Episode 4. Video Call Etiquette

Tech moves so quickly that it’s hard for social conventions to keep up. What constitutes “good manners” online? We’ve rounded up some of the best ideas we’ve heard about.

“On the internet I don’t need to respect anybody”

Question from Croatian Informatika lessons for kids

Kids these days are being taught manners and the importance of their ‘digital footprint’, but how do we grown-ups learn to effectively navigate our digital environment?

Housekeeping and expectation-setting

We can start with housekeeping rules to make sure everybody starts on the same page.

Sometimes the camera should be off, sometimes on. In many situations, not turning on your camera can be rude. “What are you hiding? Everyone else has had to get dressed, so should you!” In other situations it might be less important for everybody’s face to be visible.

Can send some boilerplate ahead of the meeting – e.g. “arrive 2 minutes early, make sure your mic and camera are working; we’ll spend a couple of minutes on technical troubleshooting to make sure everybody can be seen and heard”

Know your software

There are features in your conferencing software. You should know your way around it and know how to use them. The host has to understand and there should be some expectation that you know where the mute button is and where the chat lives (if relevant).

With low-bandwidth communication like a video call, software features like chat, polls and whiteboards can make a huge difference, so it’s important to know your way around Zoom.

Conventions can arise from limitations. For example Clubhouse has a convention where you flash your microphone to “put your hand up”. The developers didn’t create anything but the practice emerged from necessity, in the same way that hashtags originally appeared on Twitter.

Using Chat

What if everybody is not comfortable, or people become overwhelmed, they’d rather type a message than say it?

Chat can be a tool for people to speak up if they don’t otherwise feel brave enough.

Read questions out before responding to them if responding to chat. Especially if it is to become some piece of content where only the video is being shared.

Note that chat moderation on larger calls or streams is too much overhead for a presenter. The person talking shouldn’t be dealing with chat at the same time. Get some help!


Assuming everybody knows each other in a meeting can be a mistake. You might not do an introduction thing in real life but in Zoom it needs to be considered. We can do intros and say “please excuse me if I switch my camera off – my internet’s not so good with the video”.

You can have a host-sanctioned round-robin but in a larger group, maybe make sure your name is set, add information to your profile. Maybe you put a photo, maybe put your location or role in your name, maybe highlight which people are part of the company presenting vs the guests. Or you can try silly games where you all move back and look like you’re holding hands. Or this sort of nonsense:

Maybe encourage people to enable grid mode in zoom to make it feel less invasive when you go full screen.

You can’t pretend it’s the real world you have to embrace the tech and use what’s there. That means overcoming a bit of a learning threshold.

Final thoughts

How do you present yourself online? What are you wearing? Do you want to have big headphones on or a big mic? What’s behind you? We don’t have to go to the same extent as instagram but we need to look presentable and don’t let it get too distracting. The higher your production quality, the higher status you’ll have on the call. More on that another time…

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