9 Worst Things You Can Do in a Video Chat

There are many unwritten rules when it comes to conducting yourself online. You’re probably well aware that there are plenty of things that you should never post on Facebook (at least if you want to avoid annoying your friends and alienating your co-workers). And if you’re at all concerned about your privacy, there are also a few things that you should avoid searching on Google. So it shouldn’t surprise you that there are a few etiquette rules around video chats, too. Read on to learn about the things that you should never do in a video chat, whether you’re on a call with your boss or just talking with friends.

1. Don’t: Take an important video call on your mobile device

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., and Tim Armstrong, chief executive officer of AOL Inc

Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Armstrong | Scott Olson/Getty Images

If you’re interviewing for a job via a video conference or attending an important meeting conducted via video chat, you owe it to yourself to find a quiet place and a stable Wi-Fi network. While there are plenty of great apps available on Android and iOS for video chatting, you don’t want to rely on cell reception or test your endurance at holding up your phone just to get through the call. If the call could have an impact on your career, make sure that you can take it on your computer instead of relying on your smartphone.

2. Don’t: Walk or drive around while video chatting

Tourists take a selfie in front of the Trevi fountain in Rome

Tourists take a selfie in front of the Trevi fountain in Rome | Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images

While your best friend or your mom might not mind video chatting with you while you walk around on your lunch break or on your commute home from work, most other people will find it distracting. If you’re walking in the city, there are plenty of people, vehicles, and noises that will distract both you and the person you’re chatting with. And if you’re driving around, we probably don’t need to tell you that it’s dangerous to be behind the wheel when you’re talking on the phone, to say nothing of when you’re trying to position your phone for a video chat and look at the person you’re talking to. Do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and try to stay in one place when you’re on a video chat.

3. Don’t: Get distracted

People take a selfie while wading in a fountain at the Louvre Museum

Taking a selfie in front of a fountain | Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

It doesn’t matter whether you’re interviewing for a job or updating your college roommate on how your life has been going. If somebody else is taking time out of their day to talk to you, make sure that you aren’t going to be distracted when you get online to talk to them. Don’t try to carry on your conversation while clicking through the many tabs you have open on your laptop, and don’t respond to Facebook messages or check your emails while the friend or family member on the other end of the call is telling you a story. Remember that a video chat is another way to try to connect with someone, so remind yourself that all of the other tasks on your plate can wait.

4. Don’t: Settle for terrible lighting

Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software for Apple showing a video chat demonstration

Video chat demonstration | Kimihiro Hoshino/Getty Images

No matter whom you’re conversing with, it’s always a good idea to make sure that the person on the other end of a video chat can actually see your face. While you wouldn’t video chat with someone when you’re sitting in a pitch-black room, you probably should also avoid extremely backlit situations (such as if you’re sitting in front of a bright window with your face between your laptop and the window). If you’re concerned about how you look, harsh industrial lighting is also something you may want to avoid.

5. Don’t: Place the camera too close, or at an odd angle

An Apple representative demonstrates the video chat feature

An Apple representative demonstrates the video chat feature | Kimihiro Hoshino/Getty Images

Whether you’re video chatting on your phone, with your laptop’s integrated camera, or with a separate webcam, take a moment to make sure that you’re placing the camera where it should be. A common mistake is placing the camera too close to your face, which can be unflattering and distracting for the person you’re chatting with. Additionally, make sure that the camera isn’t positioned too high or too low. In fact, you want it placed right around eye level and directly in front of you for the most flattering (and least distracting) angle.

6. Don’t: Forget to make sure that your audio is working properly

Austin Jett Rose Bennett poses with headphones

Austin Jett Rose Bennett poses with headphones | Natasha Moustache/Getty Images

If you want to be able to understand what the person on the other end of the call is saying, and ensure that they can understand you, it’s always a good idea to use a pair of headphones. Most headphones with an in-line microphone are going to give you better results than relying on the microphone on your laptop, which means that you’ll have a better chance of both parties getting clear audio without annoying background noise.

7. Don’t: Forget to make eye contact

Woman takes a selfie photograph in a field of lavender

Woman looks into smartphone camera in a field of lavender | Carl Court/Getty Images

While you might be tempted to check your hair in the little box that shows your face, avoid doing that. In fact, you should hide that box, if possible, so that you aren’t distracted by it. While you may want to spend most of the video call watching the person on the other end of the call, don’t forget to occasionally look into the camera so that the other person feels you’re making eye contact with them.

8. Don’t: Neglect to dress appropriately

A fair hostess uses laptop at booth

A fair hostess uses laptop at booth | Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images

Especially if this video call is work-related, you need to dress the part. Dress professionally, and make sure that your clothes aren’t wrinkled, even if you think it won’t be noticeable in a video chat. And just for the sake of feeling professional, try not to wear pajama pants along with your work shirt. Even if you’re just talking to a friend, make sure that you are, in fact, dressed appropriately. Also ensure that your hair is out of your face (and that you aren’t using the camera as a mirror to fix your hair), and try to refrain from touching your face.

9. Don’t: Forget to minimize interruptions

Apple Opens New Flagship Store

People chatting while using Apple computers | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

No matter how much your co-workers like your kids or your friends enjoy seeing your pets, nobody really likes their video chats to be constantly interrupted by a child or an animal. Make sure that your kids are occupied and your pets are safely confined to another room before you tune in to a video call. Even if you think that your kids or your pets are cute, chances are good that whoever you’re talking to wants to attend to the task at hand or catch up on what’s been going on in your lives, and frequent interruptions make both of those goals more difficult to accomplish.