Illustration: Nick Little

The Forge Guide to Slack, Email, and Video Calls

5 Ways to Make Videoconferencing Less Terrible

Here’s how to behave on camera at work

Jacqueline Detwiler
Published in
7 min readSep 18, 2019

PPopular culture has been flirting with videotelephony as a sign of hyper-advanced societies since it was featured in Fritz Lang’s silent, sci-fi film Metropolis in 1927, because it’s way more exciting to imagine getting an update about alien planets/spy missions/imminent nuclear reactor meltdowns from a face on a screen than it is to hear about it over a tiny phone speaker.

Now, with most companies across the country undergoing a full-throttle conversion to video conferencing services such as Zoom, Slack, and Google Hangouts, we’ve finally reached the awe-inspiring future our movies and books have predicted.

Or, oh wait. We’re using it for meetings. We have the technology from The Jetsons, and we’re using it for sales meetings.

The first thing you should know about videoconferencing is that if you’re not using it now, you soon will be. A 2018 poll from Polycom (which, it’s worth noting, is a company that makes videoconferencing hardware) found that 74% of IT workers say video conference calls have increased over the past two years.

Video Conferencing Daily, which is a news website devoted entirely to videoconferencing, predicted that 86% of U.S. businesses would be using the technology by the end of 2018. There’s no way to tell whether they were right yet, because videoconferencing as a communications juggernaut is so new there aren’t a whole lot of scientists studying it. But HSBC just announced that it’s consolidating all of its communications on Zoom. So we know the banks are on board.

“Videoconferencing as a concept is not new — the need for it has been around for decades now,” says Nitasha Walia, a Zoom product manager who I interviewed, naturally, on a Zoom video conference call. “The tools just work now. It’s not so painful that you’d rather just fly somewhere because the call disconnects five times and you can’t really hear the other person.”

At first, I was inclined to disagree. Not because our call disconnected (it worked fine), but because I work from home and usually do interviews on the couch in my underwear…



Jacqueline Detwiler
Writer for

Jacqui is the former articles editor at Popular Mechanics. Her work has appeared in Wired, Esquire, Men’s Health, and Best American Science and Nature Writing.