Zoom etiquette 101

Marlo Oster

Zoom is now part of our everyday office, or home office, routine. Zoom’s technology ensured that we could all still come together, have meaningful conversations, and collaborate on what needs to get done. 

How can we keep meetings productive, professional, and fun? Well, that comes down to Zoom etiquette. Some of us have probably started to develop new habits that aren’t polite or considerate of others in the digital meeting room. Let’s take a step back and do meetings right! Here are our best tips for proper etiquette for any Zoom meeting, gathered from research and a lot of first-hand experience.

Universal Zoom etiquette best practices

Some etiquette tips apply clear across the board. These tips aren’t specific to hosts or attendees but are general dos and don’ts. For example, you would hope that everyone would give the speaker their attention and come prepared to engage. We all know that doesn’t happen in every meeting, but it’s a good starting point. 

When starting a Zoom meeting, take the same actions you were appearing in person, such as:

  • Silence your phone or leave it in another room. 
  • Take notes and capture action items.
  • Pull together any resources you might need during the meeting. 
  • Review the agenda beforehand and come prepared. 

Zoom etiquette: audio and video dos and don’ts

There are various camps when it comes to managing the audio and video aspects of Zoom. We feel that these guidelines are widely applicable—helping to improve meeting productivity and reinforce good work habits. 

Zoom etiquette: audio and video dos

  • Keep your camera on - unless you have a very good reason not to. 
  • Position your camera at eye level. 
  • Keep your gaze at the camera, as it creates the feeling that you’re looking everyone else in the eye. Avoid the urge to look at anyone else… including yourself. 
  • Mute your microphone when you’re not talking. 

Zoom etiquette: audio and video don’ts

  • Wandering eyes, yes, the eclectic array of collectibles in John’s room is interesting, but leave it for another time. 
  • Multi-task. Jumping from one task or thought to another comes with a switching cost that directly reduces your ability to pay attention or work productively. 
  • Flooding the chat or use file sharing for non-meeting-related information.
  • Interrupt someone else who is talking. 

Always think about your company and team culture. Some leaders may not mind snacking or keeping a cup of coffee nearby, just be sure to hit mute. Others may have rigid rules. When it comes to eating, drinking, and how you dress, turn to your company and team for guidance. 

Zoom etiquette for hosts 

Being a host or meeting facilitator can mean work. Time goes into creating materials and arranging a meeting. It can feel defeating when people show up half-awake, unengaged, or might be trying to tackle other work tasks at the same time. There are some things you can do to lead by example, set clear expectations, and avoid that scenario. Of course, it all starts with preparation. 

Before the Zoom meeting: host tips

To start your preparations, clarify what your event should accomplish and what tools you need for a successful Zoom session. Are you hosting a recurring event such as a one-on-one meeting that will have roughly the same agenda from week to week? Or, are you creating an ad hoc meeting to bring together a committee, or plan quarterly department goals? Managers can use Zoom for everything from daily check-ins to virtual team building! When you start to prepare, pinpoint the purpose of your Zoom event. 

Some of these tips and tools provide the chance to set the standard for good Zoom meeting etiquette, and others help you build good habits among attendees:

  • Source information for your agenda. Depending on the event, this may be working with your team, a subject matter expert, or solo research. 
  • Only invite people who need to participate. With Zoom, more people means more variables. This can also cut down on Zoom fatigue, shut-down the idea that everyone needs to show up for every meeting. 
  • Prepare (and share) an agenda with a clear structure, discussion items, and questions.
  • Share any resources or meeting materials in advance. 
  • Keep the meeting private and set a password. Show people that you respect their privacy and keep the trolls away. 
  • Determine (and find) what tools you’ll need, such as screen sharing (in Security Settings), mute settings, and participation management.

