Outside of the videoconferenced classroom, you may be called on to moderate or participate in a videoconferenced meeting.
Because it’s a relatively new technology, videoconferencing is only beginning to acquire a set of standards or rules of etiquette, and these may not be considered shared knowledge for all participants. Most participants will have, however, some familiarity with the behaviours that are appropriate to participating in meetings, presentations, or lectures. The acceptable behaviours in these settings will transfer to their videoconferenced counterparts, with the addition of a few things to keep in mind that are unique to the videoconferenced setting. The following guidelines outline some of these differences in order to help participants navigate this new territory.
Assign someone to be in charge of the technology side of things. This role is not as technician, but as the person that can ensure that the videoconference is operational in advance of the meeting, and is the contact person should a problem arise.
This person should:
- Be available at the videoconference location 30 minutes prior to the scheduled videoconference time, in case the technician requires any information from you.
- Know how to contact the technician in the event of a problem during the videoconference.
- With the moderator, decide how microphone muting will be handled during the event. Generally, when another site has the floor, your microphone should be muted.
Once the meeting is underway, the technology should be as invisible as possible; one way of achieving this is to ensure that everything is working well in advance of the start of the videoconference.
Assign a moderator. In a presentation, this will often be the host or the lecturer, and in a meeting, it is usually one of the principals of the meeting. Each location should have someone ‘in charge’ of their local participants, but one person should act as the moderator for the videoconferenced event as it takes place.
The local moderator should:
- Put a sign with your location name on a desk in front of you.
- Ensure that participants are seated within camera range.
- Be aware of what else is in camera range that participants at other sites will see, such as background clutter or someone’s partially consumed lunch, and move these if necessary.
- Position the microphone in a central location, so all participants will be picked up equally.
The event moderator should:
- Distribute an agenda to all participants in advance of a videoconferenced meeting.
- At the beginning of a meeting, introduce all the participants and invite the other locations to do the same.
- At the beginning of a presentation or lecture, introduce the speakers.
- Establish a signal, such as a hand raised while someone else is speaking, that indicates that a participant would like to speak. Keep track of the queue of participants wishing to speak, and invite them to speak when their turn comes.
- Keep the event focused. In almost all cases, there is a predetermined end-time to the videoconference. Reign in any discussions that are not on topic or any side conversations that may be distracting to other participants.
- Assume you are always seen and heard by the other sites during the event.
- Allow others to finish speaking before you begin.
- Open your comment or question with your name and your location. In addition to allowing other participants to place you, this provides time, if necessary, for the video and audio to catch up
- Speak clearly at a moderate volume; there is no need to shout into the microphone.
- Look at the monitor of the other participants while addressing them. The camera is usually situated directly above this monitor and will give the appearance of you looking at them; looking at the monitor also serves to raise your head, allowing the microphone to better pick up your voice.
- Avoid excessive movement while you are speaking; movement can create digital break-up on the screen and cause audio delays.
- Avoid wearing busy prints, such as stripes or plaids.
- Check your appearance on the ‘confidence monitor’; remember that you are ‘on display’ to participants at the other sites. Do not, however, spend a great deal of time looking at yourself in the monitor while the event is underway.
- Participate in the event. Stay focused, avoid multitasking and engaging in side conversations.
- Avoid tapping on the desk or table (with your hand or your foot) or shuffling papers; these sounds are amplified by the microphones to the other sites.
- If necessary, be aware of cultural differences if remote participants are located in other countries.