Teleconferencing notes

Now that many of us are using teleconferencing, it’s time to establish some rules and etiquette for this brave new world. I’ve been doing this stuff for decades, and based on that, generated this handy guide to get you over some common issues.

(Sarcasm and witticisms included at no extra charge.)

Before the meeting prep

  1. Stop wearing pajamas, dress like a human. And consider bathing and brushing/combing your hair. If you wear makeup at work, consider wearing some for this meeting too; it will avoid shocking your coworkers with your real morning face.
  2. The camera is an optical device. Golly gee, it works much better with some light. So turn a few on you cave dwellers.
    Next, make sure some of that light is on your face, not directly behind you. Hovering in the dark like the vampire or ghoul you really are… isn’t a good view.
  3. Place the camera at eye level or thereabouts. Too low, and we’re looking up at your nose hairs, ewww.
  4. Sit back a bit from the camera. The typical webcam or cell wide angle lens means your nose (again the nose!) will look way huger than reality if you’re too close. About 1/2 to 1/3 of the screen filled with “you” will make you look a bit less scary. On a good day.
  5. Clean up your background visual clutter. Especially your collection of guns, sex toys, and political posters. Cats are OK. In fact, cats are desirable.
  6. Clean up your computer desktop and check folder names for any awkwardness. Minimize browser windows, close unneeded tabs. A lot of these conferencing apps can and will share your desktop or a particular window. Do you really want coworkers or clients to know how many cat photos you have or what porn sites you frequent?
  7. A conference room style mic “hears” differently then your ears, and it doesn’t discriminate well between your voice and other noises. IOW, that barking dog, the screaming child, the flushing toilet, that traffic noise, and the sound of you clipping your fingernails all come through loud and clear. Burping and farting come through exceptionally well.
  8. Consider a headset and if so, go wired. Try to avoid bluetooth headsets and speakers for this application. The added latency tends to ruin what little A/V synchronization there might be there, turning everyone into an old godzilla movie.
  9. 5 minutes or so before the meeting, start the app and check that your camera, speakers, and mic are all doing the right things. Half the time something will be messed up, fix it now and be a pro. This will also give you time for the app to update, which inevitably happens when you’re in a hurry. Or late.

The meeting

  1. When you join a group meeting, start with your mic muted… and stay that way as much as possible. Every mic adds noise and reduces overall clarity.
  2. We can see you. Don’t pick your nose, watch netflix, or shop online while talking to us. Nervous tics, like rocking in your chair or tapping your leg can be extra annoying, death may coming looking for you.
  3. If you’re on a portable device, don’t take us to the bathroom with you. Just don’t.
  4. Outside seems like a lovely idea, but noise and lighting are typically sub-optimal. Definitely use a headset with a noise canceling mic!
  5. If the audio gets really choppy or stutters, you’re probably having bandwidth problems. Or possibly mental problems. You may be able to continue by turning down your video resolution or disabling video entirely. If you’re on a real computer, don’t use wifi; instead plug in the ethernet cable.
  6. Keep the meeting invite handy. If you lose the connection, you’ll need that info to rejoin. Unless losing the connection gets you off the hook, of course.
  7. If you’re using a handheld device, please don’t wave it around like you usually do. Vertigo is an unpleasant way to break up a meeting.

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