Before video chats and conferencing took over our work and personal lives, I helped a client named Richard prepare for a video interview. This was a handful of years ago and video interviews were not the norm by any stretch. We gamed out all of the things he should do to prepare himself and I sent him on his way confident that he’d do well. A few days later he called and reported the following:

“My set up worked fine. The interview started in pretty typical fashion with the interviewer asking some warm-up questions. Then, I began to notice that she was playing with her rather large earring. She kept pulling on it and adjusting it. I did my best to stay focused and answer her questions. Eventually, she yanked the earring off her ear, and it bounced on her desk and continued to bounce until it went over the side. At no time did she acknowledge what was happening. I’m not sure if this was a test or what. I did my best to stay focused, but I simply don’t know if I did.”

We’ll get back to Richard’s dilemma in a minute, but first some thoughts about video etiquette or “vidiquette” as I’ve decided to call it. Now that many of us are living in a video world, here are a few things to keep in mind, some more obvious than others:

• If you are planning to participate in video calls for work, make sure you understand what others will see. I have a painting on the office wall behind me that has a lot of red in it. A client told me it looked like blood since he could only see a piece of the painting. I’ve since figured out how to do one of those cool backgrounds and I’m mostly using the picture I took of a kayaker on the Potomac River that you can see above. I’ve tested it and it looks fine.

• Learn to love your mute button! Whether it’s a lawn mower, a barking dog or a child crying, no one else wants to hear what you are hearing. On most video chats there are easy ways to be heard while the mute button is in use. On the service I use most frequently you can hold down the space bar while you speak and then release it when you are done. Of course, you can also just toggle the mute button on and off.

• Consider using a headset or headphones. This isn’t as easy a decision as it may appear. Some headset quality leaves a bit to be desired and your voice may come across poorly. And, some wireless headphones don’t have particularly long battery lives. Plan ahead and test the various options before using one.

• Dress appropriately. What is “appropriate” depends upon the circumstances. I recently had a video call with two clients from the same organization that maintains a very conservative dress code. I knew that at least the one working from the office would be wearing a tie. But, somehow it felt strange and almost unnatural for me to sit in my home office wearing a suit and tie. I opted for an open collared shirt and a sports coat. One of my clients did, indeed, have on a tie, but the other one had neither a tie nor a jacket, so it worked out well.

As it turns out, many of the same rules that apply to in person meetings apply equally to video meetings. You want to be sure to present yourself in the best possible manner both visually and verbally. And, video meetings reveal just as much about the people involved as in person meetings. Which brings us back to Richard. After he finished explaining to me what had happened I asked him one simple question: “Richard, would you want to work for this woman?” It’s the same question I would have asked Richard if his interview had been in person, and he gave me the same unequivocal “no” for an answer as he would have given me had the same set of facts occurred in person.

If you want an objective viewpoint concerning how you look and sound on your video camera, let us know by emailing or calling 301-520-9511. We’ll happily test it with you.