How to video chat without embarrassing yourself

Key Points
  • We're all video calling with services like Slack, Zoom, Hangouts, Duo, FaceTime and more now.
  • But you want to follow some proper etiquette while doing so.
  • Consider making sure you have proper lighting, your mic is muted when you don't talk, and make sure you turn off your camera when you step away!
Facebook introduces group video chat to Messenger.
Source: Facebook

We're all placing more video calls now that we're stuck indoors due to the increasing spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Sure, you can just hop on any Slack, Apple FaceTime or Zoom call, but you'll want to make sure you follow a few guidelines so you don't accidentally leave the video on when you go into the bathroom, or have your dog start barking while your boss is talking.

Here's a quick checklist to follow.

Mute yourself unless you're talking

Mute yourself during video calls unless you're talking.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

This is probably rule No. 1 for video calls. If you're on a call with multiple people, make sure you mute yourself when you're not talking. That way you don't interrupt everyone if the mailman rings the doorbell, your dog barks, or your kid has a quick meltdown. Everyone understands these things happen, but you can avoid it causing a disturbance during the call.

Most apps have a small icon that shows you when your microphone is muted, so make sure you're familiar with how to use it before you call begins. Zoom, for example, has a helpful setting that lets you mute your microphone by default (just open settings).

Pay attention to lighting

I have a desk lamp in front of me. The halo behind me isn't great.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

It's tough to look good these days (just look at me above) But you can do one thing to look a little better during a video chat: Give yourself some lighting. Consider pointing a desk lamp toward your face while you're chatting, or grab an accessory like this $70 Lume Cube which can sit on your monitor and provide added brightness. Try not to have light behind you, since it can make it look like you're speaking from the shadows.

Turn your camera off when you get up

Mark Bowden | Getty Images

If you get up from your desk to do anything turn off your video camera. A few videos posted online have shown people accidentally stepping into the bathroom and livestreaming the whole thing to their colleagues, for example. You don't want that to happen. So, if the app allows it, turn off your live video if you need to attend to personal business.

Look at the camera

Look at the camera. Don't be this guy!
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Big one here: Make sure you're centered in the frame of the camera. Most apps have a small window that shows what you look like, so be sure to take a glimpse at it. I've been in plenty of video chats recently where I can only see someone's forehead or where I only see half of someone in the frame. You don't necessarily have to look straight at the camera, but it feels more personal if you're at least looking toward it when you're talking.

Don't yell

Man video calling.
dusanpetkovic | iStock | Getty Images

Most modern computers and webcams have decent (not great) microphones. They're usually pretty good at picking up your voice, which means you don't have to shout at your camera for other people to hear you. Just speak normally, and as long as there isn't too much background noise, people will hear you. Some modern computers, like Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro, have studio-quality microphones built in, so you'll sound much clearer than you might think.

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