When’s the last time you wandered out of a board meeting to go to the loo while the CEO was talking, or strolled into the kitchen and made yourself a cup of tea while your team leader was rambling? When last did you check your Facebook while a colleague was conducting a weekly status update? We wouldn’t do it in reality, so why do we feel we can do it online?
A screen seems to provide an imaginary safety-shield that allows us to behave in ways we wouldn’t usually behave. It’s a bit like people who tweeze their nose hairs in their cars in peak hour traffic. The laptop screen has become the car windshield of online meetings. Or is it the fact that we are more comfortable in the familiar surroundings of our own homes, so we behave as though our colleagues are members of our family or, literally, part of the furniture? Whatever it is, there have been a number of hilarious and not-so-hilarious videos doing the rounds. Perhaps you yourself have had an embarrassing experience in an online meeting. The fact is that, although we have been forced to adopt new ways of communicating, we haven’t been given a list of do’s and don’ts. Remember that business etiquette course your boss made you attend, or that meeting decorum module that was part of your MBA?
If only there was one for online meetings!
As you know, ITEC Central now offers online meetings through Starleaf. And, in true ITEC Central style, we are always willing to offer assistance, so we’ve put together a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts for online meetings.
You wouldn’t wander off, bend over and start examining a stain on the boardroom carpet mid-meeting at the office, so don’t do it in an online meeting. If you spot something that needs your attention in the house, make a note and attend to it later. Not only does it distract your colleagues when you’re moving around, you might also be blissfully unaware that they are getting an unwanted eyeful of parts of you they’ve never seen that close up before.
GET COMFORTABLE, BUT NOT TOO COMFY
Everyone knows you’re at home, so you don’t need to put on a suit and tie, find a chair that looks like an office chair and whip out that whiteboard you once bought for no apparent reason. But, lounging on the Fatsak with your kitty-ear onesie and fluffy slippers on, is not OK. Unless you’ve been asked to attend in themed dress-up, don’t.
NO KICK BACK
As we mentioned, treating your colleagues like they’re part of the furniture is unwise. Seeing someone’s soles (foot or shoe) coming towards the screen as they casually put their feet up on the desk next to their laptop can be alarming to say the least. Even if you’re wearing your very best brogues, no one wants to see the bottom of them.
CAN THE UPSHOT
Unless you are an ENT specialist and in a conference call with your fellow ENTs, avoid the nasal passage low-angle shot. Because your laptop is on the desk below face level, this shot is the default. Try some tricks like placing the laptop on a stack of books to give a better angle.
IGNORE THE CALL OF NATURE
There have been way too many humiliating incidents that are now being broadcast around the world. Don’t become one of them. Just as you would in an actual real-life meeting, if nature comes a-knocking, just put it on hold! You wouldn’t say, “Hey guys, follow me” and traipse off to the loo with your entire team in tow at the office, so why do it at home?
In meetings, you sometimes get to eat a biscuit and drink your tea. And yes, that’s ok online too. The difference is that, in meetings your colleagues are usually a little way off. Now, you’re up close and personal with that screen cam. So, when you chomp into your crunchie everyone is concentrating on the crumb dangling from your lip; when you sip your tea, they’re getting a good view of your nasal passages (refer to CAN THE UPSHOT). Also, a cookie and tea is one thing, but try to have lunch offline. Watching someone navigate their way round a juicy dagwood or a bowl of spag bol is not conducive to online concentration.
PLAY IT COOL- HUMOUR ALWAYS WINS THE DAY
Tell your family in advance if you’re having an online meeting and ask them to stay out of the room. Having said that, we have all become more tolerant of our new circumstances, so if your Great Dane nonchalantly wanders into the room, don’t panic and try to hide him. Consider introducing him as your new PA.
So, there you have it, your guide to online meeting etiquette.
Stay safe and stay safely online!