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man watching a Zoom meeting

Zoom Calls: “To Wait or Not to Wait” & Other Online Meeting Etiquette

We live in a “Zoom World” where many interactions we previously had face-to-face such as client meetings, sales calls, and job interviews are now done over video conferencing.

Of course, we are mindful in our embrace of this new technology that we do not become a meme like rural Texas lawyer, Rod Ponton, who accidentally attended a 394th Judicial District Court proceeding online stuck on a Zoom kitten filter.

“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings,” Judge Roy Ferguson, presiding over the case, says.

“I’m here live. I’m not a cat,” replies the lawyer … through the animated lips of a wide-eyed, forlorn-looking cat.

Zoom is certainly a new digital frontier – though not one where cats represent people in court – that poses new takes on age-old etiquette questions such as “to wait or not to wait” as in how long should we stay in our Zoom Call before jumping off when others do not show up?

To think that some of us had never heard of Zoom prior to the pandemic.

Video Meetings “Zoom” to Popularity During the Pandemic

Zoom Meetings, the web conferencing platform, has been around since 2013 but it skyrocketed to popularity during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic as much of the world in lockdown needed an easy online way to communicate.

By April 2020, Zoom reached the milestone of 300 million daily meeting participants, and according to the software now registers over 3.3 trillion annual meeting minutes.

While we may use Skype or WebEx or Microsoft Teams video conferencing software, we all know what someone means when they say, “let’s set up a Zoom call.”

And people certainly did with the Zoom mobile app downloaded an astonishing 485 million times in 2020. Everybody was “Zooming” somebody.

“There are only a few examples of corporate names becoming a part of our daily idiom and a verb in such a short period of time,” Jeffrey Cole wrote for the Center for the Digital Future in September 2020. “As March began, few people had ever heard of Zoom, and many had never been part of a video conference. Six months later Zoom has become a verb, and Zooming has become a part of daily life.”

But what are the “unwritten rules” and are we following them?

Can You Hear Me Now? The Etiquette of Zoom

With the popularity of Zoom, guides on how to behave in online meetings have popped up from “8 Zoom Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow” to “6 Zoom Rules You Probably Broke at Work Today”.

If we had to pick one rule to rule them all then it would simply be: treat Zoom calls like a normal in-person meeting in a conference room and do not do anything different online than you would do IRL.

Four essential tips for Zoom Etiquette:

  1. If You Are On Time …  You Are Late! Maybe your parents, a high school coach or your first boss gave you these words of wisdom, but they remain true and especially for Zoom calls. It can take time to get set-up, log in and be ready for your call so if you start clicking links at 3 p.m. for your 3 p.m. Zoom call, you are going to be late. If everybody heed this advice, then we would not have to worry about how long to wait for a no-show.
  2. 3 Most Important Zoom Controls: Mute, Mute, Mute: Seriously folks, hit the mute button when you start the call and spare the rest of the participants barking dogs, screaming children, the leaf blower next door and the other cacophony that is your daily life. And do not forget to unmute when you want to speak – even CEOs forget to unmute!
  3. Lights, Action, Camera! Mute your audio, yes, but please turn on your camera. Zoom Calls are less engaging when you have your video off – you are basically on an old school phone call while the rest are Zooming. If you do have to duck off camera for a second – your oldest child is dangling their sibling over the balcony perhaps – then let others know you are turning off your camera briefly.
  4. Put Your Best Face Forward: Double-check your camera angle and make sure you are presenting a nice, natural-looking shot level into the camera. Maintain eye contact during the call – multitasking such as checking your email, eating, or drinking, will only distract others.

And how long to wait for that no show? Try 5-10-15:

  • 5 minutes for informative meetings or social calls
  • 10 minutes when meeting with an equal
  • 15 minutes when Zooming with a client or your boss!

And remember, turn off that cat filter!