Mind your manners: 10 courtesies for videoconferencing

In today's world of technology, videoconferencing services like Google Hangouts and Skype are growing increasingly popular. But how do you maintain professionalism via such mediums?

The Wall Street Journal spoke to multiple specialists regarding work-related videoconferencing etiquette. Here are 10 tips and courtesies for videoconferencing, according to the Journal.

1. Stop typing — handwrite notes instead. The sound of clicking keys is not only annoying, but also distracting. Additionally, it's a sign to others that you're not paying attention. "It's probably the biggest faux paus," said Angie Hill, Skype's general manager of audience marketing. Instead, grab a pen and paper if you need to take notes.

2. Maintain eye contact. It's hard to know whether to look directly at the camera or to gaze at the pictures of the other people on the call. According to The Wall Street Journal, you should only feel obliged to look at the camera at times when everyone is focused on you, such as when you're presenting. As an extra tip, the Journal advises the moving the video window closer to the computer camera so you can make eye contact and see others at the same time.

3. Put down the food. "[L]et's be honest, nobody looks good eating," said Lindsey Pollack, a workplace etiquette professional. Your sandwich can wait until later — chances are you wouldn't be caught dead eating during a live meeting. Eating food during a videoconference is rude and distracting to others.

4. Let colleagues know you're on a videoconference call. "I write the words 'video call!' on a piece of paper," said Lizzie Post, a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute. "I freely admit this is dorky, but if someone comes over, I hold it up, and it works." Inform your colleagues before you get on a video call. Being interrupted can make you appear unprofessional.

5. Tell people if you have to leave. If you have to run to the bathroom or grab something from your office, don't just disappear — let someone know. According to a survey by market research company Lab42, nearly a quarter of respondents — 24 percent — said leaving without telling anyone was the worst thing someone could do during a video call. Instead, ask to take a quick break. Or if you feel uncomfortable disrupting the meeting, quietly leave and privately message another participant to tell him or her you'll be back in a bit.

6. Don't get distracted. It almost goes without saying — pay attention. Don't check your email, go on Facebook or start shopping online. "Everyone can see your eyes drifting away or your fingers typing, and they can tell you're distracted," according to The Wall Street Journal. Keep your eyes on the screen and maintain your focus.

7. Include everyone. Some video calls include people in various locations. When the call includes one room full of individuals and one person working remotely, don't forget to include the outlier. Make sure everybody is participating and has a fair shot at expressing their thoughts.

8. Consider your environment. Be aware of where you choose to set up your computer. A sloppy background or a noisy area can be distracting. Consider moving to a conference room before starting the call. But don't be afraid of having a non-bare background. "Interesting objects or designs could work in your favor by generating conversation," according to The Wall Street Journal.

9. Avoid technical difficulties. Computer-related problems are one of the most renowned blunders related to videoconferencing. To prevent looking unprofessional, join the call early to preemptively avoid technical issues. Additionally, be sure to end the call at the end of the conference. "The worst mistake I have ever heard is someone thinking the call was over," said Ms. Post. "They didn't hang up properly and ended up saying something disparaging about the call."

10. Act professional — even if you're at home. If you have a videoconference while working from home, keep in mind that the same rules of etiquette apply both in the office and at home. According to the Lab42 survey, 17 percent of respondents said they'd seen a participant's pet show up during the videoconference. Another 7 percent of respondents said they'd witnessed someone videoconference from bed, and more than 20 percent of respondents said they'd worn pajamas — though with a professional top — while videoconferencing.

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