Let’s face it: communicating with others during stay-at-home advisories and working from home are difficult. So here are some suggestions, compiled from Zoom’s own website as well as other sources, which will help you stay productive, connected, and not-embarrassed as much as possible while we struggle through this new era of office work and communication.
Some of the most common-sense meeting decorum—avoiding eating and drinking, minding your body language, and being respectful to whoever is speaking—are no-brainers. Here are some additional tips to help ensure a focused and effective virtual meeting.
Make sure to introduce everyone at the beginning.
Just like a real meeting or social event, you wouldn’t initiate a conversation between two acquaintances who haven’t met without introducing them. The same practice applies to a virtual meeting. Be sure to introduce all parties you are hosting at the beginning to create a welcoming environment and stimulate engagement.
Use the video option when possible.
It lets people see you and confirm you’re not some super-sophisticated AI voice. This is particularly important if you’re the one hosting the meeting or a speaker, and slightly less so if you’re an attendee.
Stage your video area.
Keep in mind that people aren’t just seeing you, they’re also seeing whatever the camera is pointed at behind you. Maybe arrange it so that your camera isn’t facing towards a pile of unfolded laundry? For greater privacy, use a close-up video or move the camera. For example, sit with your back to a wall. Or, if your computer or device allows, use a virtual background for complete privacy.
More light is better.
Video quality is dramatically improved with more lighting. And don’t you want everyone to see your beautiful face, now that you’ve gone to all of the trouble to put on actual clothes and stuff? An extra nearby lamp is usually helpful. Just make sure the light is in front of you, not behind you—being backlit makes you harder to see.
Try to look into the camera.
If you’re presenting or speaking to a group, looking into the camera will give the appearance of eye contact with whomever you’re talking to. It’s also definitely better than being forced to stare at your own face and realizing how badly you need a haircut.
Do your own tech support before you start.
Make sure you do a test run at some point, and that you’re aware of your audio and video settings before you start. Most video conference services allow you to see a test of what your camera is recording before you start broadcasting it to everyone else, so have it arranged the way you want it. Zoom, for instance, has a feature that lets you test your settings before your meetings begin: go to zoom.us/test.
Stay on mute if you’re not talking.
Background noise can be really distracting. If you aren’t sharing anything at the moment, go ahead and hit mute until you do. That way, no one has to listen to the car alarm that goes off in your neighborhood or your neighbor’s perpetually barking dog.
Don’t eat during the meeting.
It can be a little gross to watch other people eat sometimes. Or listen to them chewing, for that matter. Hold off if you can, or if not, maybe turn off the video and audio.
Don’t do other private things while on a meeting.
Speaking of gross: have you heard any horror stories about people being caught picking their nose or using the bathroom while on a video conference, thinking they were muted or had their video off? Don’t become a statistic. It can be easy to forget that people can hear or see you if you’re in a group of 30 coworkers, so don’t risk it!
It’s a scientific fact that everyone hates meetings. Don’t make this one go longer than it needs to. Stay on task (which can be very difficult while working at home) and keep unnecessary conversations to a minimum. It can get very hard to be productive when several people are all talking at once.
If you’re the host, stick around.
The general rule for meeting hosts: Wait until everyone else has left the meeting before hanging up, so attendees can leave at their own pace and get any final words in before disconnecting. Zoom will assign an alternate host if the original host exits first, but it’s not a good look. A host leaving everyone else in the meeting is much like bailing on your own party.