Aug 15, 2020

Zoom Taboos to Avoid on Your Video Calls

Americans across the country are staying inside to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and many are turning to video as a way to connect with friends and family, learn new skills, and attend work meetings. 

In particular, the video communications service Zoom has grown exponentially during the pandemic—seeing a Q1 revenue increase of 169%—as thousands of companies and organizations hold video calls for various participants. 

If you are new to the world of video calls, there is some basic Zoom etiquette that you should know. Follow the 8 tips below if you’re planning to attend an upcoming Zoom meeting.

1. Invest in a ‘Zoom Shirt’

At the start of the pandemic, toilet paper wasn’t the only item people stockpiled. Many retailers reported an increase in dress shirt sales—but not pants. 

Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett said, “we’re seeing increased sales in tops, but not bottoms.” He goes on to note that people are obviously concerned about their appearance “…from the waist up.”

Employees jumping on virtual calls know they need to look professional, but they also realize that a virtual office gives them much more freedom than a physical one. This freedom can have its downsides—as evidenced by the woman who went viral for using the bathroom mid-call

If you wear casual clothes (or no clothes) throughout the day but need to look professional for a call, invest in a dedicated Zoom shirt. This shirt should be a clean, ironed button-down that you wear exclusively for your Zoom calls. Put it on prior to the call, and you’ll be ready for any board meeting or job interview.  

2. Take Advantage of the Video Preview Feature

When you log into Zoom, it will show you a video preview of what you’ll look like on camera. Use this preview to your advantage. 

Adjust your camera so your unmade bed isn’t in the background, check your teeth for any food stuck from lunch, and remove anything inappropriate from the camera’s view. This step will prevent you from scrambling once the video goes live. 

3. Look for a Zoom Spot With Good Lighting

Unless you’re telling virtual campfire stories, nobody wants to chat with someone they can’t see. Before jumping on a Zoom call, make sure you’re sitting in a well-lit area. If you’re going to have frequent video calls, consider moving your office near a window or finding a convenient place in your home with good lighting.

Test out your lighting beforehand and look for a spot that highlights your face so that other people are comfortable talking to you. 

4. Turn On Mute Unless You’re Talking

When you log into a Zoom call, your microphone will automatically be muted. For good etiquette, you can unmute to say hello to everyone on the call, but you should keep it muted through the duration of the video. In fact, only unmute your microphone if you’re speaking. 

Your phone or laptop camera might be more sensitive than you realize. It will pick up background noise that can overpower the main presenter’s voice and make you the sole focus. No one logged into the Zoom call to listen to you eat chips or hear your dog bark in the background. 

Even if you’re in a quiet area, muting your microphone can prevent any unexpected disturbances, like sirens from an ambulance going by outside.  

5. Use Your Camera as Often as You Can

You may have the option to avoid turning your camera on for the call, but you should still consider logging in via video. People still like talking to other humans and enjoy seeing their faces. If you are attending a webinar or training, the presenter will feel more comfortable looking at your face. 

Almost everyone feels self-conscious about how they look on a video call. Bad lighting and weird angles can make anyone feel insecure. However, you can help whomever you talk to by using video and interacting with the host person-to-person.   

6. Be Present on Your Call

It is so easy to get distracted when you are on a Zoom call. Not only are you tempted by social media and the rest of the internet, but you also have your pets, your home, and everything else around you. 

Try to be mindful of the presenter and give them your full attention. Eliminate distractions—even if it means turning off your phone and using a social media blocker during that time.  

7. Use Hand Raising and Questions in the Chat Box 

Zoom calls can get frustrating when people blurt out questions, interrupt, and talk over each other. Take advantage of the “Raise Hand” option to let the presenter know you want to speak. You may also want to discuss signals with your other participants to signal directly in the video when you want to speak.

You can also put your question or comment in the chat box for them to address. If the presenter wants you to elaborate, they will ask you to unmute yourself and then will give you time to talk.

8. Create Breaks Between Meetings

A tip for Zoom hosts out there: take breaks between your meetings and calls. If you’re leading multiple trainings or have back-to-back meetings with employees, build at least a 10-minute break between each section. This window allows attendees to stand, stretch, and take a break while also giving you time to recharge—helping to prevent Zoom fatigue.

Zoom can be a great tool to connect with friends, family, and colleagues. However, it helps to be mindful of the other people logging in. Consider how you present yourself and follow these tips for a successful video call.

About the author

Derek Miller
Derek Miller
Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.

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