8 simple steps for improving your webiquette while working from home…
Washing drying on a radiator, all that junk you thought was hidden away on top of the wardrobe and the unmade bed in the background… all within screen shot. Yes, your webcam will show it all! Not very professional, is it?
While the hashtag of webcam #covidiots is going viral online, the chances are that you too are guilty of revealing more than you realise when you hold your virtual meetings with colleagues and co-workers, clients and customers
It’s not something new (check out this BBC TV interview from a few years back which went viral).
Judging from some of the experts broadcasting live to the world during this COVID crisis, many pundits are still getting it wrong.
Is it just me, or do you too get distracted by a crazy pattern on their curtains, the peeling wallpaper, strange colour scheme or whatever else these talking heads have in the background? I love looking at their books (I’ve read that too), their DVDs (who’d have thought they were a sci-fi fan?) and critically judging their taste in home décor. Yet I should be listening to what they are saying!
It’s also incredibly irritating to hear their phone pinging constantly (presumably their friends WhatsApping them to say “I can see you on TV”).
So how do you get your screen performance right?
STEP 1: LINE QUALITY IS EVERYTHING
If you keep cutting out, nobody can hear you etc. it’s not going to work. If this is an issue, when you have important meetings switch off everything else connected to your internet router.
STEP 2: WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?
Dress for the office – it will put you in the right frame of mind to talk business.
Don’t forget basic personal hygiene too. Wash your hair, shave/make-up (which ever is appropriate) and check your top is clean (yes marks show up on webcams). You don’t have to wear a suit and tie – something suitable for dress-down Friday is fine.
STEP 3: WHAT’S IN THE BACKGROUND?
The easiest way to get round piles of washing and stacks of junk is to blur the background something that’s easy with Microsoft Teams and Skype etc. For example, for Skype simply hover over the video button and select “Blur my background”. Or why not chose a virtual background feature during your Zoom Meeting – a forest perhaps or maybe an image of busy office? You probably don’t have a green screen at home (for that TV look) but will need uniform lighting for Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background.
Alternatively “stage” a background – scholarly tomes and framed academic certificates (to make you appear intellectual), an electric guitar and framed vinyl album covers (to give the impression that you are a serious muso) or posters from art exhibitions and museums (who knew you were such a culture vulture?).
STEP 4: GET YOUR POSITIONING RIGHT
If you are looking down at your laptop it’s not only incredibly unflattering, you will find it harder to have a natural conversation. So put your laptop or screen up higher so you are looking straight into the camera.
Think about lighting too. A bright overhead light might cast a shadow over your face and the same applies to side lighting. Just watch the pundits on TV… often the light colour is all wrong and they appear either washed out or slightly yellow. So you might want to experiment with different light bulbs.
Also make sure you are comfortable. Constantly fidgeting is distracting. You need to be sitting up straight to appear interested and engaged in the conversation. Leaning forward to prop yourself up with your hand under your chin or looking away to constantly check your phone will just scream “I’m bored with this”. At least try to appear interested.
STEP 5: TEST IT OUT
Enlist a family member to sit in front of your screen and talk – you can then get a good idea of what you might look like. Perhaps your chair might need changing or adjusting. Or is the light from the window casting an unflattering shadow? Is your camera now so high you can only see the top of your head?
You will never know unless you try it.
STEP 6: DON’T FORGET THE MICROPHONE
People can hear more than you realise – the screaming spouse shouting at your children to “shut up”, the washing machine and of course your phone.
But you don’t have to worry about background noise if you use the mute button. Keep it on at all times – other than when you want to speak.
And to make it easier to hear every word, consider headphones. Wireless earbuds are best as you won’t have to worry about an unsightly wire.
As with your screen test, do a sound test too so you can check people can hear you and whether there is a nasty echo or your microphone is picking up too much background noise.
STEP 7: PRACTICE YOUR PERFORMANCE
Remember, when you roll your eyes, or smirk at what someone says, they can see you! The same applies when you scratch your face, pick your nose or lift up a buttock cheek to pass wind.
If you’ve been in self isolation for a while you might have forgotten how to behave in an office environment. You might need to practice your webiquette.
STEP 8: SET – OR ASK FOR – AN AGENDA
You want to reply to a point, but so does everyone else. You all end up talking over each other… and that does not make for great communication.
So, it’s best (as with any meeting) to have an agenda with a running order which is circulated before the meeting and a chair (who acts like the host of a radio phone-in).
Remember, the whole point is to be productive. That can mean limiting the number of participants or limiting the time for each question/point.