The uniting factor behind most of the jobs I’ve had — at a restaurant group, in PR, and in media — was the wasteful meetings. They were, almost universally, terrible. No matter how good the rest of the work environment was, the meetings were slogs to be suffered through: much too long, unfocused and rambling, so boring that sometimes I’d struggle to pay attention.
The exception was at my first real media job. Most of the employees were remote, and each morning, most of us dialed in to a 10-minute video chat where we would briefly discuss any important things going on that day. We knew what we were doing there, we were in and out quickly, and everyone knew it was in very bad form not to use the mute button when they weren’t speaking. These meetings were the sterling example of what every video conference should be. But many video meetings are confused, irritating conversations in which the rules are undefined, people are distracted and multitasking, and occasionally — as I once experienced — some people in the meeting are not wearing shirts.
While increasing numbers of people are opting for video conferences over in-person meetings and even phone calls, few, apparently, are clear on what exactly the rules are for how to behave while using this newfangled technology. So consider this piece an initial stab at a video call etiquette guide, if you will: how to lead and participate in a successful video meeting, what you should do and what you should absolutely avoid, and why, above all, you shouldn’t be afraid of a video meeting in place of a phone conference or IRL meeting.
The need for a defined set of expectations around video calls is more necessary now than ever before. Worldwide, more than two-thirds of office workers now telecommute at least once a week, at least according to one 2018 industry poll. This creates workplace challenges, of course: What’s the best way for two employees working on a project together to discuss their progress if one or both of them aren’t in the office?
These increasingly remote workplaces are turning to video conferencing to take the place of what, in years past, would have required in-person…