Video call etiquette

Video conferencing has been rapidly changing the way we do business communications for the past three years, increasing by 48% from 2017-2019. 2020 then saw a 535% rise in the daily traffic of apps such as Zoom. Many phone calls and team meetings were replaced by faces staring back at us on a computer screen, and the etiquette and expectations of how we were to behave changed.

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The best video conferencing tip.

Although everyone who logs onto a Zoom, Skype, or Facetime call knows it can include video, a surprising number of people continue to forget others can see them. Bad video call behaviour has resulted in job loss and even ended careers, such as that of famous American journalist Jeffrey Toobin.

The first rule of virtual meeting etiquette is to assume you are always on camera and people are watching you. If you’re in a meeting, assume people can see you scratch your nose or fix your hair. Avoid if possible any sort of private behavior beyond adjusting your glasses. It is highly recommended to dress up for a virtual call just as you would for a meeting. However, if you choose to do your video call in your underwear, be prepared to remain seated until the meeting is over, everyone has logged off, and your laptop is closed. 

Being aware that people can see and hear you in a video call may seem like something you shouldn’t need to be reminded of, but 83% of workers surveyed indicated they had been disciplined for mistakes made during video and audio calls. 

Video call etiquette begins and ends with awareness.


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Remove distractions and focus on the virtual meeting

One common complaint about video calls, especially larger calls with teams and multiple people logging in, is the lack of focus. Sometimes people who are working remotely are calling in from their kitchens or their living rooms. The comforts of their home combined with the many distractions most of us keep in our personal space will cause some to lose focus. When participating in a virtual meeting, pay attention just as you would in the office, even if you are working from home.

According to ABC News, we are more likely to notice when one of our colleagues is distracted on a video call than when we are face to face because each individual’s presence gets magnified on our screens. We can also see more people at once and your colleagues are watching your body language more than they would in the conference room. Don’t fidget and don’t look around the room. One of the top virtual meeting tips is to remove any items in the room that might distract you during a call.

Stay focused on the purpose of the call as well. A video conference is not the time for lunch unless that is specifically stated. No one has joined to watch you eat in real-time.

People on your video conference call will also notice if you’re multitasking. It’s fine to take notes, but it will become obvious if you’re using the time to answer emails or work on something else. 

People will also notice if you are looking at yourself and checking your appearance. It’s natural to check yourself out, but keep it to a minimum and don’t be obvious.


Video call checklist

  1. Before your call, test your audio and video equipment and settings using sites such as
  2. Adjust your camera so it is at eye level.
  3. If you can, connect directly to the internet with a cable, which will give you better quality for apps such as Zoom than wireless connections will.
  4. Clean up your space for the meeting and consider using a blurred background.
  5. Choose the quietest, most private area in your home to conduct the meeting, away from any family members.
  6. Make sure you have adequate lighting. Natural lighting is best. It should be positioned in front of you and behind the camera. If you have a window or other light source behind you, cover it up or turn it off.
  7. Position yourself so you are seen from the chest or waist up. Consider standing for meetings to add dynamism to your presentation.
  8. Be courteous. Do not interrupt. Mute your mic when you aren’t speaking.
  9. Be careful when screen sharing. Make sure you know what you’re sharing and make sure you aren’t sharing anything inappropriate.
  10. Remember, everyone can see you until the meeting is over and you’ve logged off.

“1 in 4 bosses at U.S. companies have fired an employee because of a video or audio call mishap.” — Wakefield Research Survey

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Video Conferencing Courtesies

Video conferencing introduced new takes on decorum and courtesy in meetings. First, always look into the camera when speaking. We have a tendency to look at our screens to see the people on our call, but according to the basic etiquette outlined on Real Simple, we should strive to maintain ‘lens contact.’ This is the distance meeting equivalent of eye contact and is especially important for interviews and sales pitches. If you’re looking at the faces on your screen, you aren’t communicating as effectively as you could be.

Another etiquette rule is to follow suit with the format chosen by the person conducting the meeting. If they have their camera on, you should turn yours on as well. If they choose to use only the audio channel, then you should do the same. Unless there is a reason for you not following the meeting protocol, people expect you to participate in the fashion the organizer has chosen. 

You should also mute your microphone when you are not talking. This prevents background noise on your end from interfering with the person who is speaking. When it’s your turn to talk, turn on your mic. Your silence is a courtesy for your colleagues.

Furthermore, embracing awkward pauses on video calls is a polite way to prevent speaking over someone. There is often a lag in conversation on video calls or sometimes there is confusion about who is meant to speak next. Always allow an additional beat before you speak in a virtual meeting. Some platforms have a ‘raise your hand feature,’ that experts highly recommend using to keep from interrupting someone else.

