style in a virtual communication.
What background to choose? Research shows that interlocutors perceive the wall in a real room or office. Besides, men prefer a wall with a bookshelf, while women prefer a wall with a framed decor. Good option is also a simple neutral wall without any elements. There are even studies that show that a blank wall accentuates your creativity and originality. However, widespread variations of artificial backgrounds with an ideal interior or illustration of cosmic landscape are better to be saved for private parties: according to the research participants, they don’t seem professional.
2. Structure your presentation properly
Every presentation is an act of purposeful communication; so first, ask yourself, what do you want to achieve with this meeting? What does the audience or your interlocutor expect? How can the interests of both parties be reconciled?
During the virtual presentations, it is more difficult for the audience to follow the main ideas; therefore, to keep their attention, do not include more than 3 ideas in the presentation, structure the texts and add visual materials that help to understand the matter. Also, definitely make sure you keep to your allotted time when giving a presentation. To do this, you will most likely need to practice alone several times beforehand.
If you address an unknown audience, briefly introduce yourself and the topic of your presentation. It is optimal to do this intro in 90 seconds.
Immediately agree on the procedure, whether you may be asked questions during the presentation. If so, how? By interrupting, virtually raising a hand or writing a comment? Actively encourage your audience to provide you with feedback in the form of comments or questions – videoconferencing is more passive than face-to-face conversation.
At the end of the discussion or presentation, summarize the results: what decisions have been made, how are the responsibilities divided, when are the deadlines? After the meeting, send this summary in writing to the participants.
3. Sharp edges
There are several common mistakes that ruin presentations. Firstly, those are filler words. One filler word per minute is considered acceptable, but in average people use them every 12 seconds, which negatively affects the audience’s perception. It is better to replace them with pauses. By the way, the audience considers a pause of up to 5 seconds as a norm. Do not be afraid of them.
Be careful with humor. Since the video conferencing format does not give you a complete picture of how the audience responds to your words, jokes can do harm. Instead, help your audience focus on the main point and put more energy into your speech, and use the storytelling element as an example of a situation from your practice, a client review, a quote, or a metaphorical comparison.
4. Additional practical tips
If you do not feel confident enough, get up! Stand firmly on both feet and do not fidget. This will help you to feel and look more confident, as well as respond more vigorously to questions and comments.
Ask someone to help you take notes and keep track of comments. This will help you not to lose sight and not to look distracted.