Virtual meeting etiquette – do you show your face?

Posted on 02 Jun

zoom conference screenshot

Last week, one of our consultants was in a virtual client meeting where only she and one other person had their cameras on. Unsure of whether she should turn hers off, or if this would be bad etiquette, she threw the question out to the rest of our team – what is the correct protocol or etiquette for using your camera during virtual meetings?

With most of the world in lockdown and many Australians now working from home, there has been a significant increase in the number of meetings being held via virtual platforms such as Zoom or Teams. Our team have been taking every opportunity to have face-to-face time with each other and using video for most of our meetings. However, we have noticed that when it comes to external client meetings, the expectations are less clear and our experiences have varied. Some people start a meeting with their camera on and keep them on; some start with cameras off, then turn them on when they see that others have cameras on; some never turn their cameras on. Very few seem to turn their cameras off once they are already on.

For us, the benefits of using video during virtual meeting include:

  • Being able to see facial expressions and body language, which facilitates better communication, helps with interpretation and understanding, and encourages people to open up
  • Being able to easily tell who is speaking
  • Making it feel more like we are meeting in person
  • It provides a human touch on an otherwise virtual system
  • Creating a stronger sense of connection
  • You can see that people are paying attention and haven’t walked away from the computer
  • Being able to see that cute dog sitting on your client’s lap!

Of course, not everyone is comfortable using video and there are several reasons that people may avoid doing so:

  • Some people are uncomfortable having strangers see their house
  • Concerns about children or pets walking past in the background
  • Feeling self-conscious
  • Not knowing where to look
  • It can be uncomfortable when clear parameters haven’t been established around video use
  • Some people see it as unnecessary
  • Less pressure to present yourself well. You can wear your pyjamas and no one will know!

Our camera etiquette tips

Here are a few tips based on our experiences over the last few weeks of turning our cameras on:

  • Ask the question before setting up the meeting – is the other person comfortable using video?
  • Be explicit in the meeting invitation about your expectations around using video
  • Educate yourself about the software you are using (e.g. how to blur or change your background)
  • Don’t expect video calls from home to be the same as an in-person meeting in the office (in terms of dress standard, setting, distractions etc.) – by normalizing this difference, we can hopefully help to make people feel more comfortable being on camera

This is definitely new territory for many of us, and it may take a while to establish new protocols and new etiquette for virtual meetings. If you’ve used any of the above, or have any new tips contact us today, we’d love to hear from you!

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