Opinion and Editorial

Your etiquette counts on Zoom, too

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra
Filed on June 7, 2021

I had written an article on etiquette earlier, but today’s article is on Zoom etiquettes.

Common sense is not so common, remarked Voltaire in 1764 and this hold true till today. What prompts me to write this article is the chaos I see in video conference meetings (the only meetings we seem to be having since more than a year). I shall use the example of Zoom (Nescafe for Coffee).

I had written an article on etiquette earlier, but today’s article is on Zoom etiquettes. Let’s start from the beginning: what is etiquette? It is the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group. There are many types of etiquette. Social etiquette, meeting etiquette, wedding etiquette, business etiquette, eating etiquette, telephone etiquette. We can keep adding to the list because basic manners are required in every field and activity of life.

Just because the platform of a meeting has shifted from real to virtual, doesn’t mean we abandon all etiquette. We would normally knock or ask if we could come in before we entered a meeting room. We would make sure we were on time or better still a few minutes early.

We would not enter a meeting room while talking on the phone or chatting with others. We entered the room with an agenda to contribute to the meeting in some way, could be just listening. We spoke when asked to and did not interrupt others. These were just some simple manners, no rocket science. But I wonder what happened to these? Zoom meetings are a great platform and alternative in the present times. Can we please accord them with the same respect and etiquette?

These are some of the basic tips that I would like to share, since video conferencing services have taken over our daily lives. Practising good video meeting etiquette is critical to ensuring that your meetings are professional, efficient, and valuable.

Prepare for a Zoom meeting just the way you would do for a real time in person one. Jumping straight into a Zoom meeting with zero preparation is never a good idea — especially if you want to look and sound good during the call. You should also try to attend the meeting from a quiet room that has minimal background noise and movement. Do tell other members of the household to please not interrupt unless it’s an emergency.

It is best to only invite people who are required to be there for the meeting purpose. The more people there are on a call, more the chances for something to go wrong — poor connections, audio and video issues, chance for people to interrupt when someone else is speaking.

Dress for the occasion — It might feel a bit strange to dress professionally when you’re working at home, but you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to the way you act — switching from “lounging” mode into “work” mode. Get up, dress up and show up. It is professional to dress for your video conference the way you would for an in-person meeting.

Test video, sound, and internet connection speed. Nothing is more frustrating when it comes to video calls than a slow internet speed, connectivity issues, or malfunctioning hardware. So, one of the most important things to do before joining a Zoom call or hosting one is to make sure your hardware (microphone, speakers and headphones) works and that your internet speeds are optimum. Familiarise yourself with how the Zoom functions work, before a meeting, so that you’re not left fumbling around when the time comes to use them, be it muting the mic, sending files, managing chat options, screen sharing, etc.

Stay on mute if you’re not talking. It is shocking how many Zoom meetings are ruined because of this error/negligence on the part of the attendees. Any kind of background noise can be really distracting during a Zoom meeting — screaming kids, dogs barking, even domestic chatter on what to make for dinner. So, if you aren’t talking, hit mute to silence any unnecessary audio coming from your end.

Don’t multitask, stay focused on the meeting. Show others that you are listening. Show some support for your colleagues through nonverbal cues like a nod or shake your head, smile, give a thumbs up, etc. Don’t get perturbed if your Zoom meeting gets interrupted by your kids, a parcel delivery or something trivial, be understanding. Better still, laugh it off. Nothing like a dash of humour in a meeting that could be serious or boring.

Use the chat function to ask questions. The attendees will want to ask questions during the call. But unlike in a real meeting, it can be tricky to find the right moment to interject without coming across as rude and disrupting the flow of the conversation, so use Zoom’s chat function as a less intrusive way to pose questions, without interrupting anyone who is speaking.

Take your time to leave a Zoom meeting; avoid being abrupt. Don’t just click ‘End Meeting’. Take a minute to say goodbye and give a friendly wave!

I find it hard to believe I am writing an article on saying hello, not interrupting, dressing for the occasion and saying goodbye. We are taught these simple manners in school, the detailed application of which may change with technology, but they remain fundamental throughout our life, no matter on which platform we interact. Most of the content of this article is common sense, alas, which is not so common it seems.

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of Legal Connect

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