Etiquette of the Shared Computer Screen: 5 Tips to Keep Things Corporate

Despite years of effort across multiple tools, platforms, and communication systems, email remains the go-to solution for staff collaboration. Now, the pendulum may finally start swinging away due to the development of robust and reliable unified communications (UC) offerings that combine voice, video, text, and presence solutions to offer all-in-one office collaboration experiences.

A woman taking notes in front of her computer screen.
Before you share your computer screen as part of a conference call, make sure you're familiar with how the technology works.

One of the most useful innovations to emerge from new technology initiatives is the shared computer screen. As noted by Forbes, banks are now using shared screens to enhance contact center responses, while Information Age reported 70 percent of corporate trainers believe webinars enhanced with moderated Q&A chats, virtual whiteboards, and screen sharing are as effective — if not more effective — than self-paced learning.

Yet with new solutions comes great potential for social gaffes and digital transformation challenges. Here are five etiquette tips for effective screen sharing:

1. Test It First

Screen-sharing tools now include a host of powerful features, such as the ability to transfer control of local desktop screens to remote users. The caveat? You need to know what you're doing first. Every screen-sharing program is slightly different, meaning the location of toolbars and settings will vary across platforms. In addition, mobile and desktop versions of UC applications aren't identical. If you're familiar with one, this doesn't grant automatic knowledge of the other.

Consider the following scenario: You're hosting a new employee training session via screen sharing, but you're struggling to find the right settings. Participants can't see what you're looking at, they're randomly dropped from the connection, and you can't figure out how to make the tool show what you want. The result is frustration for you and a waste of time for participants. Always prep by doing some homework on your screen-sharing solution.

2. Keep It Clean

What's on your desktop? Is it cluttered with files, folders, and images? What does your background look like? Do any of your folders contain sensitive or otherwise NSFW materials? It seems like a no-brainer to make sure this is taken care of, right? Given the relative age of this technology, however, it's easy for hosts to forget participants see everything that's onscreen during the course of the meeting. This means if you have 15 tabs open to "Funny cat pictures," a desktop full of folders, and a background image that's not exactly corporate, you're showing off the entire mess to everyone watching. Consolidate any errant files into a single folder and then do a once-over to ensure everything is all set.

3. Nix Notifications

Ping! Chime! Ring! How many different types of notifications are you getting while a shared-screen meeting is in progress? As noted by No Jitter, it's vital to turn off notifications for email and instant messenger apps while you're sharing your desktop to both cut down on distractions and make sure participants aren't seeing anything that's for your eyes only. This might include communications from C-suite executives or a message from your spouse asking about dinner plans. Sure, most notifications are innocuous, but why take the risk?

4. Stay Safe

It's no surprise the growth of collaboration and communication tools has also spurred a rise in social sharing. Many companies have implemented their own social networks, while others have loosened their restrictions on more mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The etiquette error here is sharing your conference on social media without the approval of management and participants.

Social sharing makes sense. Who doesn't want to show off on personal or company pages that a new tool empowers business objectives and reduces time spent fighting organizational structure? However, without the approval of participants or the sign-off of higher-ups, you could be guilty of accidentally sharing sensitive information or violating trust — so take the time to shut down all streaming, sharing, and posting apps when you start up any screen-sharing session.

5. Save Time

What happens if participants don't know the ins and outs of sharing their screens? You spend every moment of meeting time troubleshooting instead, helping users get connected, starting voice chat, and learning how to effectively contribute to the discussion. This bit of etiquette is a tricky one. To ensure screen sharing goes as planned and lets all users enjoy collaboration functions, make sure you lay the groundwork. Start with invitations and follow up with a link to screen-sharing tutorials. Then, make yourself available for questions leading up to the first meeting. It requires some legwork, but it's well worth it when you can leverage the many advantages of this technology.

Are you ready to give email a run for its money? Tap the next generation of screen sharing and virtual office tools. And if you want to avoid potentially hilarious — and time-wasting — social gaffes on your shared computer screen, follow these guidelines.

For more business communications solutions, connect with an expert at Vonage Business.

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