By Anne Evenson
Show your coworkers your best working-from home face and nothing else.
Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have transformed how we interact with friends, family and coworkers these days. Inevitably, with the fusion of our homes and workplaces, our personal and professional boundaries are beginning to blur, sometimes leading to awkward, and occasionally hilarious, professional situations.
These tools are essential to helping us come together during these stressful times, so it’s important to understand how to contribute to a successful meeting without making an utter fool of yourself. Whether you’re the host or an attendee, there are several ways to ensure that your virtual gathering is rewarding and productive for everyone without turning into a carnival sideshow.
Test Your Gear
Ensure a quality video call by checking your equipment to make sure that everything is in good working order. Preview your webcam and microphone using the Photo Booth app on a Mac and Sound Settings on Windows. Zoom is just one of many virtual meeting platforms getting heavy usage right now, and they all function differently.
Internet bandwidth in many areas is slower than usual due to the high volume of people who are staying home and using the internet, so it’s critical to check your internet speeds. Close any non-essential applications on your computer to maintain optimal software functionality. If lagging or skipping becomes an issue, use your computer to access video while dialing in by phone. Taking these preventative measures will guarantee that you look like a well-heeled and technically proficient human.
Protect Your Meeting
If you are the meeting host, send your Zoom session link only to those people who need to be present at your meeting. Never make your private meeting public. Anyone who has access to your meeting link can attend, including internet trolls who can share or post objectionable or inappropriate content, otherwise known as “Zoombombing.” You can avoid this nightmare scenario by creating a password for your meeting and only sharing it with the people you’ve invited.
You can lock your meeting while it’s in progress to prevent any new attendees from connecting, even if they have the meeting ID and password. While you’re in the meeting, click Participants at the bottom of the window and click the Lock Meeting button in the pop-up window. If there are rude, disorderly, or partially clothed participants in your meeting, you have the power to eject them.Visit the Participants menu, hover over an attendee’s name, and click Remove. They will not be able to return to the meeting unless you allow them to do so, which will make you feel all-powerful.
Participate Like a Pro
During group meetings, its good practice to mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking. Find a quiet spot and be mindful of background noise such as children screaming bloody murder, cats and dogs living together in mutual disharmony, or toilet noises of any kind. Avoid actions that create additional sound, such as rustling papers or eruptions of trapped air, while your microphone is not muted. Know when and how to mute your microphone quickly with the spacebar.
If you’re using a webcam, make sure to position it at eye level and look directly into the camera while talking. Don’t look at yourself on the screen while speaking, otherwise you will appear to be gazing off to the side, and everyone knows that side-eye makes people nervous. Also, be aware of your background lighting. Don’t sit in front of a bright window, or else you will display as a dark silhouette like a mob informant being interviewed on TV. You may also want to dim your overhead light. If you’re in a messy room or would rather not show your collection of sexy garden gnomes, Zoom offers some fun virtual backgrounds that you can turn on in the Control Toolbar at the bottom of the meeting window. You can also download some fun face filters to replace yourself on Zoom, but beware that you don’t become trapped as a potato for the duration of your meeting, especially if you are the boss. Being a potato boss instantly removes all the respectability and credibility that you’ve worked so hard to achieve all these many years.
Focus on the call, and don’t check your email, text messages, or nose hairs during the session. Avoid distractions by turning off notifications, switching your phone to silent, and closing or minimizing apps that are running in the background. And for the love of Jennifer, please don’t take your laptop to the bathroom with you.
If you plan to share content during the meeting, prepare your files, links, and screen to share before the session begins, and don’t forget to close the tab you were using to search for hemorrhoid cream. Remember to leave the meeting when the call is complete, and if you’re the meeting host, wait until everyone has left the meeting before signing off and muttering obscenities.
Finally, try not to work out on your elliptical or shout at your children during the meeting. Inform your co-inhabitants that your meeting timeslot is not a clothing-optional period. If you wear pants, brush your hair, and do your best to avoid cat-butt, your peers will be amazed by your consummate professionalism during these difficult and trying times.
Anne Evenson is a marketing specialist and copy editor working in Austin, Texas. She holds a BFA in Fibers and Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute.
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