On March 10, 2020, Jamaica recorded her first case of the Coronavirus and subsequently, we were launched into the world of zoom meetings, virtual events and online webinars. Zoom links were being emailed and whatsapped left, right and centre. It was tricky and tedious for many to adapt to this new world or remote work and homeschooling.
Many unsuspecting participants went viral for all the wrong reasons, from using the bathroom on camera, being naked and forgetting to disable the camera, breaking wind while unmute and attending meetings in pyjamas. Quite frankly, there were too many to recall. And while they provided entertainment for many, especially during a time of uncertainty, job loss, economic downfall and depression, truthfully it reminded many of us of what not to do. Yet, almost 2 years in and participants still have trouble navigating the presentation of themselves during a zoom meeting or any other virtual meeting for that matter. So I decided to make a cheat sheet that hopefully will help anyone who has trouble with online etiquette or presentation.
Oh, and whether you are presenting to a group or just attending, it is just as important for you to show up and show out with the understanding that although the environment has changed, the professional expectations haven’t. Your personal and/or professional brand is ALWAYS on display.
Charge your devices
This may seem very simple, but you would be surprised to know how many people show up to their zoom meetings late or have their presentations interrupted because they didn’t charge their devices the night before. It’s 8:00 a.m. and your computer is now shutting down because it has 1% battery life *rolls eyes*. Zoom meetings consume a lot of power because of the camera and that battery power depletes rapidly once you launch your meeting. I have found that charging devices from the night before helps mitigate or avoid unnecessary issues that can make you seem unprofessional. PRO TIP: I bought a UPS so that in the event electricity went, I have a power source to give me at least one hour.
Be Early For Your Zoom Meetings
Be punctual! Not on time, but early. The same approach you would hopefully take when attending an in-person meeting should be the same for a virtual meeting. Therefore, I would recommend that you actually add the zoom meeting to your calendar. Some persons don’t RSVP or add to the calendar and as such lose out on the benefit of alerts and other notifications.
Additionally, try to set up your “meeting space” the night before. I tend to place my laptop on my laptop stand and attach my webcam from the night before to avoid the last-minute rush. It’s one less thing to worry about. Even if the meeting is scheduled for a particular time, I tend to sign in 15-30 minutes earlier. I would rather wait for the host to let me in, rather than enter late.
Check your Lighting and Frame
Unless you are trying to conceal your identity by doing what’s called a silhouette interview, you might want to sit somewhere that provides natural lighting (window or door) or invest in a lamp or light source (ring light) that can light your face adequately. Light your face from the front, not the side because that casts a shadow on one side of your face. The quality of your on-screen presentation diminishes in the eyes of your participants who can’t see you clearly and they quickly lose interest in what you have to say.
While we are on the topic of your face, frame your face before you go on camera. i.e. try to ensure that you are in the centre of your display screen. Your audience doesn’t want to see half of a head or face. Of similar importance, is your audience’s vantage point. Raise your laptop preferably on a laptop stand. (Some persons use a stack of books but depending on the length of the meeting, that can overheat your device). Why raise it? Because we don’t want to see your brains through your nostrils. If you are presenting and seeing your “nose holes” (as we would say in Jamaica), it means that your audience is seeing the same thing. Raise your device to eye level, you should never be looking down into your device. I wrote a blog outlining all my affordable equipment that enhance my online video presentation
Check your internet connection
No one likes to get caught frozen with mouth agape and eyes looking all crazy, it makes for a perfect meme. Or worse- you get bumped off! And yet, that happens all the time and can totally detract from a presentation you are delivering. Close all windows/tabs on your computer so that you aren’t pressuring your WI-FI unnecessarily and try to situate yourself near your router. I personally plug directly into the ethernet because I will be damned if I get interrupted while hosting my online events. If your router is too far from you, you can always purchase an extra-long ethernet cable.
Check Your Background
Many of us may not live in mansions that offer us specially designated areas like offices, dens, mini-libraries, conference rooms etc. We understand that some of us live in small studios or may share quarters with a housemate or multiple persons but we really need you to check your background area. Try your best to find a neutral space that doesn’t distract or compete for your participants’ attention. It is advised to find a space with the least noise possible, as well as clutter. It could be as innocent as having family photos in the background (your audience will try to identify everyone in those photos) to things like seeing your unmade bed, dirty clothes on the floor, bathroom towel hanging on a door, broken blinds or peeling paint. People will side-eye you, screenshot and your background will end up being discussed in a private WhatsApp group.
PRO TIP: Some of you constantly disappear into your virtual backgrounds because you aren’t using green screens. Portable green screens have become very popular to mitigate that unsightly experience. I simply bought green material from a fabric store and attached it to my photo studio backdrop support stand.
Everyone wants to go viral, but go viral for the right reasons. You wouldn’t wear pyjamas to your office, so why would you attend a zoom meeting in them? Why are you showing up on camera in flexi-rods, bonnets and du-rags? Why are we showing up with crusties in our eye corners and bridles at our mouths? Some participants are seen lying in bed, on camera! Jesus take the wheel! If you aren’t feeling well, you should sit it out rather than showing up like that. You will come across as unprofessional and discourteous. Dress appropriately and I will go a step further to say, dress from head to toe.
Some participants sometimes forget that they aren’t fully dressed. Only to move or stand while on camera while in underwear. Fam, you won’t die if you dress fully for a few hours. PRO- TIP: Be ready! Even if it is said to be an off-camera meeting, never get caught unprepared. If your chairman or boss requests an impromptu on-camera meeting, emerge looking as sharp as a stepping razor. You aren’t dressing for your boss, you are dressing for your brand. Self-pride is a beautiful thing.
Eating During Zoom Meetings
I get it, you are at home relaxing and comfortable but crunch, crunch…slurp ain’t it! Typically, during in-person meetings, we don’t eat. Long Board meetings or gatherings that have been scheduled as breakfast, lunch or late-night meetings permit eating. Other than that, we tend to schedule our food breaks outside meeting hours. Eating hominy porridge or sipping a Heineken at 9:00 a.m. during your virtual zoom meeting, can look unprofessional. Attendees will question your leadership abilities if they see you eating a chicken lunch or crunching Cheetos during a meeting.
If it’s an off-camera meeting and you are muted, knock yourself out. Just ensure that if you enable the camera, there is no food hoarded in the corners of your mouth (you are not a hamster) or food in your teeth. I personally don’t like to take unnecessary risks, so I tend to eat during my breaks.
Mute Your MIC During Zoom Meetings
Shhh!!! Thou shalt surely mute thyself in zoom meetings. How many times have we heard hosts trying to advise persons to mute their mics? And yet audience member’s ears are assaulted with plates, washing machines, arguments, phone conversations, the TV and in some cases rude romps *SMH*. Mute your mics so that your background noise doesn’t interrupt or disrupt the meeting.
There may be lots more! Feel free to add your 2 cents in the comments. They will help the community to avoid potentially embarrassing moments that can stain their personal or professional brands.