If you’d asked me two months ago if I were an expert on Zoom I would have told you ‘I’ve used it a couple of times, but no’. How times change. Now, I certainly don’t profess to be an ‘expert’ on Zoom but I’m certainly putting enough hours on it to becoming a professional Zoom-er!
I currently find myself Zooming to deliver national training sessions, Zooming for work meetings, Zooming to speak to family, Zooming to socialise with friends, Zooming to join quizzes, and basically Zooming for the sheer hell of it. Zoom and I are in a committed relationship at this stage.
But there’s something that really bothers me about Zoom, and that’s the other participants. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. None of us were expecting to be in the situation we currently find ourselves and we certainly didn’t expect to have to become au fait with Zoom technology and etiquette overnight. However, we are in this situation and we’ve had many weeks and Zooms to learn a few key rules…but some people don’t seem to have got the memo.
Below I have written what I feel are the key etiquette tips and a few handy tricks, to make the most out of your Zoom experience. Please note, this is not a guide to starting a Zoom/how to use the tool; for those types of tips, please see: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/categories/200101697
Rule #1: Be Prepared To Join
One of the most annoying, distracting, and disruptive things a participant can do, is join without being ready. There are several reasons for this: one, any sound you make pulls the sound off the person currently speaking and allocates the primary sound source to you; the latecomer who is likely rattling and rustling as you settle into the call. Two, it’s hard to focus on the existing conversation if someone is joining and hasn’t set their camera up yet – the rest of us get to go on a nauseating tour of your home/desk/wherever and it can give people motion sickness.
So how can you make sure you’re not ‘that guy’? Easy, be prepared to join. Start by entering the call a few minutes ahead of schedule, make sure your camera is on and that you are centre of the screen. Make sure your eyeline is clear and you have good lighting too. If you’re on a mobile phone, find a stand, don’t hold your phone; no one wants to see up your nostrils. For example:
How Zoom Opens:
Vs. After some small adjustments:
Next, check your surroundings. Do you have a drink to hand? Are you sitting straight and comfortably? Is the background behind you distracting or clean & clear? Is the surface your laptop/phone is on stable? Have you turned your phone (or other devices) to silent? All these things matter – be prepared.
If you’re struggling to find a plain backdrop, don’t worry, you can always use a Zoom background to blank out the distracting space behind you. Simply click the upward arrow next to ‘Stop Video’ > ‘Choose Virtual Background’ > + > ‘Add Image’ > and find the image you want to upload. Once you’re happy with your selection, click the red ‘X’ to enter the full-screen mode and your new background will appear behind you. (See below)
If you are struggling for background ideas, or sourcing royalty/copyright free images, then we have made 40 backdrops (including this one) for you to use, for free: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/m8ll9oqkgqdbgup/AABeaQ0wlO3r4kspKbZpDrVea?dl=0
When you upload a background, it will appear as a mirror image, don’t worry, it will be the correct way around for the people looking at you.
If you use our backgrounds, you will see our logo but this will not be visible to other participants if you are sat in the correct central position; we’ve done that on purpose 😉
Rule #2: Mute Yourself
Next, mute yourself from the outset to avoid stealing sound. Nothing is more distracting or annoying than someone rustling and stealing the audio from the person speaking. It is important you also don’t eat on your Zoom, chewing, crunching, wrappers, etc. all contribute to distracting noise; plus, it’s visually unappealing too.
When joining a call, you can always wave instead of saying ‘hello’ when others join the meeting. Or, simply unmute yourself by pressing and holding space bar as you speak.
Rule #3: Speak When Spoken To
Now that you’re on mute anyway, this next bit should be easy: stop speaking over people. It’s important you let those speaking know that you are listening, but every ‘yes’, ‘um’, ‘ah’ steals the main audio. Please try nodding and smiling instead.
Rule #4: Wave Your Hand For Attention
This next rule may feel a little strange to start with, but it makes the world of difference to everyone on the Zoom. It’s time to pretend you’re in school and you want the teacher’s attention – wave your hand! Or, if you’re really uncomfortable with that, use the ‘chat’ feature to let the group know you’d like to speak.
Rule #5: Remember You’re On Camera
Now, this might sound silly, lots of people seem to forget they’re on camera on Zoom. Luckily for me, I’m yet to see any naked or half-dressed appearances, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if I did. You don’t want to be like my fellow director, who on her first-ever Zoom, decided to prepare for the meeting by having a quick loo break but also to check out the Zoom app at the same time. Needless to say, she nearly joined us in the most embarrassing situation of all! Fortunately for her, she realised just in time and ended the call.
So, please remember you are on camera: dress for the occasion (wear trousers), check your surroundings (is there a bra drying on the radiator behind you?), smile, nod, and look engaged with the conversation. Even glances at your phone or at what other people may be doing around you (off-camera), can be very distracting for the other participants on the Zoom. Stay focused.
Pro tip: wear an outer layer that you can easily take off. If you get too hot or cold, you want to be able to easily slip your cardigan/jacket on and off; it’s hard to discreetly take a jumper off without looking like you’re about to flash the entire group on Zoom. I have started turning the radiator off near where I sit, too. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than being stuck on a Zoom for an hour whilst you slowly melt away because the central heating has kicked in 2 minutes into the call!
I hope you find these ‘rules’ helpful and useful, please comment below with any other etiquette suggestions you have!
Below I have also put together a little pro Zooming checklist to help.
Best of Zooming,
- Invest in a headset with a built-in microphone for clear audio.
- Make sure your laptop is plugged into a power source.
- Make sure your wifi is strong and that you are using the latest version of Zoom’s software.
- Make sure you a wearing professional clothing and an easily removable outer layer.
- Make sure other members of your household know you will be starting a Zoom.
- Turn off notifications on your phone.
- Decide where you will sit.
- Set a customised background.
- Join the Zoom a few minutes early to make sure you’re settled and prepared.
- Make sure you’re muted but that your camera is on.