5 video conference horror stories

In-person meetings are ideal, but sometimes they're just not feasible when information needs to be spread quickly. Many times projects get behind schedule because not everyone is able to meet in the same room, on the same day, and at the same time. Video conferencing eliminates that barrier and makes it easy for the sales team and account management team to hop on a video conference -- no matter where they are located. This helps accelerate product launches, sales proposals, and customer communications, etc.

In addition, the advanced technological capabilities of today's video conferencing solutions allow presenters to keep the attendees' attention better than the standard, lecture-style meeting. They also provide exponential savings -- eliminating the need to buy plane tickets, hotel rooms, conference lunches, or venues.

However, because video conferences can be done outside the office, people often forget the meetings are still professional communication events. This can lead to unprofessional and embarrassing slip-ups that could've been easily avoided. To prevent these common mishaps from happening, and to brush up on your skills, learn from these real video conferencing horror stories.

Remember to press mute

You might have heard the story about a top executive who forgot to turn off his microphone during a video conference when he took a break to use the bathroom. Remember that everyone is completely aware of what's going on, so don't even try to cover up the sound of a flush.

Avoiding this embarrassing mistake is simple; it just takes extra caution. Either address the call from nature before the conference or train yourself to press mute when you step away from the call. This easy-to-remember tip can save you from a potential embarrassing story that your colleagues won't forget.

Your pets weren't invited to the meeting

If your pets want their 15 minutes of fame, a video conference isn't the time or place. Most likely they're a distraction to everyone else on the call, so keep them out of the camera's view.

I once moderated a webinar for an author who was having some issues with her pet that wouldn't stop howling. I told her I would take a question from the audience to give her a minute to take care of the situation. Before I had the chance to mute her line, she forgot to mute her microphone and said a few choice words to her dog.

Make sure that when you're choosing a place for your video conference, you're extra cautious of yappy dogs, ringing phones, or noisy children. These factors are disruptive to the meeting and simply unprofessional.

Don't let the power of hosting a video conference go to your head

There's a story making its way around about a woman who was driving while on a video conference. Unfortunately for her, a police officer pulled her over for illegally using a handheld device. When he walked up to her car window, she turned the camera toward him to embarrass him, when in fact she just embarrassed herself.

Aside from being thoughtful of your environment, don't let the power of video conferencing go to your head.

Be mindful of what you say on and off camera

Similar to the executive who forgot to mute his microphone during a bathroom break, there's a tale of a host who incorrectly thought his microphone was muted and started talking negatively about the attendees. This mistake isn't only extremely unprofessional and embarrassing, but it can also cost you clients, your reputation, and possibly your job.

Remember: If you wouldn't do it in a face-to-face meeting, then it's not appropriate for an online one.

A video conference is still a professional event

We're very lucky to have the luxury of video conferencing from home or even on vacation. And while these are places of comfort, dress appropriately. Don't take advantage of the situation by wearing something you'd never wear to the office. It might be an easy decision to forego pants, but don't. If something happens off camera and you have to stand up to take care of it, it will be embarrassing -- for all parties -- to see you in your underwear.

Eric Vidal is director of product marketing at InterCall.

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