Zoom meetings are more popular than ever: With the proliferation of flexible and hybrid work schedules, they’ve become the go-to tool for managers and employees alike to meet when an in-office visit isn’t possible. The increase in Zoom meetings comes with some serious plusses.
Moving meetings to Zoom can cut down on needless travel and office set up, says J.P. Gaston, CEO of The Biz Dojo Inc. And Lora Poepping, president of Plum Coaching & HR Consulting, points out that Zoom meetings open up the doors to out-of-town employees to work at a place that’s not within driving distance. “Zoom is a critical tool in staying connected,” Poepping says.
But Zoom and other video tools like it also have their drawbacks. Virtual meetings inspire “less opportunity for on-the-fly collaboration, and nothing substitutes for face-time in an office,” says Poepping. Such meetings can lead to slower decision making, Gaston says, and too many Zoom calls can quickly fill up an employee’s calendar, leaving little time for productivity and work.
“There has also been an overuse of Zoom, or, as we all know it, ‘Zoom fatigue,’” explains Jill Tipograph, co-founder of Early Stage Careers. When technology fails – such as spotty WiFi or choppy microphones – a meeting can become awkward or thwarted entirely, Tipograph says.
But with this ultimate list of Zoom dos and don’ts, you and your team can focus on the plus sides of virtual meetings and avoid its negatives. Read on to find out what to do (and not do) on Zoom.
Do: Set camera expectations.
If you’re hosting the Zoom meeting, be sure to let attendees know whether they should show up with their cameras on, advises Poepping. “Some employees will be delighted to see their colleagues” and have the opportunity to bond with the team, she says, while others “may prefer cameras off due to family circumstances. The heads up will help them to appropriately prepare.”
Don’t: Leave your microphone on.
When you’re not actively engaged in a conversation, it’s best to keep your microphone off, says Joanna Lovering, executive coach, workplace psychologist, and founder of Copper + Rise. “I realize the quote of the year is ‘you're on mute’ because people forget to unmute themselves,” she says, but “that is no excuse for forgetting rule No. 1 of basic Zoom etiquette: mute yourself when you’re not talking. You’d be surprised what sounds your microphone can pick up.”
Do: Prepare a meeting agenda.
Be sure to come prepared and provide an agenda. Doing so “ensures the team comes to the call mentally prepared for the conversation at hand,” Gaston says. “It can also ensure you invite the right individuals; some team members may notice key stakeholders missing from the invite.
Don’t: Plan every second of the meeting.
While you want a meeting agenda, you also don’t want to pack the meeting so full that you don’t leave time for questions, conversation, and other interactions. “My recommendation for a one-hour meeting is that 30 minutes should be planned and the rest used as question-and-answer or conversation time, with some buffer time for late joiners and next steps,” Gaston suggests.
Do: Pay attention when others are done talking.
If you’d like to join in on the conversation, “pay careful attention to when the current speaker is finishing,” says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. Why? “There
can be slight delays in the transmissions,” she says, and you don’t want to interrupt someone.
Don’t: Panic during technical glitches.
Even with proper preparation, technology sometimes fails. “Videos will freeze, the sound will disappear, and calls will drop,” says Anne deBruin Sample, CEO of Navigate Forward. That’s why it’s smart to “ discuss how you will handle any issue, whether it’s starting a new video session, finishing via phone, or switching platforms” at the beginning of your Zoom meeting, she says.
Do: Keep it short.
“‘Zoom fatigue’ is real,” says deBruin Sample, which is why she suggests keeping Zoom calls to 90 minutes or less. “Face-to-face interactions boost our energy, but too many virtual meetings can have the opposite effect,” she says. “Shorter is always better with online meetings.”
Don’t: Let an employee bogart the call.
“They are always employees who take over the Zoom call,” warns Poepping. Employees have different reasons for stealing the show: They may be trying to impress a manager, she says, or they may not have the social skills to read the proverbial room. Either way, if you have a team member who’s apt to take over, “a manager may want to approach that employee in advance and mention that they want to allow other employees to show up and shine,” she says.
Do: Be mindful of the time.
If you book a 30-minute meeting, Gaston says you shouldn’t take 31 minutes of people’s time. “Most individuals have multiple calls, often back-to-back,” he says. “Consider how many team members are on the call with you and book the appropriate amount of time for the discussion you expect to have. Stick to your agenda and if you need more time, then book a follow-up call.”
Don’t: Write anything unkind in a chat.
This is obvious, but it’s worth a reminder: Don’t say anything in a chat that you wouldn’t say in the meeting itself. “As with most things on the internet, do not consider this chat private,” Smith says. “The person hosting the meeting has the ability to download, read, and save the chat.”
Do: Check your camera angle.
“Even after more than18 months of quarantine, people are still struggling with backdrops and camera angles,” says Poepping. If you’re unsure how to choose a good angle, Poepping recommends heading to YouTube and watching a tutorial. By fixing your camera angle and setting a professional backdrop, you can leave a better impression on managers, she explains.
Don’t: Forget to look into the camera.
It can feel strange to look at your computer’s camera rather than at its screen. But “while looking at the camera may feel awkward at first, the dividends are worth it,” says Lovering. “When you’re having a conversation with someone in-person, you use eye contact as an active listening tool [and] that eye contact signals to the other person that you’re present, you’re listening, and you care. To recreate those all-important feelings on a Zoom call, you must look into the camera so that it seems as though you’re giving the audience eye contact.” Lovering suggests placing a sticker or Post-It note next to the camera so that you’ll look at it rather than at the screen.
Do: Plan interactive elements into the meeting.
Interactive elements keep your teammates engaged throughout the call and prevent them from getting too bored. “Few of us enjoy ‘watching’ meetings,” says Tipograph. “If we’re invited, we want to participate.” She suggests that you assign various aspects of the meeting to different team members or consider taking votes, polls, or asking planned questions during the call.
Don’t: Don't forget to wear pants.
“One would think that this wouldn’t need to be said,” Lovering says, “but clearly, from all the crazy videos we’ve seen on the internet, it does.” It may be more comfortable to wear yoga pants or sweatpants, and that’s OK. But no pants aren’t an option. “It’s Murphy's Law: The day you need to pick up a pen from the floor is the day you decide to take the risk of no pants,” she says.
Do: Encourage mindfulness.
Ahead of your call, “ask the team to set aside distractions for your meeting,” advises Gaston. If you have planned a longer meeting, he also encourages you to plan for a break. “If you show respect for the individual and their time, they will do the same for you,” Gaston explains. “Assure the team you will focus the conversation, but also require their dedicated focus and to put away their phone, email, and other distractions for your time together for everyone’s sake.”
Don’t be afraid to ask if choosing Zoom was the right call.
At the outset of a Zoom meeting, explain why you chose Zoom and “clarify what level of engagement you need from the group,” says Tipograph. “This will give people an opportunity at the end of the meeting to see if your rationale lived up to the vision you put forth.” Then she encourages you to “have the courage to ask: ‘Did we need to do this via Zoom today?’”