Remote work is now the new normal. As a result, video conferencing is now a crucial part of daily work lives.
Now that we rely on Zoom (or Google Chat, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and so on) to meet and communicate virtually, many teams forget to set standards for how to use, communicate, and present themselves on Zoom.
Here are some tips that will not only help you prevent “Zoom fatigue” but also keep meetings productive and efficient—and also maintain your professionalism.
How Zoom Works
In a nutshell, Zoom is an excellent online tool for accommodating small or large group meetings in either audio-only or audio/video presentations and settings. However, despite its simplicity, it can accommodate fluent HD video conferencing for groups as large as 1,000 people across many dispersed locations.
Zoom is equipped with many features that make it easy for everyone to participate in real-time communications. The moderator maintains control over the other participants’ abilities to be heard and can remove or mute single or multiple users at will. This useful feature comes in handy when hosting large live webinars.
Additionally, there is a Chrome extension, Microsoft Outlook plugin, and Firefox add-on that make this user-focused app accessible to nearly everyone. It operates on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. In addition to its affordability, these are just a few reasons why Zoom has become the go-to video conferencing tool.
Stop “Zooming” Around
The pandemic brought about an entirely new paradigm of meetings. For example, some remote team members don’t treat Zoom meetings like actual meetings. In fact, I can recall joining a Zoom meeting with a client while she was cooking chili in her kitchen. It can also be easy to blow off scheduled Zoom meetings or be late for one reason or another. The sense of “presence” on Zoom differs from face-to-face settings.
Additionally, we’ve also blurred the boundaries of holding meetings. Team members and leaders are often quick to just throw out Zoom links without thinking about the purpose and goal of the meeting, to begin with.
On the other hand, other teams got creative with using Zoom. For example, a group of application developers and software engineers who worked very closely together in their former office setting kept an active Zoom window open all day to chat, collaborate, and problem solve.
Of course, how you use Zoom greatly depends on your job. However, regardless of what you do for a living or the frequency at which you work from home, here are some tips for using Zoom.
- DO test your technology BEFORE the meeting. Nothing screams inexperience quite like tech issues, such as, “Can you hear me?” “Wait… how’s this? Can you hear me now?” “Sorry, I can’t get my camera to work.” It doesn’t start the meeting off on a positive note, and it can be avoided. Take two minutes before the start of a Zoom meeting to make sure A) you can get connected, B) your audio and video are working. These extra two minutes will save your professionalism. Guaranteed.
- DO show up on time. A Zoom meeting should be treated like any other meeting. Show up on time.
- DO get dressed. Getting up and getting dressed in the morning helps maintain professionalism while working at home. It shows your audience that you take your job seriously and that you can be productive while working from home. (If you want to get dressed but wear pajama pants and slippers underneath your desk, then to each their own.)
(Ladies, if you are having a bad hair day or you aren’t wearing makeup, adjust your Zoom filters to polish up your appearance. This is like putting on makeup with the click of a button.)
- DO pay attention to your background. No one wants to see your pile of laundry, boxes, or an unmade bed in the background. Take the time to arrange your home office or workspace, so your background is pleasant to look at.
If you are in the middle of reorganizing or remodeling, then choose a virtual background. If possible, be sure to also avoid sitting in front of windows as the natural light can cause a glare while on Zoom.
- DO turn that frown upside down. Even if you think no one notices, they do.
Keep this in mind at the very end of a Zoom meeting. As you say “goodbye” to your meeting attendees and stop the Zoom meeting, remember to keep smiling. If you immediately frown or roll your eyes, your meeting attendees could catch a glimpse of this as they leave the meeting, which you probably don’t want.
- DO look directly at the speaker when it’s your turn to speak, not at yourself. It’s more obvious than you think!)
- DO record the meeting—and be sure to tell your audience and attendees why.
- DO mute yourself. If you are attending a meeting in a setting with a lot of background noise, be respectful of others and mute yourself. Hearing your noise is distracting to the speaker and the other attendees.
- DO UN-mute yourself when it’s your turn to speak. We all forget to do this occasionally, but this is a classic “Zoom newb” mistake you want to avoid.
- DO turn on your video camera as often as possible and when appropriate, especially if other attendees have their cameras on. This shows your audience and speaker that you are present.
If you are having an “off” day or feeling under the weather and don’t feel you look or feel your best, then turn off your camera, but be sure to tell the other meeting attendees why.
- DO NOT multi-task. It’s more obvious than you think!
- DO NOT send text messages. If you use a Macbook or another Apple computer, and you use the iMessage app to text on your computer during the day, be sure to mute your notifications, so it isn’t obvious that you are texting during a Zoom meeting.
- DO NOT send a Zoom meeting invite without an agenda. Respect your colleagues, and help meeting attendees understand the purpose of your meeting so they can show up prepared.
How to Avoid Zoom Fatigue
If there are days when you spend nearly your entire day on Zoom, then it is easy to get overwhelmed. I have days like this all the time. There’s nothing worse than spending an entire day bouncing from Zoom to Zoom to Zoom, one meeting after another, while also seeing the wave of Slack notifications, text messages, phone calls, and emails that come in. You know your work is just piling up, but you can’t get to it because, well, you’re on Zoom.
Regardless of your role, the truth is you can take control of your meeting schedule. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Take a process-centric approach to meetings by developing a meeting framework. Here is also a meeting framework template you can use to ensure that your meetings are productive and efficient. It also helps teams determine when to schedule a meeting and if a meeting is warranted in the first place. If not, then resort to email, Slack, or another instant chat application or medium.
2. Decline meetings without an agenda. Every meeting invite should have an agenda. Period. If it doesn’t, you are well within your right to decline it.
3. Ask if you really need to be in a meeting. Don’t be afraid to ask your team lead or meeting organizer if you really need to be in the meeting. You can also communicate to your team lead that if you decline the meeting, you will be able to get that high-priority project finished.
4. Take the time to prepare. For meetings you absolutely do need to attend, take at least 30-60 minutes to prepare. This can include things like practicing your presentation, running through the agenda, or making a list of questions to ask or address.
5. Block off “no meeting” periods during the day so you can focus on getting real work done. You can also designate a specific “no meeting” day each week.
6. Stick to the agenda and stay on topic. Friendly chit-chat is okay, but keep an eye on the time and the talking points on the agenda.
7. Use an automated note-taker tool. As a consultant, coach, and project manager, I am on Zoom nearly all day, every day, and I am often the meeting facilitator. In my personal and professional opinion, nothing is worse than trying to facilitate the meeting, present, and take notes—and take notes accurately. This is when Fathom changed my life.
Fathom is an AI-notetaker that integrates directly with Zoom and automatically records meetings and provides complete transcripts. Fathom also has a desktop app that allows you to make notes in real-time (if you choose to), and categorize them as action items, insights, red flags, and others. These categories and notes later show up in the transcript after the meeting is completed.
Get Up and Zoom
As we continue to adapt to a remote workforce, it is fair to say that many employers and organizations will want to understand your ability and comfort level with working virtually. In fact, don’t be surprised if questions related to this begin to pop up in job interviews.
Additionally, in your current role, even if it is “acceptable” to have a casual remote work environment, you want to stand out for your professionalism and your ability to master technology. Do your colleagues—and your career—a favor by practicing your Zoom etiquette.