This is a blog post stemming from my frustration. Countless times, I’ve joined a conference call to hear ringing, echoing, loud noises, questionable acts on camera, etc. It just kills the mood and the conference call becomes unproductive as you try and scream over the loud cacophony that is your conference call participants.

So here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you join a conference call.

Do – use a headset

Do NOT join a call with your terrible, crappy laptop audio and mic. This will create an ugly feedback loop – where the sound coming from your laptop speakers will be fed directly into your microphone. Yes, modern software have mitigations against this, but it isn’t perfect. In some situations, this mitigation may create an even worse echoing effect, causing other participants to play Mad Gab when presenting.

So do buy a cheap headset and use it. Good ones retail for about $50-100, but you can use ~$30 ones and it’ll still do the job fine. If you don’t want a headset, earbuds with integrated microphones will still be better than laptop audio.

Finally, if you are using a desktop and have the space on your desk, consider using a condenser mic for your audio input, and a headset for audio output. This is overkill, though!

Don’t – keep your input sources active, unused

Do not leave your input sources, such as your webcam and microphone, on when you are not actively participating in the meeting. Why? Well, if you leave your input source on and then accidentally get distracted or called away, anything happening in the background will be projected to everyone in the call – including noises and other questionable behavior. (And I would be lying if I said I didn’t see someone picking their nose.)

Also, when the webcam and mic are on, you are consuming more bandwidth – and causing everyone to use unnecessary network packets to see your face and hear your voice that are contributing nada to the conversation. This becomes particularly troublesome if some members of the call are on unstable or metered network connections. So if you’re not actively participating in the call, turn off your input sources.

Note: The only exception to this rule would be when camera participation is required – like if you’re taking a test or if it’s some sort of gathering so that people can see each other. Then do keep your camera on, but mute your mic, and turn off your camera when you’re going to another room.

Do – wait 5 seconds before speaking

If somebody asks a question, do not answer immediately. Often, there will be lag between the meeting participants and if you answer immediately you will end up talking over each other. Instead, wait 5 seconds before speaking. Doing so will help the software catch up with poor network conditions.

If you do end up interrupting each other, apologize and quickly cede the position to the other participant, unless the other participant has already ceded to you. Then stop apologizing and stop trying to cede to the other participant and start stating your answer already! The other guy can just go once you’re finished.

This isn’t a perfect rule – you will still end up playing musical chairs sometimes, but this will at least help with mild interruptions.

Don’t – join the meeting in your pyjamas

Or completely strip naked. assert your dominance

Do – exit other applications

Nobody likes watching your pixelated face, or listening to your garbled speech. So quit that torrent client, close that Netflix tab and any other application that may be using network bandwidth.

Remember – just because you can see and hear others clearly doesn’t mean the opposite is true. Unbalanced Internet (where upload is heavily restricted than download) is definitely a thing in some regions.

Don’t – show off

This is not a beauty pageant. It’s a serious meeting with serious participants. Lay off the extravagant things and focus on the meeting content.

Conclusion

If someone in your video conference is being a complete idiot, send them a link to this post.