There’s nothing more annoying than attending an online presentation or meeting and getting nothing out of it because the presenter or fellow attendees are unprepared or unfamiliar with how to behave in a formal, online environment.
Video conferencing etiquette is similar to the rules of conduct for any meeting or presentation. However, there are slight twists to accommodate the online format. Here are 18 essential rules of video conferencing etiquette for presenters and attendees alike to help you get the most out of your video conferences.
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Presenting virtually can be daunting. However, presenters can still captivate their audiences and deliver engaging and professional presentations.
“Good webinar etiquette, like good online etiquette in general, keeps doors open to better communication, greater mutual respect and greater efficiency,” said Laura Lowder, who coordinates annual online writing conferences for the Catholic Writers Guild.
Here are some tips to help presenters conduct effective video conferences.
It’s frustrating for everyone if the presenter must pause the video conference to load a screen-sharing app, update slides, or adjust their mic because of feedback. Take time before the video conference to test out all your online meeting technology. “A presentation will go a lot more smoothly if the presenter has a nodding acquaintance, at least, with the software. You won’t be as effective if you’re fiddling around or interrupting yourself to ask questions about the program,” Lowder said.
Watching an online presentation is different from having a conversation — especially if the presenter uses slides and the listeners don’t have physical cues to follow the conversation. Slow your speaking speed if you naturally speak fast. If you’re doing a demo, pause between steps to allow for lag time and let your visitors catch up.
Slides should be simple and include bullet points and graphics that support your lecture. Overly wordy slides distract the viewer from what you’re saying. And merely reading your slides aloud makes your video conference presentation no more effective than sending out a report.
Visual clues can engage your audience and help with knowledge retention. “The brain stores audio information differently than visual,” explained Delanda Coleman, senior product marketing manager of Skype for Business at Microsoft. “Therefore, if you can use images such as pie charts, rather than a lot of words, you give your audience visual cues to help them retain information.”
Some video conferences have a live audience component. If this is the case, always repeat audience questions during question-and-answer sessions. It’s never a good idea to assume your online audience can hear them. Answer questions clearly, addressing both audiences, after repeating the question.
According to Stewart Dunlop, CEO of PPC Genius, businesses can benefit from opening the floor to more people rather than having just one host during video conferences and live-streaming events on social media.
“Having multiple hosts not only helps you have more email addresses to promote your webinar but also helps you to share awareness of your webinars on multiple social channels,” Dunlop explained.
When presenting, it helps to be aware of basic information about your audience, such as their job roles, what they hope to get out of the video conference, and the topics they’re most interested in learning about. This background knowledge can help make your presentation more interesting and engaging.
Maximize your virtual meeting experience with these attendee-focused video conferencing tips.
You can miss crucial information if you log in late — and you may even disrupt the presentation.
“(Arriving on time) prevents you from wasting additional time contacting the presenter after the fact to find out what you missed,” Coleman noted.
Nothing is more likely to elicit giggles than when a presenter turns off their PowerPoint presentation and the software defaults to someone watching (or worse, not watching), unaware that their webcam is running. Even if you’re in listening mode, ensure your webcam is off, or cover the lens with a post-it note.
In a live setting, you can see who has a question or when a presenter is ready for an interruption. In a video conference — especially when not everyone is on their webcam — you may need to rely on cues like hand-raising icons or questions posted in chats.
Video conferences are focused; be sure your questions are, too. Avoid wasting time in lengthy introductions, and don’t self-promote or spend a lot of time sharing your opinion before asking a question. If you have comments, first ask yourself if they will help others.
Just as you wouldn’t stand in the back of a conference room gossiping with someone while a presenter lectures, refrain from using the chat room to socialize. Lowder recalled a previous experience with distracting side chats.
“Some comments were useful — a resource that pertained to the conversation, for example — but other times, people jumped in at every opportunity to make comments more appropriate to a conversation, not a presentation,” Lowder recalled.
This may seem like a small thing. However, turning off your camera during breaks or when you must answer the phone can help avoid potentially awkward or distracting situations. Many video meeting attendees have found themselves in awkward positions, like eating or being inappropriately dressed on camera. Avoid this as much as possible by turning off your camera during breaks.
Host more productive online meetings and successfully collaborate with the following essential video conferencing tips.
Set a clear agenda for your collaborative online meeting and show you respect everyone’s time. “Meetings give teams a chance to communicate and convey important information,” Coleman noted, “but people hate them because, too often, the agenda isn’t clear.”
It’s best to meet face-to-face, even when you can’t be in the same room.
“Leveraging video collaboration gives you visual cues that you might miss with audio only,” Coleman advised. “It also helps you focus because you can look your co-workers in the eyes.”
In live meetings, you can lay low in the back or even glance at your phone under the table. Because everyone’s focused on the presenter, you can get away with a little disengagement. However, there’s no hiding during an online meeting with all webcams on. You’ll always be in direct sight of everyone, so stay attentive and engaged.
“If you are participating in a meeting, come in with additional insight so you can add value to the conversations,” Coleman advised.
Remove distractions during online meetings. For example, go somewhere with less background noise, turn off your phone, and organize your workspace so clutter doesn’t distract you or other meeting participants.
If you are meeting to collaborate on a document, use the program’s notes software to edit and comment together. If the program has a whiteboard feature, use it to make notes and charts or brainstorm.
Whether you’re presenting during a video conference, hosting a video meeting, or attending an online event, respectful etiquette can make the information imparted more valuable. Video conferences and meetings aren’t going away anytime soon — in fact, they’re being used for previously in-person-only business activities like job interviews and performance reviews.
Video conferencing etiquette mirrors in-office guidelines while incorporating knowledge of software and other technology. Too many online meetings kill productivity. Do your part to help everyone engage and make their time investment worthwhile.
Lauren Kubiak contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.