This is a guest post by Vicky Oliver
If you are still working from home, as close to half the American workforce is, you are likely spending a sizeable chuck of your work week in Zoom or other video conference meetings. Just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane, but unlike meetings at the office, the video conference platform comprises some tools that can help you dial in — as well as dial back — your participation.
Take care, though, with how you use them. With the once-removed nature of online meetings, you may be tempted to recklessly use, or abuse, the tools offered through the platform. But be aware that they can project disinterest or a flippant attitude to the team, the agenda topic, or the work involved.
Here are the new rules of etiquette. Follow them to display your unwavering level of engagement to the team.
1. Show up on time.
In the old, pre-Zoom days, there were some legitimate reasons for occasionally showing up late. Maybe the elevator got stuck between floors again or you were trapped in a different meeting that ran overtime. Now that there is no transportation time between meetings, showing up late is just plain rude. Try to enter late, and you may even be delayed in gaining access to the meeting if the host has moved her attention away from letting in guests. This, of course, will make you even later.
2. Use the “raise hand” feature sparingly.
Just as the over-eager student who raises his hand in class can become an annoyance, the raise hand pop up can be a distraction. Even if participants are encouraged to use it, don’t abuse the invitation. If it’s not needed, the webinar host may want to disable the raise hand feature in advance. Participants or hosts will also want to remember to manually lower the raised hand once the question has been addressed. Depending on the size of the meeting, it may be easier to just raise your real hand when you want to add to the discussion.
3. Chat appropriately.
Just like side conversations in any in-person meeting or texting in school, using the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed at all the participants. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point now that the conversation has moved on, or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why). At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s all right for participants to use the chat feature. This gives her the opportunity to disable it if she so chooses.
4. State a reason if you turn off video.
Few people like to see their face on the screen — especially since haircut and hair color appointments have become risky due to the pandemic. But buck up and turn on your video in meetings, especially at the beginning during greetings or introductions. If you have to duck out of the room for any reason, turn off the video, but share your reason on chat. Make sure that your name, not your phone number, appears in the participant list. (If you name is not displaying correctly, hit “Rename,” and type in your name.)
5. Postpone snacking for later.
Stated simply: Don’t eat while video conferencing. It is both rude and uncouth. Eating in front of the group is like bringing in a box of doughnuts to the office and not offering them to your workmates. On the other hand, it’s okay to sip from your glass of water or cup of coffee or tea during a Zoom meeting. (If the meeting threatens to last for over two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance if she can schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.)
6. Make an effort with your appearance.
When working from home, it’s easy to fall into the habit of slipping on your favorite sweatshirt each day. But before you log on to your video conference, change into more professional attire. The old saying about “dressing the part” still applies. It will help you feel more self-assured, and people will take you more seriously. While suits and ties may be overkill for some remote meetings, a crisp collared shirt or sweater in a solid color will do. Stay away from white or black, which look blob-like on screen. Women, don’t disregard makeup, and men, don’t forget to shave.
7. Select your backdrop wisely.
Have you noticed the well-staged backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and family photographs are carefully curated, and upholstered furniture or artwork with busy patterns removed. Take note of what appears behind you when choosing the location of your video conferences. Stacks of folded laundry on the couch or piles of unopened mail on the table will say more about your homelife than you need to share.
8. Pay attention to lighting and perspective.
Did you know that your computer camera can make you look up to 15 pounds heavier depending on where you sit? Move back from the screen to shrink any wide-angle distortion. If you’re working from a desktop, you may be able to tip the screen up or down to help frame your head better. You’ll also want to beware of placing yourself in front of a window or bright light so that you appear in shadow. Instead, face the bright light for a more agreeable amount of illumination. Need to get the red out of your skin? Find “system preferences” on your computer and re-calibrate the color. There are also some small lights you can purchase that allow you to adjust the color manually.
About the Guest Post Author:
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010) and Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) (Skyhorse, 2015). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media target, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.