Zoom Do's. Zoom Don'ts.

By Robert Goldman

April 30, 2020 5 min read

Don't throw your cat.

In video meeting etiquette, that's Rule No. 1.

A Vallejo, California, planning commissioner interrupted a video meeting to "introduce my cat" — perfectly normal and totally acceptable business behavior. But once said tabby had met the other participants, the planner casually flung his cat off camera. The cat landed with a thump. So did the commissioner. The public uproar was so loud that the comish had to resign his position.

(If he had thrown his hamster or his gerbil or even his ferret, the response would have been muted, but you don't mess with cat people. They're mean.)

In a better world, not throwing your cat would be the one and only rule you would have to learn. But now, with most business meetings online, an entirely new etiquette is required.

It's a downside of businesses going virtual. They have taken away our donuts, but they have given us rules.

Joyce E.A. Russell knows all about these rules. As the dean of the Villanova School of Business, Russell recently laid down the laws in a post on Forbes. You now know Rule No. 1. Here are a few more:

Rule No. 2: "Check your technology before it is time for the call."

I know money is tight now, but it might be time to upgrade your home computer. The Atari 400 you bought in 1992 is still a good, solid machine, and perfect for playing Pac-Man. For a serious business computer, a good choice would be the Sinclair ZX80. It was introduced in 1980 and is still a sweet machine, but don't wait until your next meeting to make the change. The ZX80 sold in kit form only, so you've got a lot of soldering to do.

Rule No. 3: "Start the meeting on time."

Forget the time. Focus on the time zone. Your co-workers will assume that when your meeting invite lists a 9 a.m. start, you're talking about the local time zone. Nobody will read the invitation closely enough to notice that your 9 a.m. start is based on the time zone for Pago Pago.

As you know, Pago Pago time is Greenwich Mean Time, less by 11 hours. That means you'll get credit for initiating a meeting to which everyone will be 11 hours late. Or 11 hours early. Either way, it's a power move and sufficiently dumb enough to demonstrate your management material.

Rule No. 4: "Wear appropriate clothing to the meeting."

Everyone jokes about attending a virtual meeting without your pants. Except in Scotland, of course, where everyone jokes about attending a virtual meeting without your kilt. Russell advises avoiding "distracting patterns or clothes," which pretty much wipes out your entire wardrobe. "Same with jewelry," she advises. "Keep it simple and not detracting."

If you're in management, that means do not wear diamonds bigger than 10 karats. For everyone else, leave the Star Trek badge you got in a box of Sugar Smacks in the safe deposit box. No one likes a showoff.

Rule No. 5: "Watch your nonverbal behaviors."

If you've been like Norma Desmond, waiting for your close-up, a Zoom meeting will deliver the goods. If you doubt you will be able to look interested for the full course of a meeting when everyone can focus on your face, there are nonverbal cues that will express your feelings better than words.

Putting your index finger in your mouth and pretending to gag says, "This meeting is really productive. If we don't go another hour, at least, I'll be sick." Raising a middle finger to your computer camera says, "Whoever is running this meeting is no. 1 with me."

Putting your head down and snoring quietly says, "Don't worry. Nothing has changed."

Rule No. 6: "Don't interrupt other speakers."

With Zoom meetings, the focus is on the speaker. If you expect someone will disagree with you, or bring up costly blunders you made back in the days before we all went virtual, volunteer to host the meeting. Sending out invitations is a pain, but the host gets the power to mute any participant anytime. It's a nice way to end arguments before they start, and it's fun for everyone to watch the mysteriously muted attendee rage helplessly as they try to understand why no one can hear them.

Rule No. 7: "End the meeting on time."

The free version limits you to 40 minutes of Zooming. A paid version will give you 24 hours. You'll want to strike a compromise. Most experts believe that the ideal time for a meeting is two minutes.

Well, most experts don't believe that at all, but we do.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Tumisu at Pixabay

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