We often say, “Face time beats Facebook” and “High touch beats high tech,” but we don’t always have the luxury to meet everyone in person. Especially now, with the “Shelter-in-Place”, and, “Stay-Home” orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we recommend Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, FaceTime, or another live video.
Seeing the other person’s facial expressions gives you instant feedback you can’t get over the phone. You can quickly correct misunderstandings before they’re verbalized. You see each other in person in real time, and that alone appeals to our human nature. This is a real person, not a text, memo or a voice on the phone.
Using this technology over the years has taught us several points of etiquette that will make your video conferencing communications more effective. Here are our top 10:
- Video — meet first. If it’s important, make your first meeting by live video. They will feel more comfortable with you, be more likely to forgive your imperfections, and give you the benefit of the doubt. You will seem more sincere. This is your opportunity to make a good first impression.
- Prepare yourself. Look clean and well groomed, but don’t overdo it as that will appear insincere. Don’t distract them with flashy jewelry, dramatic make-up or wild styles. Business casual and low key wins the day. Have a drink of water before you go on. Put a smile on your face and sit up straight.
- Clean your desk. Don’t have anything between you and the camera that says you’re messy or disorganized. Lose the stack of papers, sticky notes and potato chips. Consider the visual message you are sending.
- Aim your camera. Check your camera angle. Ideally, it should be coming from the middle of the screen or even with their eyes. Don’t sit too close or your head will appear much too large. Look at the camera when you speak. Don’t put the camera to your side.
- Prepare your background. If you have a sunny window directly behind you, close the blind. Think about what they see behind your head. A clean wall or curtain is better than a cluttered office or weird artwork. Remember, you don’t want to distract them, so look to see what they see before you call.
- Prepare your presentation. Have in mind exactly what you want to convey, what commitments you want from them, and be prepared for questions. Books, pictures or shared documents are great props to use.
- Small talk first. Talk about the weather or something neutral to give them time to adjust to you and how you speak. They are taking in a lot of information at first so make it friendly. Don’t talk too fast.
- Give and take. Be sure to give them ample opportunity to respond and ask questions. Ideally, they should talk as long as you do. Take notes. Listen closely to their remarks and address them before you go on with your points.
- Smile and say goodbye. Look at the camera. Give a friendly wave goodbye and thank them for the meeting.
- Send a follow-up. Right after your live video meeting, send them a thank you email saying how much you enjoyed meeting with them and politely summarize the action items.
Think of it as a visit from them to your office. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a good first impression, so prepare yourself for the best.
We have sent this video protocol in the past. But with the onset of COVID-19 and our dependence on online video communication, this is being offered again as a helpful reminder. It’s important that we master these protocols so we can be the most effective during these trying times. We wish you all good health and we will be spending the next month sharing our best suggestions for virtual communication.