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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Meeting Dark Arts: Video Conference Etiquette

In the 1980 movie Caddyshack there is a scene where the caddy's bet on whether a caddy will pick his nose when he thinks no one is looking only to have him pick and then eat whatever it was he pulled out. Gross? Absolutely.

I hope that none of you get caught in a similar situation while sitting on a video conference call. I sure feel like I have observed just about every bad habit possible displayed by colleagues while sitting on a video, from biting their nails to popping zits. Sometimes I feel like I am watching an Adam Sandler movie. So here are few of my recommendations for Video Conferencing:


  • Sit close together
  • Zoom the camera to show your faces
  • Wear the right colors for your complexion
  • Watch nervous habits. (don't pick your nose)
  • Careful what your body language is saying
  • Your facial expressions matter
  • Be aware of camera location and sound

Sit close together
I know that some people are uncomfortable with personal space. It is important to understand that If we have everyone spread out in the room the opportunity is lost again and the call becomes more emotionally frustrating for the attendees.

Zoom the camera to show your face
If it is just you in the meeting zoom the camera to your upper half do not sit at one end of the conference table and then show the entire room. The best part of video is the opportunity to see your face, it is the best way to communicate. Video is different than voice conference calls in that the objective is to see the person on the other end. My teenagers use video chat on a regular basis to talk to friends all over the world. They set the video to show their face so that when a joke is told and it isn't any good the other person can see their scrunched up nose while hearing the laughter. I have video ability set on my office phone and have found that I prefer to talk to people via video because, I know if they are listening.

Wear the right colors
The other morning I was watching Bloomberg while at the gym and the host was wearing a white shirt and a light pink tie. The combination washed out under the lighting. If you have a light complexion wear darker colors. I know this may sound vain but more and more our lives are conducted via video and how you present yourself will be part of the measure. Remember the Boy Scout motto "be prepared".

Watch out for nervous habits
I am say this one straight out. Don't pick your nose, your ears, or other parts of your body! We all have a habit of some sort and we do it without thinking. Want to know what yours is? Take your video camera out set it up on top of your TV and record yourself watching it. Then review the video. There will be something there. One of our smarter engineers had this habit of pulling on his eyebrows while talking and until we showed him the video playback he wouldn't believe us. It took a lot of practice for him to stop this habit.


Careful what your body language is saying
Leaning way back from the table with your hands behind your head says you aren't interested in being in the meeting. Yes, I know you probably aren't. But it is probably not a good idea to telegraph that to everyone else. How you sit says everything. You may not think it is important until you sit on the other side of a call and see the guy lounging backward and with his hands behind his head while you are trying to make your pitch.

Your facial expressions matter
Ask any poker player. They can tell a lot about what a person is thinking by watching their faces. We all use facial expressions to know if you are happy, mad, or bored. You have the video use your facial expressions to aid the communication. It is a great way to help get your message across to the group on the other side.

Be aware of camera location and sound
I use all three types of video, listed below, regularly depending on the meeting or call being held:
  1. Small web cam on your computer or phone
  2. Single video camera in a conference room
  3. Multiple cameras in a conference room (usually aimed at the podium and audience)

A lot of us have been experiencing budget cuts and looking for innovative ways to save on costs and an effective way to do this is to do more video conference calls. I didn't really like video at first but now I have found video to be my preferred method of holding a distance meeting. It is an opportunity for face to face contact while not having to travel. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about video conferencing.

If you liked this post you might like:
Meeting Dark Arts: Meeting Management
Meeting Dark Arts: Conference Call Etiquette
Meeting Dark Arts: Publishing Minutes
Meeting Dark Arts: Taking Notes

Written by: Jeffrey Hurley, Location: Central, Hong Kong

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree, Jeff. Another one I would add is logging in ahead of time if possible to get your environment in perfect shape. There is nothing more annoying than watching people fumble for the remote, camera placement, audio, etc. It's the same as showing up for a meeting on time, only it requires more prep because you have added technology to work with.

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