Amid coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines, most of us are using video chat as the primary way to keep in touch with co-workers, family and friends. Whether you’re using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Meet or Hangouts, Microsoft Teams or one of the other video chat services available, you’ve probably encountered some distracting video chat behaviours from colleagues and friends, taking your calls off the rails.
Here are six ways you may be unintentionally ruining your video chats and meetings, and how to avoid them.
- Typing or otherwise being noisy while not on mute
There is always someone who forgets to mute, and suddenly the whole group is bombarded by sounds of loud typing, a microwave running, a dog barking or a child shouting. Of course, these all come with the territory of working from home. But it’s all the more reason to keep yourself on mute unless you need to talk.
Not muting is not only distracting in general, it also is disrespectful to the person who is trying to get a point across. Luckily, Zoom has a handy trick to help you avoid being That Person: Keep your audio muted automatically by going to Settings > Audio > Mute microphone. To quickly unmute when needed, just press and hold the space bar down.
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
Especially in smaller group calls, eating, drinking, or smoking during a video meeting is a major distraction — even more so that it would be in the office, because everything is laser-focused on your face. Try to follow the same rules you would if you were meeting in person.
- Looking at your phone or laptop
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean everyone can’t see you staring at your phone instead of paying attention to the video meeting. Keep your phone to the side and turned over so you’re not tempted to glance at it. Looking away from the camera at other content on your laptop or monitor is also obvious, and not the best look to whoever you are supposed to be paying attention to. Keep other tabs minimized and your focus on the meeting.
In a smaller meeting, it’s courteous to explain why you’re looking so focused off-camera. In a larger meeting, consider turning video off if you cannot give the speaker your full attention.
- Leaving the frame without explaining why
If you need to get up from a meeting for any reason — to go to the bathroom, get a drink or attend to a child or pet — you should give the others a heads up if you can, either verbally or in the chat option included in many of these apps. That way it does not look like you have just disappeared for no reason. Otherwise, it is better to hold up a finger to indicate “1 minute” and turn off the video camera until your return to the ongoing call.
- Figuring out the tech while on the call
There is a learning curve to telecommuting and using video conferencing services to host meetings and give presentations. But if you’re going to be doing something you haven’t done before — like share your screen or play some audio — do a trial run with a co-worker or family member first, so you aren’t fumbling and wasting time while on the call. This will help you look more professional and keep things running smoothly.
- Keeping the camera at a weird angle
Webcams can be tricky — you may think your laptop is in a fine position on your desk or kitchen table, but all your video chat companions notice is that they can see up your nostrils. Avoid this fate by propping up your laptop on some books or investing in a small stand, so that your camera is at eye level or even pointing down (more tips on that below). That way, the angle will not take away from anything you have to say.