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Does This Videoconference Make Me Look Fat?

November 21, 2011 at 9:05 am PST

Miss Manners has enlightened us all over the years on the proper fork to use, how much to spend on a wedding gift and the best way to tell your mother-in-law to stay out of your business. But one thing that seems to be unclear to most businesspeople is the proper etiquette for participating in videoconferences.

I enjoyed this recent Entrepreneur Magazine article on the subject. While it delved into some of the more basic recommendations (look into the camera when speaking, allow a two second pause before responding), it also focused on some less obvious tips like the concept of “foreshortening,” an unfortunate angle that results from joining videoconferences on a laptop from your couch or bed. I’m pretty sure we would all agree that enhancing our chins and nostrils is not the most flattering image to put forth! It also recommended removing clutter (chocolate shake, stuffed animals, the awful vase from your mother-in-law, etc.) from the room to appear more professional.

At Cisco, we’ve always held a firm belief that using telepresence properly can not only bring a personal touch to meetings, but actually make them more efficient and save time. In a recent blog post, my colleague, Kerry Best discussed the benefits of telepresence for dispersed government agencies. These benefits – such as reading each other’s nuanced body language and engaging in lively, natural dialogue without the common audio call hazard of talking over one another – also apply to the private sector.

The main etiquette point to keep in mind, as described in the Entrepreneur article, is that telepresence “isn’t a combination of talking on the phone and meeting in person. It’s its own thing, with its own set of rules.” We couldn’t agree more, and one final tip: keep your chocolate shake in the freezer for after the meeting.

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