During the Zoom meeting: host tips

  • Manage the room and address disruptive participants. It’s challenging to address disruptiveness live, but it is possible. Address the participant directly, identify the disruptive behavior, and explain your expectations for a collaborative and engaging atmosphere. 
  • Place participants on “Mute” or “Hold” as needed. If someone is struggling to remember to place themselves on mute to cut out background noise, then you might need to do it for them. As a host, you can mute all, mute upon entry, and mute participants individually. This tool is useful when giving everyone a chance to speak or be heard or prompting engagement. 
  • Keep participants engaged by using poll questions, encourage questions, and monitor the chat. If you have more than just a few people in the meeting then it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to interact or contribute. 
  • Schedule breaks and feedback times. In Zoom it’s easy to move from one agenda item to the next. Take a breath between each item to make sure that everyone is ready to move on. 
  • Take slightly longer pauses between sentences or thoughts to give people the chance to speak. Always give the other person, or group, the chance to respond before moving on. Sometimes connection speeds and interruptions at home can lower engagement if the speaker isn’t taking action to give more opportunities to interact. 
  • Use your agenda. The agenda will help you navigate through important topics, action items, and ensure that you address everything you intended to. 

After the Zoom meeting: host tips 

Follow-through is one of the overlooked elements of meeting management. As the host, you should always be the last to leave and if you had an assistant, then take a few minutes to cover key takeaways before jumping off the call. Then, use the standard approach to any meeting by sending out meeting minutes, reviewing assigned action items, or following up if necessary. If you recorded the Zoom event, then be sure to share the recording. 

Zoom etiquette for attendees

Anyone who hosts Zoom meetings knows that half the struggle is managing what you can’t control (ahem... other people). As an attendee, you can probably benefit from a Zoom etiquette brush up too. 

Before the Zoom meeting: attendee tips

Get ready for your meeting ahead of time. Use preview options when going into the meeting to ensure your settings and environment are appropriate. It’s a great opportunity to make sure your camera isn’t pointing at the pile of blankets on your bed. 

You should also open up your blinds or bring over an extra lamp for good lighting. Additionally, you can use the “night mode” on your device to avoid the washed-out computer glow that never happened to come into style.  Don’t forget about Zoom’s Touch Up My Appearance feature. In Zoom’s desktop app, click on your profile picture and navigate to the settings. Select the “Video” tab and check off the “Touch up my appearance” box, then move the slider to what seems best for you.  

Finally, review any shared materials before logging into the meeting. 

During the Zoom meeting: attendee tips 

First, don’t be late. Just like quietly slipping into a conference room, it’s disruptive when you join a video meeting late. 

Second, exercise self-awareness and reduce the chances of bad behavior:

  • Close any browser, tab, app, or software that you won’t need to eliminate distractions. Alternatively, if you’re guilty of running a thousand tabs at once (we are), you can use the Google Chrome extension OneTab or switch to another desktop screen.
  • Take care to limit background noise and stay on mute unless you’re speaking.
  • Always press mute before eating, or at least, don’t eat while you’re talking.
  • Follow directions given by the host. If they want questions in the chat, then use the chat. If there are times set aside for feedback or response, then wait. 

Generally, don’t do anything that might be embarrassing. No one wants to become an internet meme because of a humiliating moment in a meeting. If you want to brush up a bit since we’ve all been shamelessly living out our bad habits at home, George Washington’s Rules of Civility addresses all manner of dodgy habits from nose picking to nail-biting. 

After the Zoom meeting: attendee tips

Are you not sure of what to do after a meeting? You can always thank the host, send over a copy of your notes from the meeting, or add action items to your meeting workspace in Charma! 

Embrace proper Zoom etiquette in your next meeting

The bar was set too low when Zoom became a part of daily work life. Now it’s fair for employees and managers to strive for more effective meetings. As a leader, you’re the one to forge the path and show your dedication to hosting or attending meetings with a high standard for professionalism and shared respect. 

There are many features you can use to help manage participants. From our experience, the best way to start implementing better zoom meeting etiquette is preparation. Building agendas collaboratively, having clear communication channels leading up to the meeting, and a set structure can help create better meeting habits overall. 

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