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Open your eyes: video conferencing etiquette

01 Aug 09

TelePresence \?te-l?-\pre-z?n(t)s\

Definition - 1: the fact or condition of being present (even if you are somewhere else)

TelePresence is collaboration technology that uses high defi nition, life-size images with advanced audio and  finely-tuned ambient elements. TelePresence enables ‘face to face’ meetings with colleagues and customers  around the world, but experiencing it firsthand is the only way to realise the advances that make this technology truly a lifelike experience.

As it swiftly replaces in-person meetings and reduces business travel, it’s time for us to clean up our acts so  that we can be presentable in TelePresence.

Using this type of conferencing first hand so often has really highlighted to me just how poor-quality video conferencing has allowed our meeting manners and observation of etiquette to degenerate.

We’ve adjusted to hiding behind grainy screens that shielded others from seeing how frantically we were  multitasking! We have got used to being engaged intermittently because, for so long, terrible audio calls and  only marginally better video conferences were the norm.

We got good at multitasking while dutifully ‘attending’ meetings. I’ll confess I could clear my entire inbox on a  call while simultaneously authoring a definitive grocery shopping list – I was a pro!

But guess what? With the advent of TelePresence and its peer technology all this has changed. It is vital to be  attentive, conscious, active and well-presented; to treat these meetings like all participants are sitting at the  table with you, in the same room.

Co-conferencing activities such as emailing, passing notes and texting are bygones. You can mute but you  cannot hide. The technology is simply too clear and participants can see everything – yes everything – you do.

Here are some of our global team’s favourite more printable video conferencing faux pas – let them be a lesson  to you that a little common sense goes a long way.

A classic case is that of a participant who had over-imbibed the night before, wasn’t looking too sharp and  thought a catnap would go unnoticed mid-conference – but it didn’t. In another instance someone wrote a note  to a colleague in the same room: ‘This is so boring, I wish it would end.’ The only problem: everyone else  could read it too, thanks to the highdefinition video!

In a similar vein personal hygiene activities are unattractive at the best of times and to be sternly discouraged:  picking lunch out of your teeth or sly grooming can be quite off-putting when trying to concentrate on the content of the meeting.

And thanks to the very advanced microphones of TelePresence, the clickety-clack of texting and typing can be  especially distracting, not to mention send the wrong signal to others in the meeting. Similarly – and this is my  personal bugbear – obnoxious ringtones from mobile phones left on next to the microphones are a real no-no.

Then there’s the use of web and high definition video conferencing after ‘normal’ working hours to  meet with  European and Asia-Pacific colleagues. As you can imagine, this brings a raft of new challenges if you’re calling from home.

Wearing casual ‘bottoms’ with a suit jacket or even nightwear can go unnoticed – provided you don’t stand up  absentmindedly and share with other participants your taste in PJs! Absentmindedness does tend to increase if  you’re using a personal video conferencing solution from home with a chardonnay in hand.
And finally, bad meeting content is bad meeting content. To make the most of TelePresence, be organised, have  an agenda and work through key items. Nothing can replace good meeting protocol and etiquette – then go forth and conquer!

Suzanne Hansen is Regional Manager – Marketing and Operations for Cisco New Zealand. She’s been part  of the Cisco team for 11 years so for many readers, needs little in the way of introduction. Suzanne is   passionate about communication and collaboration and meetings that have solid outcomes! Suzanne is also passionate about the new technologies that make this all possible.
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