Are You Embarrassing Yourself in Zoom Meetings? The Ultimate Guide to Zoom Etiquette

October 12, 2020
Are You Embarrassing Yourself in Zoom Meetings? The Ultimate Guide to Zoom Etiquette

With everyone working from home these days, video conferences are the new face to face. With a new medium comes new etiquette and best practices. I thought I’d share some of them I’ve learned along the way and found online which can help recent grads entering the workplace or teach politeness to a current employee.

For Anyone Attending a Meeting:

Mute yourself

Here’s a funny story: last week, my team and I had our bi-weekly sprint planning meeting. Now, most people mute themselves during these kinds of meetings and let the scrum master drive the conversation. However, someone on my team didn’t mute himself (let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he forgot to mute himself) and he was swearing every 2 minutes, while others were speaking. Since no one on the team was saying anything about it, that person kept swearing until I’m guessing he realized he wasn’t on mute. Even though this gave me a funny story to share, it distracted me from the actual work that was being done in the meeting. Please don’t let this happen to you and mute yourself, you’ll be not only saving yourself from an embarrassing moment but also helping your team staying productive.

I have another similar story that happened to me while I was interviewing for a company this summer. One of the guys interviewing me had (I assume) his wife in another meeting behind him, speaking loudly not only at the same time as he did, but also at the same time as I did. It was extremely distracting to hear someone else speak at the same time as I did and as if I wasn’t able to think clearly because of the stress already, I now definitely had trouble keeping my train of thought. Not muting yourself in a meeting is disrespectful to other participants in your meetings, even if you are under the impression the room you’re in is silent.

Open your camera

I know, this one is annoying especially if your meeting is before 10am. However, it makes such a difference when you’re in a meeting where most people have their cameras open. If you’re attending a meeting given by someone else, this person most likely will want to see the faces of people they’re talking to or else they’ll feel like they’re speaking to a wall. Opening your camera shows your engagement in the meeting. We don’t realized how much facial expressions have an impact in a conversation. Also, associating a face to the people you work with is important in a work environment as your coworkers will feel less like strangers and you’ll be able to build trust more easily. If you’re interested in learning more on why faces have such a big impact on your lives and perception of things, I recommend checking out this article. Since most of us are currently working remotely, the best way to see your coworkers’ faces is through your video conferences.

Speak when you join the meeting

This one applies more to smaller meetings (~2-7 people). When you join a meeting, say hello to the other participants just like you would in a face to face meeting. If you don’t know someone in the meeting, make sure to introduce yourself. This is the polite way to join a face-to-face meeting, so why shouldn’t it be the same in a video call? I get shy in larger meetings and it takes up some courage to speak up when I join a meeting, this was especially the case at the beginning of my internship. However, meetings where participants greet each other when they join the call are usually more enjoyable and the overall mood is usually better. If you join a meeting and someone else is speaking, please let that person finish their thought before you say hello.

Signal when you are done speaking

In order to avoid awkward silences or unwanted interruptions, signify when you are done speaking by saying “I’m done” or “That’s it”. This can feel a bit awkward at first, but in reality it clearly lets others to know they are able to respond to what you just said or that the meeting is able to move on to another topic without any uncertainty. This is something I learned during my first few weeks of my internship. I remember, during my first few scrum meetings of my current remote internship, there would always be awkward silences after I gave my update to my team. It would make me overthink about the way my team members see me. However, after observing others on my team and noticing them signal the end of their update, I decided to try it out for myself. The communication as much better and the awkward silences went away!

For Meeting Hosts:

Have everything ready

This is general meeting etiquette, but if you have to present something, you should have everything ready as the meeting starts. If you have to share your screen during the meeting, make sure you’re able to do so quickly. The meeting is limited in time and you don’t want to waste any seconds of it troubleshooting technical problems that could have been avoided. Obviously, make sure your microphone and camera work before the meeting as well.

Check the meeting chat on a frequent basis

I’ve noticed that instead of interrupting the presenter, meeting participants share their questions and insights in the meeting chat. These questions and insights are most likely relevant to your presentation and are definitely worth addressing. Sometimes, these questions or insights start active conversations on the chat, which you want to avoid since it distracts people from the main meeting conversation. Therefore, make sure to check the call’s chat and address any questions, insights or conversations immediately or reserve time to do so. Also, you should check the chat often as you want to address any relevant questions or comments before you move on to another topic.

Schedule breaks (for longer meetings)

According to this study, the average attention span into a meeting is 52 minutes. This is for in person meetings, which means the attention span for video calls is most likely lower since getting distracted is a lot easier. This means that after about 52 minutes, most of your meeting participants aren’t listening nor retaining what you’re saying. Make sure to schedule one or more small break(s) in your meeting so you don’t end up speaking to a bunch of zoombies (pun intended!) and wasting everyone’s time. I usually use those breaks to stretch my legs, go to the washroom or make some coffee. I truly see a difference in my focus before and after a break in a longer meeting, especially at home.

What’s your most important Zoom etiquette/best practice? Do you have any Zoom etiquette horror stories? Share them in the comments below!