Feature Stories

Understanding Zoom Call Etiquette

In the last few months, many of us have found ourselves video-conferencing for the first time. Whether it’s Zoom, FaceTime, Duo, or some other platform, the basics are all the same. You don’t have to be a tech wizard to make the experience effective and pleasurable. So let’s start.

The camera is not everyone’s friend. Fortunately, we can choose positioning and placement. There is no rule you have to show a close-up head shot, although most people do. If you are using a laptop, set it back a bit to show your head and torso. This will be more flattering, as well as friendlier. It looks more like the ‘you’ that your family or co-workers would normally see.

On a smart phone, get back from the camera by setting it up on a solid surface at about eye level or attach it to a tripod. Holding it at arm’s length or at the end of a selfie-stick doesn’t work; no matter how hard you try, it ends up looking like a roller coaster ride on the other end.

Both of these methods avoid one of the most common errors:  having the camera pointed up at you. Nobody wants to look up a nose or study the wrinkles and blemishes of someone’s neck. Why take the time to brush your hair or perfect your make-up, if the viewer is counting your nose hairs?

You can avoid that kind of tinny, bucket-on-your- head sound by using your headset. This gives a clearer, more realistic sound. It will be much more pleasurable for the listener.

Practice, yep, every performance deserves rehearsal. Let’s face it; if you are on video, you are performing. Not necessarily a song and dance, but you want to reassure family you are doing OK or leave a good impression professionally. With a phone, you can simply set everything up, and then flip the view to see yourself. With a computer, do a video conference with just yourself.  Either way, you can get comfortable with what others will be seeing.

Which brings us to staging; pay attention to what the camera shows around you. A tell-tale tissue box can leave a loved one into thinking you are sick. Take note of what you are drinking; that green health potion may look pretty strange to someone else. No eating on camera. And, please, no flushing.

Be comfortable to look comfortable. If you can be in your favorite chair or in front of the fireplace, do it. People are visual. The scene you choose tells whoever is watching a lot about you. It isn’t by accident that all those reporters televising from their homes are sitting at their desks with a wall of books behind them.

Finally, relax, be yourself, and enjoy the experience. While we are living in challenging times, we are also living in an incredible world where it is possible to sit back at home and visit folks hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes (and gardens) in Vermont.  His Boomer Funk columns are available at VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns.

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