Zoom etiquette: do’s and don’ts

Dec 16, 2020

Learning new technologies is about more than the features. In this world of remote working, we have to learn a whole new level of etiquette too.

Just as you’d keep some information off social media and you wouldn’t (shouldn’t?) use your work account for personal emails, there are many written and unwritten rules on how to act on a Zoom call.

Hosting a meeting or attending a virtual event? Read our guide to Zoom etiquette to keep it smooth, safe and professional.

A bit of extra effort goes a long way. Before the Zoom call, DO:


Consider your surroundings

Before joining any virtual call, arrange the space behind you. If you can, sit in a quiet and lit space, facing light from a nearby window if possible. If the light is behind you, you’ll be harder to see. Plain, white backgrounds are the least distracting for other attendees.

If your space isn’t ideal for camera, create a virtual background. Select an appropriate background in the Virtual Background tab in Settings. You want something that fits the tone of the call, so while palm trees are great for a fun event, they’re not ideal for a business meeting.

One for the don’t list: we recommend not discussing each other’s real-life backgrounds. Remember, people have a range of domestic situations, so avoid saying anything personal or intrusive.


Test everything’s working

You should check the hardware on your computer is working. Zoom has a feature that allows you to check that video and audio settings are functioning as they should. It will also let you know if your internet connection is too weak.

Angle your camera
If you don’t have a laptop stand, prop your computer or device on a book. You’ll want it to be level with your head so you’re not giving a clear shot of your nostrils or looking up to other participants. This gets you a little closer to the sense of making eye-contact around a desk.

Dress for the occasion

We know it’s tempting to wear lounge clothes, but it’s not the best way to represent yourself or your colleagues. You should dress as you would in person to show you’re taking the meeting seriously. Unless you’re standing up though, you should be OK pairing a smart shirt with casual joggers.

Of course, if you’re attending a fun virtual event, dress as you would if you were going out. If everyone makes an effort, it adds to the sense of occasion.


Pro tip: Solid colours tend to appear clearer over Zoom. Avoid lots of lines and patterns.


Prepare

It’s bad form to come to a real-life meeting unprepared, so don’t join a Zoom call unprepared. If you’re presenting slides, have all your other tabs closed down and check you know how to share your screen. If you’re the host, go through our handbook to make sure everything runs smoothly.


On the Zoom call, DO:

Get there on time

Meeting or event, get there on time. If the host has enabled the waiting room feature, the meeting usually won’t begin until everyone’s there. Even if you’re an anonymous audience member for a webinar, the host will keep an eye on numbers before starting. If you’re running late for a work meeting, join the call with your video and audio off and use the chat function to let them know you’ll be a few minutes.

Only unmute yourself when you have something to say

If you’re a participant, not an audience member, stay on mute when it’s not your turn. This gets rid of any background noise. Only one person can speak at a time for things to run smoothly. When you want to speak, it’s best to find a gap in the conversation or wait for a prompt from the host. You should wait your turn to avoid disruption. Some people set their calls to switch to whoever’s talking. If you’re not muted, this means they’ll get your face every time you fiddle with a pen or tap your keyboard.

Pro tip: If you’re about to speak, remember to unmute yourself. It sounds obvious, but can be hard to remember when you’re engaged in discussion. Be sure to look at the screen so you can see if people are signalling at you to unmute.


Be succinct and pause a lot

More so than in real life, know what you’re about to say and say it very clearly. Pausing smooths lags in connection and encourages others to speak. If you’re chairing an event and asking speakers questions, make them clear and concise. If you’re talking to several speakers, direct your question at one person at a time. As soon as your guest starts to answer the question, mute yourself. Overlapping voices can be very confusing for the audience.


Show you're engaged

This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to zone out after staring at a computer screen all day. Remind yourself to make simple gestures. Nod your head or smile when a fellow participant is speaking. Resist the temptation to talk with your hands. Sudden movements impact the video quality. Use gentle, non-verbal cues as often as possible.

Be a good host

If you’re the host, make sure you’re following a clear check list. Arrive to the meeting first. Make sure all invited participants are there. End the meeting when everyone has said goodbye – this saves people who are slow to leave the meeting from hanging around on screen. Hosts should familiarise themselves with the privacy and in-meeting features on Zoom. This helps participants feel protected online. [link to safety blog]


Golden rule: If you wouldn’t do it in person don’t do it over Zoom. Don’t...

Take photos of your Zoom call and attendees

Everyone does it on social media, but if you’re attending a private virtual event don't take photos without everyone’s express permission. Some people feel vulnerable with photos and Zoom as it is so don't add to their discomfort. More than this, you risk sharing personal information, whether that’s a credit card in the background or family photos.

Make virtual meeting and events public

If your event is private, don’t share the meeting link or password.

Eat on you Zoom call

This is fine if you’re watching a webinar and no one can see or hear you, but not ideal for virtual meetings. Unless it’s a breakfast or lunch get-together, nobody wants to watch you eat lunch during a meeting. If you are eating or slurping tea, the mute button is of course your friend.


Get up in the middle of the meeting

This depends on the nature of the meeting, but especially for shorter meetings, avoid getting up if you can avoid it. If you do, let participants know and turn your video off.

Pro tip: Create a couple of profile picture options for when your video’s off. One could be your photo with ‘BRB’ across it, and the other can be for when you’re off-camera but still in the room and able to engage. This might be if you want privacy while breastfeeding for example, or if you have builders in for home renovations.

Fiddle around

When your microphone's on, avoid clicking on your pen or typing. Your microphone picks up these sounds and will distract other participants. If you’re using wired earphones with an inbuilt microphone, remember that the mic is on the lead and makes a noise whenever you fiddle with it.

Start private chats

You wouldn’t turn to the person next to you while an in-meeting person is in session. Save the small talk for after the meeting and respect the privacy of the other guests. If you're hosting a virtual event, keep an eye on how attendees are using the chat function so that everyone feels safe. Remove attendees who are breaking codes of conduct.

Engage in inappropriate activity

Even if your video is off and your microphone is on mute, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in public.

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