Professional Resources

Fifteen Tips to Make You Always Ready for Videoconferencing Just in Time for COVID-19

3/12/20 AILA Doc. No. 20031201. Practice Management
Finding yourself more in video conferences? Say, “Justice shall not be halted by COVID-19 in this firm!” Use these 15 tips from the Practice & Professionalism Center to become a videoconferencing wizard and make your online meetings more professional, efficient, and productive.

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has caused a mass experiment in teleworking across the globe. As immigration practices in the United States prepare for (or go out on) potential or mandatory remote working measures to decrease the spread of the virus, many are testing and considering videoconferencing capabilities and uses. Here are videoconferencing etiquette tips, so you (and your employees) can be professional and effective online.

A 2016 survey of 230 full-time U.S. remote employees found the biggest annoyances in videoconferencing were background noise or distractions, late-joining participants, participants talking over each other, repeating information, and using filler words like “um” and “er” in speech.1 Most of these are easy to solve by learning more about your videoconferencing program and changing the way you do some things.

Here are 15 other ways to make sure your video conferences are smooth and productive:

  1. Proficient use of the videoconferencing product gives others confidence in the meeting and your ability to be productive with it. Arrive early, to make sure you are familiar with the technology. Know where the controls are to raise your hand, mute your microphone, chat, share your screen, and any other features you are using.
  2. Get over the self-consciousness of being on screen. Everyone else is thinking about how they look, not how you look.
  3. Enter your name for display to others. Turn your camera on unless you are en route, and the camera would shake and move distractingly. Encourage attendees to do the same.
  4. Background noise can be reduced by using a good headset. Testing the program with others, in the environment you plan to use it in will usually reveal this issue quickly. Realize what you hear is not always what other participants hear.
  5. In-person meetings frequently have people talking over each other and chatting or laughing together. But it is hard to track what is happening with many voices through computer speakers and video, especially if single individuals are trying to hear a room full of people. For this reason, take turns speaking and say a person’s name when you are addressing them in a group videoconference.
  6. If you frequently meet with a group of many on one end, consider getting the Meeting Owl for that room, which will rotate the speaker and camera to a single speaking individual.
  7. Mute your line when you are not talking for a stretch of time. This will clear out background noise and is a visual image of giving the floor to the speaker.
  8. Avoid side conversations in a videoconference with several participants or more. It can feel cliquish and be disruptive to others. With this mode of conversation, it is best to wait your turn.
  9. Avoid distractions by silencing your smartphone, closing your email, and minimizing other disruptions. Do not multitask. If you have to do something like notetaking, consider explaining what you are doing so attendees don’t think you are working off-topic.
  10. At times, look into the camera as if you were looking at the camera. Don’t always be looking at your notes or scribbling notes.
  11. If you take notes, (writing on paper or typing on your keyboard) keep in mind that video microphones are often in the computer keyboard or on the conference table, so typing and paper shuffling can be very loud. Keep noise minimal.
  12. Microphones today are smart and will adjust themselves for the distance between the speaker and the microphone. That means you probably do not have to shout, even if the microphone is several feet away.
  13. Sit upright in your chair and face the camera to show you are attentive to the other participants. Have water or a drink on hand. Avoid yawning. If you feel a yawn coming, take a sip of water from a nearby mug that contains water, but no ice.
  14. People will notice whatever is behind you. If you don’t want them to see, use advanced features to give you a set background (works best when you have a green screen) or blur the background, or make your office space attractive.
  15. And just like in regular meetings, use an agenda so it stays on track, and use the sharing feature to look at and sometimes edit real-time documents and other items you are working on with your attendees.

For more on what steps and planning the firm should engage in to prepare for a pandemic, see Pandemic-Proof Your Immigration Practice, with suggested internal and external planning steps, communications, considerations, and resources.

1 Survey was conducted by West Unified Communications.