Ever been on a video conference that revealed more about your boss’ taste in home decor or your colleague’s taste in pajamas than you needed to know? If so, you’ve experienced first-hand one of the growing pains associated with transitioning to advanced communication technology. Anytime, anywhere access to communication tools has made it more convenient than ever before to conduct work remotely. Yet, because it’s still such a new phenomenon, it requires standards of etiquette that don’t necessarily come as second nature to many of us.

To help ensure that you and your employees get the most out of being able to connect with colleagues and clients through video conferencing, start incorporating the following guidelines and rules of etiquette:

  • Practice makes perfect. If you’re new to video conferencing, are using it from a new location, do a dry run with a colleague or friend. If you’re going to be sharing any documents or presentations, test those functions as well. These steps will increase your chances of working out any potential issues ahead of time.
  • Start on time, end on time. As with any meeting, punctuality matters. Don’t let the informality of videoconferencing let you think otherwise.
  • Drop the distractions. Evaluate your surroundings and determine which visual distractions might interfere with an effective meeting, removing anything that could cause you or others to lose focus. This includes food (unless it’s agreed upon ahead of time that the meeting will occur over a meal), unprofessional attire (i.e. pajamas), children playing in the background, or other distractions from the participants’ locations.
  • Save side conversations for later. Side conversations are impolite during in-person meetings, and the same is true during a video conference. Keep conversation topics relevant to all participants and you’ll avoid alienating or offending anyone.
  • Consider alternate communication methods. Even if a video conference seems like an easy way to communicate, it might not be the best format for your meeting. For instance, sometimes it really is best to meet in-person and sometimes an audio conference will suffice. Consider these and other alternatives before initiating a video conference.

In time, the standards of video conference etiquette will become second nature to us all. As you and your employees adjust to this new communication format, don’t be afraid to put questions and concerns on the table quickly. Doing so will help ease the transition for everyone and make all of your meetings more successful and productive.

For more information on how your SMB can benefit from the latest communication technologies, including audio, Web and video conferencing, check out the Microsoft Lync website.

About the Author(s)

Cindy Bates

Cindy Bates is the vice president of the U.S. Small- and Mid-Sized Business (SMB) Organization at Microsoft. Cindy and her team serve millions of SMB's in the U.S., helping them start, grow and thrive by utilizing today’s powerful and affordable technologies.

Vice President, Microsoft SMB
Video Conferences