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SIP Videophone Etiquette: A Dozen Amusing Lessons

So you have a SIP VideoPhone and you know how to use it. Now, you need to be sure you are using it properly and, more importantly, politely. No one wants to be an offensive, rude videophone caller. Why? Because people can SEE you now and they are far more likely to remember a face than just a voice. Please pay close attention to the following lessons to avoid being called a "videophone villain." Manners are important in communicating effectively with your SIP VideoPhone. Follow the suggested code of behavior below and I guarantee you'll become the most admired, sophisticated and civilized videophone caller on your block.


Never call before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m. if you expect to video call with anyone other than an intimate family member. Remember that most people are vain and don't want to be seen in their bathrobes or pajamas, unshaven and/or un-made-up. Be honest with yourself, you don't really want to see people until they are ready to be seen, do you? Call during this 12-hour window of opportunity, and you should be safe and sane.

The only exception to this rule is Christmas morning. Seeing loved ones at dawn in their p.j.'s, wading through wrapping paper and stepping on tiny Barbie doll accoutrements is what videophones were made for. Why should you miss the traditional Yuletide dance of pain, even if you are thousands of miles away?

Lesson #2: WHAT YOU WEAR

Stripes are out, darling. Whites are out, too, no matter the season and even if you are in the Navy. Busy patterns that look bad in person, are frighteningly ugly during a video call. Avoid them at all costs, you silly clothing person.

You should always check your appearance in the local view (the image of yourself you see when you first pick up the phone) before you actually place a videophone call. What you see, is what they'll get.

Remember to wear clothes that communicate, "I am happy to see you and I respect your fashion sensibilities." Dark solids, generally, send this message. If you are informed you are wearing something offensive to the eyes of your caller, simply put on the privacy mode and do a quick change.


Remember the better lighting you have, the better the image that you will transmit. Yeah, you may to turn on a lamp or two whenever you make a video call. There's nothing worse than video-calling someone who looks like they are in a dark cave. We all know that cave people didn't have time for videophones as they were too busy dropping stones on their toes which, of course, led to the invention of the squeal.

Try to emulate the set of your local TV news program, which means sitting a proper distance from the camera and having appropriate lighting. Hint: You probably won't need a script and a teleprompter.

As with camcorders, it is important that lighting come from behind the videophone camera, and shine directly on the subject (you!). During the day, you need to take into consideration windows and sliding glass doors for video calls. If the videophone camera is pointed towards this brightly lit area, it will be like looking into the sun for your caller. He or she is going to spend the entire video call, squinting at you. It may be amusing at first to see your friend squinting, but it will get old fast. Furthermore, surveys of Americans between the ages of 24 and 35 tell us that squinters are boring and unattractive.

Again, be sure to check your appearance in the local view before you actually place a video call. What they'll see, is what you've lit.


Remember that you will never forget your first video call, so be kind and supportive when you are video calling with videophone virgins. Be sure to have a pleasant smile stuck on your face so your first-time video caller will immediately understand that video calling is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.


Remember you will be seeing and meeting lots of new people now that you have joined the growing legions of videophone owners. It is important to greet people over the videophone properly. Good manners demand for videophone callers on both sides to introduce everyone who is in the room, particularly those that are hanging just outside of the camera's view and snickering at your image.

Lesson #6: GREETINGS

Remember that though you can't actually touch the person you are video calling, you can and should still emulate a handshake or even a kiss. Obviously, a simple wave or salute hello will work adequately for greetings, but I suggest an open palm brought close to the camera and a quick double-pump of the hand towards the camera will be much more rewarding: a virtual hi-five.

Emulating a kiss may be a bit trickier...A mouth too near to a camera is almost always frightening. You may just want to blow a kiss. Another suggestion, which young children have been known to do, is to plant your lips on the TV screen where the beloved one's image is. This method, of course, will require you to keep Windex and paper towels handy.


Remember that arms crossed over the chest and rolling eyes communicates that you are not receptive to the sincere and heart-felt advice your in-laws are offering you, free of charge. A serene smile and a papal nod is the appropriate response to this kind of unsolicited advice.

Looking down, instead of into the camera, is a common etiquette error that new video-callers make. Try to look directly into the camera and blink as little as possible. Speak to the camera. As awkward as it might feel, it transmits well. As Billy Crystal impersonating Fernando Lamas taught us, "It's better to look good, than to feel good." Don't forget to show off your pearly whites. You have a videophone because "you can't hear a smile!"

