I have several friends who, when they want to get in touch with me, will call me on FaceTime no matter the time of day or night. It seems like the only way to talk to them is to show my face — double chins from the front camera and all. It's a trend I just started realizing a year ago or so. While a text message or phone call used to suffice, we'rebecoming used to demonstrating intimacy by shoving our face onto a screen. I mean, just think about your hundreds of "Instagram friends."
For better or worse, in the last year or so, my office has turned into these FaceTime friends. While it used to be common procedure to hop on a conference call, we're spending more time these days in Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts. We're all still trying to figure out the rules and regulations around it. You know, beyond the basics, like not showing off the pajama pants you're secretly wearing just outside of the frame. But these are five crimes no one should be committing on a video call — or else it's bye-bye to your professional image.
1. Being late
Would you show up late to a meeting in real life? Probably not. So, why would you do it on video chat? While it's easy to let the computer remove a layer of formality from basically any element of work etiquette (I mean, just look what text abbreviations have done to email), don't fall into this totally unprofessional trap. Being punctual for your video meeting lets everyone know that you take it — and, by extension, them — seriously
2. Not using your video when everyones else is
Every time I open a Zoom window or a Google Hangout chat, I often take a pause to ask myself if I think everyone else will turn video on or not. While I am usually a proponent for marching to the beat of your own drum, in this scenario, I always fall in line with the status quo. Failing to turn on your video chat while everyone else does suggests you don't have the same level of investment in the conversation or the topic of that conversation, be it a project or a performance review. Unless you're on the move or in some kind of scenario that requires you to phone in, it's always a good idea to turn the camera on when the team does. It lets you connect deeper with them and puts your interest in them as individuals, as well as in their conversation, on display.
3. Choosing a distracting environment
This is one of the easiest traps to fall into. One of the huge pros of video calls is that you can, theoretically, take them from anywhere. Who doesn't want to work where it's most convenient, comfortable or downright fun — whether that's in a bustling coffee shop or in the living room with your dogs. And while no one will complain about your pug popping into the call for a quick "hi," positioning your call in an overly loud, shaky or generally boisterous area reads a bit inconsiderate, amongst several other cons. It can make it hard for everyone else to focus on what you're saying — something you never want — and can affect the sound quality on everyone's computers across the board. Plus, showing your boss you "focus" in a sweet hipster cafe that's always bumping 80s rock so loud the neighbors call the police might buy you some cool person points, but it probably won't add a shine to your professional image.
4. Not checking your WiFi before the call
There's nothing worse than hopping on a video call and realizing the person on the other hand looks like a handful of pixels. Failing to check that you can effectively video call before the meeting actually happens is like forgetting to check that the conference room you booked is still available — it makes you look ill-prepared and at least a little bit inconsiderate. And if your WiFi situation is really bad, you can throw off an entire meeting agenda. It's wise to check the WiFi in the cubical or cafe or conference room you're in before the call by checking the internet speed or trying to call a friend. If you're experiencing issues, be sure to let the other party know beforehand – then try to fix it in the time between your realization and your video call.
5. Not making eye contact
Having a meeting over video chat makes it tempting to do a whole host of things other than look your colleague in the eyes — answer an email, check in on your spreadsheet, stare at yourself in the upper righthand corner... But despite how engaging these things may seem, you're losing the other person on the end by failing to pay attention to them. Like in any other meeting format, eye contact over video is the key to being an engaged, amiable and convincing speaker. Unlike on the phone, your video chat partner can see where your attention lies; don't lead them to believe they're not important enough to capture yours.