Samantha Pover: Is your Microsoft Teams/Zoom etiquette slipping?

A post on LinkedIn this week has alluded to the fact that after nearly a year of conducting our working life (and social life) via Zoom or Teams – standards may be falling!

It’s hard to believe that we’ve all been working in our ‘comfies’ for almost a year now – but have you changed how you attend and/or lead meetings with your colleagues, and have your standards slipped just a teeny bit?

I confess as I write this post I am half dressed (still not managed to lose the PJ bottoms at 1.47pm) hair is brushed though, and background tidied, to take part in a full ‘Teams’ meeting led by my senior manager. The temptation to not turn on the camera option is ever present, but can leave the other parties feeling a little lonely on the screen. So what is the ‘proper way’ to conduct oneself during a virtual business meeting? And what challenges is this new (ish) way of working bringing up?

Social media these days is full of memes and stories of Zoom ‘faux pars’! The phrase ‘you’re on mute’ surely must be the most common words uttered on a daily basis! Zoom is tiring; it is not a natural environment for social creatures like us. So is it any wonder that after back to back meetings consisting of ‘I can’t hear you, un-mute yourself!’ standards will slip a little?

However it seems some of us are taking this slack attitude to a whole other level! LinkedIn this week referred to the British Columbia’s education minister who wants a school trustee to “resign immediately” after he smoked, sipped from a wine glass and apparently nodded off during an official Zoom meeting.

This follows an incident where he briefly posted a slur on Facebook. According to a legal representative who spoke with the technology and culture website employers generally can’t take action against someone for smoking at their desk at home, but there are other Zoom grey areas stirring debate, including eating during meetings and co-workers’ babies making frequent appearances.

So for those of you who feel decorum is lacking somewhat here are some Zoom Etiquette tips to get you back on track. So put the baby down, save the vino for after hours and let’s get some good old-fashioned British etiquette back on our screens!

Virtual Etiquette Tips – for Zoom and Microsoft Teams

Networking and engaging with fellow peers is an integral part of our business community. However there is no doubt that traditional networking will still have to be put on hold for the foreseeable and that virtual meetings are now the norm. Whether you are a ‘Zoomer’ or Microsoft Teams convert there are some age-old guidelines that comprise good meeting etiquette.

Some of the most common-sense meeting decorum — avoiding eating and drinking, minding your body language, and being respectful to whoever is speaking — are no-brainers. So here are eight additional etiquette tips to help ensure a focused and effective virtual meeting:

1. Make sure to introduce everyone at the beginning
Just like a real meeting or social event, you wouldn’t initiate a conversation between two acquaintances who haven’t met without introducing them. The same practice applies to a virtual meeting. Be sure to introduce all parties you are hosting at the beginning to create a welcoming environment and stimulate engagement.

2. Never talk over someone if they are in mid conversation
Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute and avoid ‘talking over’ people. This is why the mute button is effective in a larger meeting such as our Coffee Clubs. If you feel the need to comment a raised hand is a polite way of joining the conversation or type a question or comment. There is a great function on Zoom which uses the space bar as a temporary “unmute” button. You can press it, talk and then release and you’re straight back on mute.

3. Ensure that you have a clean, work-appropriate background
You want your attendees’ focus to be on the meeting content, not your messy office or your amazing art collection. By having a clean setting with work-appropriate art and decorations, you reduce the chance that attendees will get distracted. You should also try to attend the meeting from a quiet area that has minimal background noise and movement. Zoom’s virtual background feature is an easy way to eliminate background distractions when you have to meet in a messy or busy location.

4. Look into the camera when talking instead of looking at yourself
If you’re looking at yourself on the screen while you’re talking, it will seem like your attention is elsewhere. Direct eye contact into the camera while speaking gives attendees the impression that you are looking at them rather than off to the side, which creates an environment where everyone feels engaged and present in the conversation. Be sure to position your web camera and monitor at eye level so you can look into the camera and simulate that eye-to-eye connection with other attendees.

5. Eliminate distractions and focus on the agenda.
Notifications from messaging applications, ringtones, and applications running on your desktop can be distracting, which can make your attendees feel disrespected and undervalued. Mitigating these distractions helps keep the meeting focused and free from interruption.

6. Be aware of your audio and video settings.
Check whether your microphone is unmuted and that your camera is on to ensure that all attendees can hear you and see you when you speak. If you notice that someone in the meeting is speaking but their microphone is muted, you can alert them that they are muted by requesting that they unmute their audio in the Manage Participants tab. You also can manage how you start and join meetings — with video on, entering a meeting muted, etc. — in your Zoom Meeting Settings.

7. Only invite meeting participants who need to be there.
Inviting co-workers who don’t need to participate or make decisions can be detrimental to the quality of the meeting. Because you can send other stakeholders a summary of the meeting via Zoom Chat, you can limit the attendee list and keep the meeting streamlined. As an invitee, make sure to review any meeting invites you receive to determine whether you actually need to attend. If not, request a recording of the meeting or a summary to get the info you need.

8. If you’re the host, stick around
The general rule for meeting hosts: Wait until everyone else has left the meeting before hanging up, so attendees can leave at their own pace and get any final words in before disconnecting. Zoom will assign an alternate host if the original host exits first, but it’s not a good look. A host leaving everyone else in the meeting is much like bailing on your own party.

9. Practice good video meeting etiquette
You don’t want to be the person in your organisation known for scheduling lots of unproductive meetings. Practicing good video meeting etiquette is critical to ensuring that your meetings are professional, efficient, and valuable.

Samantha Pover is the Business Growth and Relationship Manager at Visit Lincoln.