Are there video call-specific rules of etiquette? Of course.
Remember the old days, when people left their houses? Consultants would frequently travel thousands of miles, sardined next to strangers (crazy, right?).
Even then, your consulting firm’s best, everyday outreach tool was your telephone.
However, in the modern, no-travel era, video calls have become totally acceptable and quite common.
Video calls are far more effective than the phone for building relationships with your consulting firm’s clients, prospects, influencers and partners.
As noted in this article, you’ll benefit from quickly moving email and phone conversations to video.
However, video calls do come with some risks and behavior changes.
For instance, when you were on a phone call and the other person was talking, you could sneak in a quick bite of your lunch (or one, entire Krispy Kreme donut).
On a video call, you tell your contact that you see a tarantula dangling behind them, then quickly scarf your box of donuts while you’re watching the other person shriek and flail. (Later in the conversation you can mention how much you like their pajama bottoms.)
Obviously, a quick review of avoidable video call faux pas is in order.
I came up with a dozen or so. Nine are below, with a space for you to share your own.
10 Common, Avoidable Video Call Mistakes
On-screen professionals have known for years that you can wear a tuxedo on top and a swimsuit on the bottom. As long as you’ll never be seen below the waist.
Take the time to make your appearance professional.
Any movie producer will tell you that people will tolerate lousy video, but not sub-par audio.
Your consulting firm’s message and client experience will be compromised if your voice sounds like you’re communicating via the Apollo 13 command module, an echo chamber, or a 1970s transistor radio,
When your contact is learning about you from the book-titles, photographs and candy wrappers behind you, there’s a problem.
Don’t distract your contact or detract from your consulting firm’s image by displaying your home (or office), no matter how attractive you think it is.
Invest a few dollars in a professional backdrop to place behind you. There are hundreds of low-cost solutions available.
Your contact’s eyes are not in his face. (Go with me on this…)
During video calls, your webcam acts as the other person’s eyes. Which means when you’re looking at the image of your consulting client or other contact, it doesn’t appear to them that you’re looking them in the eye.
Stay Right-Side Up on video calls by learning to look at the camera while you talk and listen, rather than at the image of the person on your monitor. (Or, invest in a teleprompter and project your contact’s image.)
Video calls immediately reveal when your attention flits over to your email, the game of Doom streaming on Twitch, or some other distraction.
For the purposes of your video call, act as if you’re meeting in person, not standing in front of your computer.
Attend to the person in front of you. He’s important for your consulting firm’s success and deserves your undivided attention.
Remember, you’re on video.
Tales of people bringing their laptops or Bluetooth headsets to the bathroom are, I hope, just urban myths.
Don’t become the next viral video. Keep track of when your camera and mic are live.
Poor lighting can make you appear like you’ve fled consulting and are in a witness protection program.
Eliminate backlighting such as bright windows and lamps behind you. A backdrop (mentioned above) will block out most of those problems.
A bit of front lighting, such as a ring light that surrounds your webcam will burnish your image and ensure you show up well.
Video calls afford you a rich opportunity to boost your consulting firm’s credibility. They allow your likeable, approachable, trustworthy nature to shine through…
…unless your unfamiliarity with your own video call software undermines you.
Learn and practice your video app’s controls, including how to leave the call and how to mute quickly (if you have to sneeze, for instance).
Keep your professional, consulting face on after you say goodbye, and make sure to leave the call when it’s over.
A surprising number of consultants (and their contacts) think they’ve ended their call when, in fact, they’ve just switched to another application.
Don’t spoil all the good will and sweet, relationship butter you just churned with your contact by blowing it at the end.
What’s Your Suggestion?
You’ve seen and learned a thing or two about video calls in the past couple of months. What mistakes or tips can you share with other consultants?
Text and images are © 2020 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.