'No tuna,' 'no typing,' and other tips for videoconferences

The same rules of etiquette for in-office meetings apply to those conducted over video

Editor's note: This story was updated on September 13, 2017.

As videoconferencing becomes a more popular means of communication, certain etiquette rules must be enforced to ensure professionalism, Sally French writes for the Wall Street Journal.

The science—and strategy—behind having a 'great meeting'

"Videoconferencing comes with its own code of behavior that takes the place of yesterday's manners for meetings," French says. "Indeed, don't let the small screens and at times deceptively informal atmosphere fool you. There are right and wrong ways to conduct yourself—and lapses will be noticed."

She offers the following tips from etiquette and videoconference experts for holding a professional virtual meeting:

Stop typing

The click-clack of keys is not only distracting but also suggests that you aren't paying attention. If you have to take notes, stick to pen and paper or hit the mute button.

Consider your camera

It's tempting to look at your computer's camera when taking part in a videoconference, but you lose eye contact with other meeting participants. Only look into the camera when all eyes are on you. Otherwise, focus on the images of other people on the call.

Skip the tuna sandwich

Nobody wants to hear or watch you chow down. Save your food for later so that you and other callers can be completely focused on the matter at hand.

Keep interruptions at bay

Other colleagues may not realize that you're in the middle of a videoconference if it looks like you're simply working at your computer. Put signs outside your office or cubicle or use a signal to let people know that you're busy.

Don't slip out unannounced

If you need to slip out for a moment, say, to use the restroom, discreetly let a follow participant know that you will be back momentarily. For smaller meetings or those that you're moderating, simply ask to be excused for a short break.

Stay focused

Even if nobody knows what exactly you're doing on your computer screen, it's obvious that you're not engaged when your eyes wander or you begin typing. Keep your eyes on the other callers, and nothing else.

Include all callers

A videoconference may include a room full of people and one person outside the office. Make sure that anyone calling in from a remote location is included in the discussion and can easily participate.

Clear your background

A messy space or background noise detracts the attention away from you. Move somewhere quiet and uncluttered to keep participants' focus on you, not your surroundings.

Troubleshoot technology

Know how the video technology works before you enter a conference to prevent any delays. Also be sure to properly end the call when the meeting is over.

Act like you're at the office

Just because you can wear pajama bottoms during a videoconference doesn't mean that you should. No matter where you're calling from, get dressed properly, keep children and pets out of the way, and act like you would in a typical office environment (French, Wall Street Journal, 3/13). 

The science—and strategy—behind having a 'great meeting'

There are about 11 million formal meetings in the United States every day—and more than half of them may be unproductive. Why? Because many meetings are inefficiently run. They don't set or achieve clear goals. And we hold them out of habit.

Drawing on best practices—as well as lessons from across our own organization—we've created this useful infographic to guide if you really need a meeting (and if so, how to maximize everyone's time).

Download Now



Next in the Daily Briefing

1 in 100: New study gives clues on rate of Zika-related birth defects

Read now