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Screen Yourself: When It’s Wise to Nix Video in Teleconferences

May 22, 2020

To be seen or not to be seen – that is the question for many of us as we spend our days in online teleconference meetings while working from home.

True, seeing video of your fellow participants can add energy to a meeting and make you feel less isolated. But there are some good reasons – and some embarrassing ones – for toggling off your video feed.

My home broadband isn’t all that broad. Even in the era of plentiful home broadband service, video teleconferencing calls can be a chore if your home connection is running slow. Maybe you moved into a house with a great view of the mountains but lousy Internet access. Or every member of your household is online right now, and your share of the broadband pipe is decidedly narrow. Or it could be that you are required to user a VPN connection, which provides better security but also slows down the video stream and increases latency. Whatever the case, participants’ video feeds jerk and stutter, or worse, all of a sudden you find yourself kicked out of the call queue. Turning off your video feed – and asking others to do so as well – may lighten the bandwidth load so you can continue the meeting.

My laptop is a fossil. Hey, we’ve all been there. You start a job and you are given the oldest laptop in the company fleet. In computer years, it dates back to the Cretaceous Era, as evidenced by its CD drive. With its maxed-out RAM memory and outdated operating system, this geezer of a computer can barely deal with email, let alone a live streaming video conferencing call. If your laptop would be more useful as a brick and there is no hope of a replacement, you may need to participate in teleconference meetings in audio-only mode.

Focus, people! If the meeting features a single person giving a presentation, it may be a good idea to have everyone else go sans video. Not only does this allow the group to focus on the presenter as well as any screen-shared information, but the presenter doesn’t have to watch a half-dozen or more bobbing heads, or see that most of the participants are looking elsewhere, munching on snacks or yawning. That’s not only discouraging for the presenter, but it also is distracting.

Oh no, I really have to go… You are in the middle of a marathon meeting and you really, really need to use the restroom. Or maybe your five-year-old has just burst into your home office in full-on meltdown mode. Either way, it’s probably best if you temporarily turn off your video and put yourself on mute. Your colleagues may not be happy you are taking a break to deal with personal business, but they will be grateful you didn’t share it in glorious video and audio.

Uh, did I put on pants? You overslept. Or you are naturally fashion-challenged. Or the call came at a really bad time early or late in the day. Whatever the case, you aren’t exactly dressed for success – in fact, you shouldn’t even go out in public and risk scaring small children. The best option may be to turn off your computer camera and keep your fashion fail private. All in all, your colleagues may thank you for it. You really don’t need to be this guy.

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