COVID-19 has changed the ways in which we all live and work. In-person office meetings have been replaced with videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts to keep business and communications flowing. So whether you're hosting a virtual meeting -- or taking online courses to enhance your skills -- you need to be prepared and mindful to be viewed (and seen) as a professional.
Here are a few tips to make the right impression:
· Perfect your profile: When you host or attend a video conference, your name, profile and profile picture are your first impressions to others. Make sure your user name is appropriate, that the location is accurate for the business you're conducting, and your image is professional.
· Do a background check: Videoconferences now take place in home offices, living rooms, and kitchen tables. Be sure to check the background of your setting to ensure it projects a professional image. If there are pictures behind you with content you don't want others to see, remove them or change locations. Similarly, avoid calling from places where background movement, noise, and activity may be distracting.
· Dress the part: Just because it's 7 a.m. in your time zone, don't dress like you just rolled out of bed. Always dress appropriately for a video call. Additionally, try to wear a shirt or blouse of contrasting color to your background to avoid looking like a "floating head."
· Maintain eye contact: Once a video call is started, make sure you maintain eye contact with the webcam and not the image on your screen. This can be tricky because the image of the person you're speaking to is usually below the webcam but if you look at the person, rather than the webcam, you won't be making "eye contact."
· Be aware of body language: Ideally, your webcam will show your upper torso, as if you were sitting across a table from the other person. Assuming that's the case, it's important to maintain good posture, avoid slouching, leaning from side to side, or fidgeting with a pencil or anything else that may indicate you're distracted.
· Mind the volume: Depending upon the placement of the microphone on your computer, relatively unobtrusive sounds like tapping a pencil, typing on the keyboard, or even background conversations can be heard (sometimes quite loudly) on the other end. Try to keep noise distractions to a minimum. Use the mute button on your videoconferencing software to keep background noise from distracting others.
If ever in doubt about what's appropriate, imagine you're in an actual face-to-face meeting and conduct yourself with the same poise and professionalism. If you mind your manners online, you'll be prepared to forge meaningful business relationships regardless of the distance.
Adapted from the Nov. 19, 2013 Reuters article "Modern Etiquette: Doing business via Skype" featuring PSOW President Pamela Eyring (Editing by Michael Roddy and Tom Pfeiffer).