The Top 8 Rules of Zoom Etiquette
Zoom etiquette rules seem simple, but because we tend to apply conventional wisdom to Zoom meetings, we often mess up. To avoid making a (newly established) faux pas, we should really keep some things in mind.
A year ago, we were scrambling to figure out how to use Zoom and survive our day-to-day lives without in-person meetings. Today, things are very different. We’ve adjusted (as humans do) and mastered the technique of social-distanced sessions. Or have we?
In reality, Zoom has a whole set of rules that some might not be aware of. Before the global pandemic, virtual meetings were a futuristic thing that a handful of offices practiced. But thanks to said global events, we are not living in a reality that somewhat bastardizes the famous saying — the future is now.
Do We Really Need Zoom Etiquette?
As mentioned, Zoom rules are common sense. However, they do differ from typical office (or school) etiquette, which confuses many people. Not to mention, without rules, there’s only chaos. And although that chaos might seem orderly and not a big deal to some, rules are essential. We have to maintain some modicum of decorum, at least.
So, yes — we do need Zoom etiquette.
8 Zoom Etiquette Rules to Keep In Mind Before and During Meetings
Some Zoom rules are self-explanatory, and they mirror the rules you’d follow in formal meetings. Don’t be late, don’t talk about unrelated things, and don’t do personal stuff during the session are some that need no explaining.
However, there are others that might need an explanation or a few or that aren’t something you ever thought about before. Here are the top eight.
1. Ensure Privacy
Before you do anything else, prepare for your Zoom meeting and make sure you have enough privacy. If you live alone, then all you really have to do is ensure your pets (if you have them) don’t try to crash your meeting.
However, if you share your living space (and thus your WFH office) with other people, you have to ensure that you are the only one in the household attending the meeting.
So, if you have an office, make sure the door is closed. If you don’t, ask the other members of your household to stay off-camera and, if possible, out of earshot.
Aside from ensuring physical privacy, make sure you also have virtual privacy. Secure your meetings and, if you’re hosting them, make them private. Also, control what you share and what other members can share. The screen-share feature is handy but only when used on purpose. Accidental screen shares are tedious, and they interrupt the flow of the meeting.
2. Turn the Camera On
Some people think that online meetings mean they don’t have to actually have face-to-face meetings in terms of showing their face. And, sure, working from home means that we can be a bit more comfortable when working and that we don’t have to pay as much attention to what we look like.
However, one of the basic Zoom etiquette rules is to turn the camera on during meetings. Unless you have a good reason not to show your face, it’s bad form to just leave your avatar staring at other meeting attendees.
Keeping your camera off is impersonal, and it makes it harder for other participants to remember that there is, in fact, a real person behind your avatar. Do them the courtesy of actually showing your face.
3. Control the Noise
Ambient noise is a massive issue with virtual meetings. Although technical difficulties are understandable and can happen to anyone, it’s good form to prepare before the meeting. Check your microphone to see if it actually works, and make sure you use headphones so you can’t clearly hear everyone else.
Furthermore, take control of the noise that might interfere and pick a quiet place to set up for your meeting (if possible). If not, then minimize the noise as much as you can by talking clearly into the microphone. Of course, don’t shout.
4. Look the Part
As mentioned, attending meetings while looking like you just rolled out of bed is terrible form. You’d make yourself look presentable for an in-person meeting, right? Well, how is Zoom different?
It really isn’t, and although you don’t have to look as if you’ve stepped off a runway, you can’t really look disheveled either. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a business casual look. For more info, check out our short list of beauty tips for video meetings.
Of course, if your office had a more relaxed dress code before switching to online meetings, then you can wear your casual wear. But don’t wear PJs. No matter how laid back everyone is, that’s a silly move.
5. And Act Appropriate
Try not to do anything in online meetings that you wouldn’t do in in-person meetings. So, don’t get up from your seat to go to the bathroom or grab something. When you go off-screen, your seat remains empty, which can confuse the person who’s speaking and disrupt the flow.
Furthermore, don’t snack while in a meeting. Even if you’re muted (and you really should be) and try to be stealthy about it, people will notice. You wouldn’t munch on something in the middle of a conference room, right?