For virtual meetings, it is especially helpful to have a meeting agenda. This will help people maintain focus for the duration of the call. If you’re organizing the video conference, send everyone the agenda several hours beforehand. 


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Test all your audio and visual equipment before calls

The last consideration for conducting a successful virtual meeting is the prep you do before the call starts. It’s considered impolite to force everyone to wait on you in the middle of the meeting while you adjust your camera or correct your sound.

Before the meeting starts, check to see that your microphone, headphones, lighting, camera, and speakers are all working. Ten minutes before the start of the call, do a quick check to ensure your tech is in order. Most video conferencing software and apps give you the ability to check your equipment before joining the call, but if that isn’t available, call a friend and get their feedback on how you look and sound.

You may also want to check your internet speed. Platforms such as Skype have minimum speed requirements depending on the complexity of the call. There are sites where you can conduct speed tests to make sure you have the optimal setup.

Along with checking your audio and video tech and internet speed, you should clean up your background for the call. When you’re testing your camera, look at the space around and behind you. Remove highly reflective items such as mirrors or picture frames, as their glass can reflect light into the camera or allow others to see parts of your home you didn’t intend for them to see. Consider using a filter or a blurred background for calls to clean up the visuals. 

Make sure your camera isn’t too close to your face. Experts recommend positioning yourself so you are seen from the chest or waist up. You might also consider standing for the call, as this tends to make you more charismatic when presenting.

Finally, consider recording yourself and watching the playback to see how you come across. You will want to ask permission from the other participants to record the meeting, but watching your performance will provide valuable feedback on what you can do better for the next meeting.

“25% of the 18 to 29 age group use video calls for work every day.” — Globe Newswire

The key to effective virtual meetings is to always be aware of how things are working on your end — your equipment, your environment, and your behavior. Awareness is your superpower for helping you avoid video call disasters and becoming a virtual meeting meme.

For more information on making the best impression on a call, check out our course on Telephone Etiquette.


Common Questions

What should I wear for a video call?2022-01-03T14:30:24+00:00

People will be able to see you and are more likely to pay attention to how you appear on a video call. Make sure you have time to dress appropriately and make yourself presentable before joining a call.

According to Artefact London, here’s how you should dress depending on the call:

Should I invest in a microphone for my video calls?2022-01-03T14:31:35+00:00

One of the biggest complaints from video call users is poor audio because so many people rely on their computer’s built-in microphone. If video calls are going to be part of your work routine, you should look into a microphone that can up your game for presentations, pitches, and interviews.

The website Virtuoso Central compiled a list of the best quality microphones on the market for video conferencing:

  • Anker PowerConf – Bluetooth Speakerphone with 6 Microphones

  • Samson Go Mic – USB Condenser Microphone

  • eMeet M2 Max – Professional Video Conference Mic and Speaker

  • Shure MV5 – Digital Condenser Microphone

  • Samson Satellite Microphone

  • Blue Snowball iCE USB Mic

  • Rode NT-USB Condenser Mic

  • Shure MV88+ Stereo Condenser Microphone

Do I need to blur my background for my video calls?2022-01-03T14:32:44+00:00

Unless you have a clean space or are in a professional environment such as a home office, you should consider blurring your background on calls. This limits distraction and tidies up your appearance. It also maintains some level of privacy if you don’t want your colleagues seeing your personal space.

Most apps now make it easy to do and there are many online guides for setting it up correctly.

This is one of our executive briefings taken from our series of professional online business short courses from ELL. We have over 150 courses online with over 1,000 hours of e-learning covering a wide range of topics across leadership, management and personal & professional development created by industry experts and learning professionals.

Telephone Etiquette Course

Telephone Etiquette is a key skill for anyone dealing with external or internal stakeholders and customers. Our course will give guidance on developing those skills, whether dealing with inbound or outbound calls or dealing with difficult customers. All this will ensure a more positive environment internally and organisational influence as a whole.

By the end of this short business course on telephone etiquette, you will:

  • Be able to improve the overall quality of your phone presence
  • Know how to effectively handle all call types
  • Be able to improve the quality of service of all those around you

In each of our business courses, you get access to around six hours of e-learning that you can watch, listen and read. There are usually 100 questions and at the end of the course you will receive a certificate of completion that you can use against any personal or professional development requirements. As well as the course, you also receive a FREE e-book that you can read on your Kindle or other e-reader. You also get a FREE audiobook of the course so you can listen to the whole course uninterrupted on your device.

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