Video-conferencing is extremely powerful and so readily available. FaceTime, Skype, GoToMeeting and other similar services are freely avaialble on just about any device or platform and easy to use. This makes it extremely powerful for keeping in touch with family, friends and colleagues that live and work in other parts of the country or world.
There are some things you should know before hosting or joining that next call. Here are 5 things to keep in mind (for your sake and others on the call).
1) No Eating
Ok, this one really should be obvious, but in case it's not, let's just nip this one in the bud. While it may be convenient for you, it's definitely not good etiquette to be eating your lunch with others on the call. Not only is it distracting, but it be a little gross for others to hear you lip-smacking as company financial forecasts are being discussed. Know what I mean?
2) Use a Well-Lit Room and Good A/V
Not every room is optimally designed for a video conference. The room you use should be well lit so that others on the call can see you properly. Very few rooms are considered to be perfectly lit, but some lighting is better than a dark office. If you're not sure, place a test call with a good friend or colleague before engaging in a high-stakes call with a C-level (CEO, CFO, COO, etc).
Along with a well-lit room, it's always a great idea to use quality equipment. A good camera and microphone can make a huge difference! Most modern laptops have a high-quality camera and microphone, but if not, it may be worth purchasing one. My recommendation: the Logitech C920 HD camera (with built-in microphone). At $99.99 list, it's a bargain.
3) Avoid Typing
You may be extremely tempted to use your computer to take notes during your call, but DON'T!! Remember, your click, click, clicking will sound amplified to the other party. This may not be the case if you are using an external USB microphone, but it can still be distracting to them. If you need to take notes, use good old-fashioned paper and pen, then transcribe your notes later. Either that, or have someone designated as a note-taker on another computer that has their mic on mute.
4) Advertise Your Status to Others
I've been on plenty video-conferencing calls when a fellow co-worker comes barging in asking about the game last night in an obnoxious way. It's not really their fault, but it happens. These embarrassing moments can be easily avoided by placing a sign off-camera (or even on your office door) that simply reads "On a video call".
5) Be On Time!
I only have a few pet peeves and tardiness is one of them. I can't tell you how many times I have scheduled a call for specific time, and attendees show up late for one reason or another. Sometimes it's because a previous meeting went long, but almost always, it's because they went to join the call right on time, and realized that their client was out-of-date and needed a last-minute patch. Well, 5 or 10 minutes later, they're on the call. A good rule of thumb is to be on the call 5 minutes early. This doesn't mean you need to start the meeting early, it just ensures that you have enough time to do those patches and be on-time (which everyone will appreciate). Trust me, no one will ever be upset for you joining a call early!