Drinks that come in mugs or glasses are alright, but try to be discreet about it. Avoid anything that comes with a straw. You’ll look silly and childish.
6. (Don’t) Talk Over Other People
Zoom meetings often have a delay to them, especially if your or other people’s connection isn’t ideal. That’s why everyone must wait their turn to speak. Too many voices at once will definitely sound weird and inaudible to most participants. It’s also why it’s crucial that people who aren’t speaking at that precise moment have their microphones muted.
However, this is a tricky rule. Although you shouldn’t interrupt people while they’re speaking, waiting on your turn might last for the entire meeting because you can’t give out the same social cues that you’d like to say something as you could in a regular meeting.
So, one of the rules of Zoom etiquette is to learn when and how to interrupt people. If an attendee is talking for too long or has gone on a tangent, interrupt them to pull the meeting back on the course it was supposed to be on.
Going off mute is a good sign that you’d like to say something and a cue to the meeting moderator that they should pull you into the conversation. However, when you do click that dreaded mute button, make sure you stay silent until it’s actually your turn to speak.
7. Keep an Eye on the Clock
Zoom meetings tend to get drawn out. To avoid that, make a schedule and talking points for the meeting. If you’re running the meeting, make sure there’s not too much idle chit-chat at the beginning or the end. You have to respect other people’s time. Your Zoom meeting might not be the only thing they have on the agenda for that day.
8. No Multitasking!
You might think that you’re stealthy and discreet about your multitasking during Zoom meetings, but trust us; you aren’t. "Zoning out“ during zoom meetings is a very common problem and it requires significant effort to stay focused.
You have to at least look present and engaged. That means you shouldn’t open up ten other tabs during a meeting to catch up on the news, social media, or your other work. Be present and give the meeting and all its participants your full attention.
Helpful Zoom Tips
Aside from these vital eight rules of Zoom etiquette, we also have some tips that might help you have a more productive meeting. If nothing else, they’ll help you (and the other participants) have a more pleasant meeting.
Preparation Is Vital
We already mentioned that technical difficulties are a regular occurrence. And, while you can’t do much to avoid them, it’s not like you can’t do anything. Do your own tech support before each meeting to ensure everything will work properly once the meeting actually starts. If you’re attending your first Zoom meeting (unlikely, but possible), then get acquainted with the app’s layout and the rules beforehand.
Let There Be Light
If you’re wondering if your meeting space should be well lit or if ambient light is a better option, the answer is — the more light, the better. Depending on the quality of your camera, other attendees might have trouble seeing you if you don’t have appropriate lighting.
Natural lighting will always be a safe bet, provided you stay out of direct, harsh sunlight.
Get a Good Stand
If your using your phone for zoom meetings getting a good cell phone stand for your desk is a must. There are several types of stands on the market.
Whether you want a stationery phone stand that just sits on your desk or an adjustable phone stand that attaches to your phone, like the Flickstick, a stand can really make video meetings of all kinds much easier to prepare for and conduct.
Eye Contact Is a Must
When you’re speaking during the meeting, try to maintain eye contact with your camera. It’s normal that your eyes wander on the screen or even beyond it, but put some energy into talking to the camera. That will give the other participants the illusion you’re making eye contact with them. In turn, that makes the whole meeting more personal and less virtual.
The Mute Button Is Your Friend
We’ve already mentioned this a few times, but we really must repeat ourselves. Being on mute when you aren’t speaking is an absolute Zoom must.
If You’re Hosting, Be a Gracious Host
If you’re just a participant, you can say your goodbyes and click out of the meeting as soon as it’s over. However, if you’re the host, then you must be the last person to leave.
A Few Parting Words
There you have it, folks — Zoom etiquette 101 in all its glory. Although some of these rules sound like common sense, not everyone follows them. We often forget ourselves when we’re meeting with people online, which is how we get the Zoom horror stories that have been circulating the web for the past year or so.
To avoid being the protagonist of one of those, follow our Zoom etiquette rules. They’ll make you a better host, participant, and a co-worker!