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Video conference calls have become an integral part of working from home, across the country, and even between nations. However, there’s no denying that conference calls can be awkward and complicated, which can affect the conference call experience for all participants. But with some preparation and proper video call etiquette, your next conference call will be a breeze.

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Preparing for the Call

If you’re the person organizing the meeting, you carry many responsibilities. First, you will need to inform the participants about the call and how to join it. Make sure to set strict time limits so that the meeting doesn’t go on longer than it needs to. It can be helpful to plan an agenda ahead of time so you can easily move from topic to topic. Participants of the call should make sure all of their equipment works before the conference begins.

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Picking the Right Location

Finding an ideal location for yourself during the video conference can make a major difference in the quality of the meeting. If you decide to set up in a busy cafe or outside on a windy day, you may be interfering with your ability to pay attention, and your microphone will transmit all background noise to your coworkers. Use a relatively quiet location and make sure to keep things you might need nearby, such as water or work materials. This allows you to participate with minimal distractions.

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Setting Expectations

At the beginning of the call, make sure to go over what you expect from everyone participating. This can include a check to make sure everyone can hear and see all other participants, going over the materials that will be necessary, or just providing a general guideline of the call. If you’re not the organizer, this is the time to ask questions about the call itself, what you will need, and how to handle issues such as interruptions. This is also an ideal time to let everyone know what to do if the call disconnects or is otherwise unable to continue.

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Keeping Everyone’s Attention

If some people are working from home, it is sometimes difficult to keep everyone’s attention while on a video conference call. Regularly interact with participants and ask questions to make sure everyone is following. Shaming people out loud isn’t necessary. Instead, if they’re losing focus often, send them a private message letting them know. Participants in calls should do their best to stay focused and keep distractions out of arm's reach.

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Dressing Appropriately

Just because people can probably only see your face on a video call doesn’t mean you can participate in an old t-shirt and no pants. You never know when you might need to stand up or move your camera. It’s still a professional meeting, even if you happen to be working from home. Pick an outfit that you would wear at your actual place of work. If you are unsure of what would be appropriate, message a supervisor and get some feedback.

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Mute Your Microphone

Anyone who has ever participated in a meeting knows how irritating it can be to have someone who doesn’t mute their microphone. Whether it’s background noise, an echo from the call, or them making noises themselves, it’s distracting. Almost every professional video conference call program has a way to mute the microphone. If it doesn’t, most microphones and devices have a way to mute themselves. However, don’t forget to unmute yourself when getting ready to speak.

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Be Aware of Your Camera

Chances are, you’re not accustomed to sitting in front of a camera for long periods. It’s surprisingly easy to forget that someone is watching you when they’re not there in person. Remain vigilant of your camera and make sure you’re not doing anything that would be distracting to others or embarrassing for yourself. Ideally, you should set up your camera slightly above your eyeline, pointing down toward your face. This ensures people can see you clearly but without unpleasant views of your chin and nostrils. If this isn't possible, try to keep your face in the center of the frame.

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Communicate Often

When participating in a video conference call, people probably can’t see what you’re doing. If you need to leave for whatever reason, let everyone know. Whenever you’re talking and need to pause to do something, tell them what you’re doing. Dead air can make it seem as though there’s an issue with the call. Even if you’re working in a quiet area, background noise happens. Acknowledge the noise and apologize for it so that nobody assumes that you’re being disrespectful.

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Avoid Certain Topics

Some topics are simply not appropriate for a video conference call setting. This doesn’t just include things you shouldn’t discuss at work, but also subjects that are complex or intricate. Between connection issues, equipment malfunctions, or general lack of focus, it can be difficult to have an in-depth conversation with someone. This also means that everyone who isn’t part of the conversation has to wait. Simply prepare a brief overview and let the person know that you’d like to have a conversation about the topic at a later date.

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Perform a Quick Recap

Once the call is over, go over what you talked about and bring up any questions you might have. It’s easy to miss out on some integral bit of information due to a distraction or issue with the call, so quickly summarizing ensures that everyone stays informed. If the participants have responsibilities to follow up on after the call, go over those to keep everyone on the same page. When leaving the call, make sure to give a prompt, formal goodbye to show respect, and let everyone know you’re leaving.

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