How to not embarrass yourself on Zoom

Zoom video conferencing meetingZoom, Zoom!!! Have you been on a Zoom meeting yet? While we practice social distancing and obey stay at home orders to stem the spread of COVID-19 everything has turned to virtual meetings. In the last week I have been on eight Zoom meetings, some for business, others for organizations I belong to and a few for social gatherings. Zoom is a web conferencing program that everyone seems to be using for their former-in-person-now-virtual meetings. And, with new technology comes all sorts of technology faux pas.

A friend, having witnessed some not made for TV moments, emailed me and begged me to address video conferencing etiquette. So, here we go you Zoom and other virtual conferencing peeps; some important dos and don’ts for using these new to some tools.

Stay Muted
The number one rule is to mute yourself as soon as you join the meeting and throughout the meeting unless you are talking. Why? Well, just about every noise in your house, environment and especially near your device is audible to everyone attending the meeting. One woman in a meeting was making breakfast, including cracking eggs, stirring them and opening and closing the refrigerator. Everyone on the call not only heard her culinary clatter we got to watch her make her morning repast. Another person ate her breakfast with spoon scraping and smacking noises aplenty. The other reason to mute yourself is if you or your environment makes noise Zoom detects your audio and highlights your video to indicate you’re the one making noise.

If you’re not familiar with how to mute yourself on Zoom, follow these steps:

  • If you’re on a computer, tablet or smart phone, move your mouse or touch the screen in the Zoom meeting and you’ll see at the bottom of the Zoom meeting site some small symbols – the little microphone is to mute and unmute yourself. You can also touch or hover your mouse over your image and you’ll see the words “mute,” or “unmute” if you’re already muted.
  • If you’re calling in with a phone number rather than the Zoom link, press *6 on the phone to mute and unmute yourself.

As host of a meeting, you have control over muting and it’s wise to do so if people in the meeting are making noise. Click on “Manage participants” at the bottom of the Zoom screen and a list of all the people in the meeting will come up on the right of the screen. You can click “Mute all” at the right bottom of the screen. Or, if you want to mute just those who are making noise; those who are unmuted will show up at the top of the participant list on the right of the screen. You can mute them as needed.

Smile, you’re on camera!
When your video is on it means everything you do is captured when you are in front of the camera. This includes what you are wearing, your environment and how much you’re moving around or even if you’ve left the room. If you are on a video conference for work, look the part. Do not show up in your pajamas. Even if it’s a social gathering, your pajamas are not appropriate for prime time video, unless it’s a PJ party. In fact, skimpy sports bras, lingerie, your buck-naked self or anything you would not wear to an in-person meeting is not appropriate on a video conference meeting either. My friend, who implored me to write a blog post about Zoom etiquette, shared that a young man, thinking he was only on audio not on video, was wearing only his birthday suit in the gathering. Oops!!

Watch your background
The camera can capture quite a bit of real estate depending on where you are sitting. Make sure whatever will be visible on camera is not something inappropriate for other viewing eyes – including racy artwork or books, messy rooms, strange objects, family members and more. If you would not want someone seeing those items in person, make sure they are out of view on your video call.

Also, ensure the lighting is good so that you’re not in shadow or hard to see because there is a window behind you or the light in the room is poor. The best place to sit, if you can, is facing a window with the device facing you so that the light from the window is lighting up your face but not the camera.

Keep kids, roommates, spouses and pets out of the room unless they are part of the conversation.

Oh, and a fun tip I just learned. You can use a virtual background through Zoom. I currently have one of the Golden Gate bridge. Here’s a link for information on how to set up a virtual background. Really helpful if you’d rather people not see you’re attending the meeting in bed.

Stay focused
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re sitting in a virtual meeting. But it’s important you are present. Turn off any gadgets that make noise or light up. Put your phone on mute or do not disturb and don’t have another computer in the room that you can look at. Stay present on the call.

Record honestly
With Zoom, you have the option of recording the meeting. It’s a great way to have a record of the meeting for both the host and, if they desire, the participants. But, be sure you let people know at the beginning of the meeting that you’re recording the gathering. Just think if Mr. Buck Naked was recorded.  He would have the unfortunate honor of having a lifetime of naked fame. So, be upfront with your participants so that they can choose if they want their au naturel self to live on beyond COVID-19.

Zoom away, my lovely peeps, using good video conferencing etiquette. Everyone will thank you, especially my apoplectic friend.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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