Maxwell Stephens

Let’s Think About Our Webcam Etiquette

This week I attended a ‘camera on’ event via Zoom.

I had never heard of a conference via video making people have their camera on, however, the session was on a sensitive topic. For this call it had a key speaker and then an opportunity for people to speak about their feelings and ask any questions at the end.

The host had a good point, that she wanted to create a safe space for people and wanted to see peoples faces but also to make sure there was not people listening in the background.

It made me think that if you are in a you are in a one to one meeting it is really a replacement for talking to someone face to face , if you are in a training session that requires interaction it is really a replacement for a classroom setting or if you attend a webinar/seminar it is like you are sitting in a lecture theatre.

We should treat all these online events like we have gone to them in person.

In person we would be showing our face, however there has been a discussion surrounding when it is okay to turn the camera off.

For example:

  • When eating. To avoid making people watch you eat you may I turn off audio and video. However think about would you do this if you were in-person and maybe save the eating until after if you can.
  • When multitasking. If you are perhaps not interacting during a certain part of a meeting you might take it as an opportunity to do some emails. If you had your video on it could be a bit distracting however, again think about would you do this if you were in-person. 
  • In large group meetings. If no one’s going to see you anyway.

However, do think does this meeting require you to speak or are you just listening. If you are going to interact maybe consider having your camera on.

But what we need to do is make people feel comfortable having their camera on. Instead of issuing a hard edict, you can encourage attendees to show their faces by implementing a few strategies…

  • Have an agenda and share it ahead of time. It lets those who are multitasking know when something will be relevant to them. Instead of defaulting to camera-off the whole time, they can turn their camera on when it’s something they need to interact with.
  • Keep things concise. People might be more open to camera-on for 15 minutes than 45.
  • Ask engaging questions or use breakout rooms for small group discussions. People are more likely to show their faces if they’re actually participating.
  • Don’t record the meeting unless it’s really necessary.

It is hard to think about why people would not put their camera on but would happy show their face in a meeting.

We need to think about what makes people uncomfortable about having their camera on…

  • We tend to think that everyone is looking at us because we are on the screen. Most of the time we look at ourselves, lets be honest.
  • It can cause a bit of anxiety and stress when people are faced with putting there cameras on.
  • Maybe there is a degree of self-consciousness about what is in the background, or what could potential happen in the background. We need to remember that everyone is so aware that we are dealing with a multitude of factors when working from home.

It seems that online/zoom meetings are not going away any time soon so we need to think about how we can still meet and interact with people to make it feel as much like it would if we were meeting them in person. While still maintaining our manners and professionalism.

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