Be sure to use hand gestures and facial expressions as you would in a face-to-face conversation. Don't be afraid go ahead and set yourself free. You know you want to...some of you (mostly Italians like myself) have been using your gestures during audio only calls for years. You've been unmercifully teased for years. At last, you are free! Free to be your exuberant, expressive self. Go for it. Enjoy. Ciao, baby!


Chomping on a slice of pizza or chewing a wad of Bazooka Joe bubble gum is not the most attractive way to present yourself in person or via videophone. Please avoid dining during video calls. It is, of course, always rude to eat in front of someone else. This hard and fast rule may be broken when both parties are partaking in the same food. The key here is "same food." Obviously, it is in bad taste to be devouring a hot fudge sundae while the person you are video calling with is dieting and limited to eating only carrots. Remember, minding your manners is all about controlling your sadistic tendencies.

Videophone virtual dinner dates are becoming as common as three-dollar bills. Nevertheless, you may be asked to dine via videophone with the potential Mr. or Ms. Right, or at least Mr. or Ms. Right-Now. You don't want to blow the virtual date by being rude, as it will certainly hinder your chances for a real date. Recommended: soft background music and fine wine. A toast to your beautiful date would not be inappropriate as long as he or she has his or her own glass of something. "Here's looking at you, kid" is always an appropriate toast for any video date occasion. Or you could try this one, "Are you looking at me? Are you looking at me?! You must be looking at me...I 'm the only one here."

And, though you might not be able to "clink" after the toast, a light tap of your glass against the glass of the camera lens or TV screen will produce the same effect.


Remember, when you used to be able to pick your nose and carry on a phone conversation? Oh, well, ah, I don't either. But if you have the inclination to explore the olfactory orifice during a videophone, fight the temptation with all your might. In addition to grossing out your caller, they might be running the videophone through a VCR and recording your every move for later broadcast on that program, American's Funniest Nose Picking Videophone Calls, currently seen on the Discovery Channel.

Other objectionable habits from the bad old days of audio only calls: crotch scratching or underwear rearranging. This kind of behavior with either yourself or a partner will be considered uncouth by most parties that you are video calling. Again, resist the temptation.

Other actions to avoid: yawning, stretching or checking your watch, unless you want to give your caller the impression that to continue with this call will require a cup of black coffee and frequent jabs from an electric cattle prod.


Executive headhunters are now using videophones to interview perspective candidates. If you are being interviewed, you should be seated comfortably and confidently behind a desk, with your hands folded across a clean copy of your resume. Avoid the temptation to only get half dressed. You never know when a future employer may ask you to stand and do jumping jacks to show your ability to follow instructions and demonstrate that you are physically fit. Not having a pair of pants on will certainly count against you.

More and more individuals are being interviewed this way. Headhunters say this is a cost-effective way to narrow the search down and save travel costs. A person who handles himself well on a video call interview has a leg up on the one who is intimidated by this technology. Again, as long as the leg up is covered by clothing.

If you are interviewing a candidate, you're in the power seat, baby. Use it! Never end a video interview without asking the job seeker to do some jumping jacks for you. Then while they're exercising, play with your videophone’s freeze frame feature. This is the best way to conduct an in-depth interview, I assure you.


Don't fidget or rock back and forth. The more still you stay, the better impression you will make. Remember to speak clearly and distinctly. If there is more than one person with you, don't talk at the same time. This is a cross-platform, cross-cultural form of etiquette that needs to be practiced whether you are on a video call or not. Give the person you are calling a chance to speak. In summation of this lesson, recall your Mother's loving words of advice here, "Sit up. Sit still. Speak when you are spoken to!"


A mumbled "bye" is not going to cut it in this day and age of visual telecommunication. There's nothing more dissatisfying than a lousy good bye. If you want people to continue to video-call you in the future, you will need to improve your sign off.

Suggestions for augmenting your verbal adios:

1.       The Basic "bye-bye" wave

2.       The Simple but Elegant wave (hand slowly sways back and forth)

3.       The Regal Wave (same as #2, done with a serene smile)

4.       The Goofy Wave (done with tongue out, eyes crossed)

5.       Thumbs up

6.       Use the American Sign Language sign "ILY", which means, "I Love You." (Thumb out, index finger and pinkie up, two middle fingers down.)

Image: Sign for I Love You


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