Telepresence Etiquette – Setting the Stage

What do you think of when I say telepresence etiquette? Are you thinking of the dozen swear words you know better than to say in a meeting? Or, are you wondering how telepresence could have rules that are different from other meetings you attend?

If you are like me, the answer to both questions is most likely yes.  As soon as I hear about what NOT to do, all I can think about is doing it. Yes, I am still a wild, eight-year-old child trapped in the body of a grown adult, but I know I am not alone in that.

Meeting Etiquette Meets Telepresence

Telepresence is a technology and culture. The etiquette that applies is a bit different than a standard meeting. There are codes of conduct in addition to the not cussing, paying attention, being polite, and other standard communication guidelines.   And while some say etiquette is common sense, it is a good idea to review the basics from time to time, especially before a stressful meeting. For a more humorous reminder of these etiquette points for yourself and others, check this video out:

Preparation: Environment Matters

In establishing proper etiquette, the environment you are using for your telepresence meeting needs special attention. It starts with the room. You should consider your conference room’s aesthetics before you worry about crossing your legs at the ankle and saying please and thank you. You need to take care of the environment that you will be in for the duration of the meeting. Here are a few tips to make your room as outstanding as you are:

1.  Close the door to the meeting room.

This is that common sense thing, I know. You can picture running into a meeting and jumping right into business, only to find that your dog is barking or children are giggling in the hallway. Give some pre-thought to your environment, and keep the door closed. Closing the door helps keep noise and distractions to a minimum.  It also helps you focus better on what is in front of you.

 2. Make sure the lights are on.

Should you somehow forget to turn on the lights that are specifically calibrated to make you look your best on a telepresence call, you could look like you found a black hole. Don’t frighten your attendees by appearing in the dark.  Properly done telepresence rooms are designed to give a seamless appearance that everyone is in the same room. If your lighting is different or absent, it breaks that continuity.

3. Make sure your Telepresence Room is clean.

As you already know, a telepresence meeting is a very powerful medium.  Attendees can tell many things about you from your surroundings. They can see your fraternity tie tack, notice that you didn’t finish your Ho-Hos, tell what kind of phone you have, and get a glimpse of anything you set on the table.  Don’t eat in the room during the telepresence meeting. Also, put your phone on stun. It’s just a law of nature that your phone will buzz or ring at the exact nanosecond you don’t want it to. Better to just put it on silent for the meeting.

4. Keep the microphones clear.

I once got so busy taking notes and moving stacks of reports around the table that I completely covered up the mic. The other participants heard a lovely static, thought I was on mute, or wondered if I had taken up ventriloquism.  Seriously, I saw people in my meeting talking about me like I wasn’t there. It took me a beat to figure out that the poor mic was so covered it couldn’t capture my voice. Don’t make that mistake.

Think about this: If you are on a conference call and hear a dog barking in the background or a child making demands, it puts a not-so-professional picture in your mind doesn’t it? So what happens if you can SEE the room on the other end?  That’s even more of a reason to attend to the details of the environment to make the meeting flow smoothly.

Have you used a telepresence room lately? How did you prepare the environment? Any tips you can share with others?
Sybil Fitzpatrick Lead Product Marketing Communications AT&T About Sybil