Just like you don't want to be that person at work who schedules lots of meetings that could have been an email, the same applies to virtual meetings. Maybe even more so as people are currently working and studying from home more than ever before.
You need to keep your attendees top of mind when scheduling a video call. Only invite people who need to be there and consider the day and time you schedule. If you're likely to have attendees from different time zones, it's polite to provide the equivalent times for them. Depending on the context, you may also be able to provide or request a recording or summary of the call.
A note for the hosts – make sure you get in early and stick around until the end of the call. Some calls won't start without a host present, some platforms may disconnect if the host leaves, and others may assign a different host if you're not there.
There's nothing more frustrating than a constant stream of "Is someone talking?", "I can hear someone breathing", "I can't see/hear you", and so on.
When you enter a call make sure the first thing you do is check your video and audio settings. Mute your mic unless you're speaking, and turn your camera on to show you're paying attention. The exception to having your camera on may be when there are lots of attendees as this can impact call quality. In this case you can request that only the person speaking and/or being asked a question turns on their video.
Pro tip for audio: don't rely on your computer speakers and mic, instead use a headset if you can, or even your plug in headphones.
If you're having issues, make sure you check the help section for your preferred platform whether that's Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect, or another. You may also need to try moving closer to, or connecting directly with, your internet router.
Your living room with colourful artwork, lots of plants and twinkling fairy lights may be beautiful and perfect for a social call, but is it the best for work or study? To reduce distractions and improve focus, aim to have a clean and quiet setting for your calls. Some platforms, like Zoom, have a virtual background feature you can use to help with this.
That being said, be aware that some backgrounds and filters can be distracting. Sure it may be fun to teach or learn at Hogwarts for awhile, but you also don't want to be that boss that gets stuck as a potato. Save playing around with these for catching up with friends, and not that important lecture or meeting.
Speaking of distractions, that constant ping of a desktop notification or ringing phone can be super annoying. Mute these when you're in a call unless there's an emergency. Also remember to clear your desktop, desk and walls of any items that you wouldn't usually share at work or in class.
Obviously your child or pet is the cutest one in the whole wide world, but try and keep them out of your space or immediate camera area while you're on a call. Saying hello once is usually fine, but don't let them take over the meeting or class.
Keep in mind that although you're sitting at home, you're actually still attending school, TAFE, uni or work, and should dress appropriately. Your PJs might be comfy, but they'll get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.
Would you start a meeting or other social event without introducing people first? Definitely not. The same applies to virtual settings. To create a welcoming environment make sure everyone is introduced.
This has two main benefits. One, you know who's on the call. This is especially important if webcams aren't on or working, or people have called in with guest accounts. Two, it will help stimulate engagement among attendees.
Making eye contact usually means looking someone directly in the eyes. But when you're in a virtual meeting or classroom, you need to look directly into the camera and not at others (or yourself).
Putting your camera/monitor at eye level helps gives the impression you are looking directly at other attendees, and helps create an engaging environment for everyone on the call.
If you find yourself on a mobile for a video call, all of the above is still relevant but there are a few extra things to consider.