Daily Press

Etiquette tips for your next virtual gathering

- By Erin Thorburn Tribune News Service

In what feels like no time at all, we went from virtual communicat­ion being a novelty to a need. For those already accustomed to the world of webcams and technology-based gatherings, the transition hasn’t been too jolting.

For others, however, questions and challenges abound — and not simply regarding which buttons on phones and laptops are responsibl­e for any number of outcomes (muting, unmuting, close-ups of your nose, etc.).

Many people find themselves curious about online etiquette. When are pajamas warranted versus wrong in a Zoom gathering? When are little ones and furry friends appropriat­e for a FaceTime call? These are simply a few of the technology-related queries surroundin­g behavioral guidelines for online gatherings.

We turned to business owners, counselors, technology gurus and more to help provide collective insights into the expanded world of virtual communicat­ion and gatherings etiquette, and appropriat­e online conduct.

Are pajamas appropriat­e for a virtual meeting?

Almost all experts unanimousl­y agree that pajamas are a virtual gathering no-no — especially in an online meeting associated with any shred of profession­alism. But getting out of jammies isn’t simply for the benefit of others.

“It’s sloppy to show up to a work meeting in your pajamas,” says Afoma Umesi, editor of Oh So Spotless. “When you’re dressed, you feel more in ‘work mode’ and it shows respect to those with whom you’re meeting. So put some real clothes on, even if it’s just for your top half.”

Sarah Evans, owner of Sevans Strategy and Sevans Digital PR, agrees, stressing the importance of cleaning up for a headshot (at the very least).

“I have found most people are now wearing sweatpants or ‘comfortabl­e’ bottoms and maintainin­g a more profession­al ‘upper half,’ ” Evans says.

Is it OK to eat during a remote gathering?

“Just because you’re doing remote work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it like face-to-face work,” says Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful. “If it’s not OK to eat or wear pajamas during an in-person meeting, then it’s not OK to do so during remote meetings.”

Similar to Steiner’s comment about following the same in-person protocols as you would virtually, most online-meeting aficionado­s say a nod to nibbling all depends on your audience.

“Eating during a remote gathering is not OK unless it’s the concept of the meeting,” says Jovan Milenkovic, co-founder of Kommando Tech. “If it’s an informal meeting with friends, you can do whatever your friends and you are comfortabl­e with.”

There may be another motive in removing munchies from your virtual meeting, according to Morgan Taylor, CMO for LetMeBank.com. “Eating is usually just loud enough to trigger the camera to turn on again and switch back to you. So, while some people think they can sneakily eat a burger, they’re suddenly the ones front and center on everybody’s screen. Nobody wants to suddenly see you eating a burger on screen. Ever.”

What is the online protocol for pets (and other people)?

When it comes to furry friends and family members sharing the limelight in your lens, many people feel there is room to be somewhat lenient — but perhaps not so much in a profession­al context.

“Ask yourself if you would bring your pet to a real-life meeting. If not, follow the same standards online,” says Viktor Sander, a counselor at SocialPro.

“If your furry friend is not going to disrupt your meeting, it’s OK to have them by your side,” Milenkovic adds. “It also depends on the formality of the meeting. If you’re having a meeting with people who expect to have formal discussion­s, you should be just as formal. A safe way would be to give everyone a notice before the session begins, asking for ‘permission’ to have your pet beside you during the meeting.”

What are the guidelines when it comes to sharing and muting?

Proper usage of the mute feature for virtual meetings and events is something about which many polished and practiced virtual-meeting goers are passionate.

“Muting when you’re not actively talking makes the quality of a call better for everybody, as it removes any background noise you may have at your end,” says Ben Taylor, founder of Homeworkin­gClub.com. “If you’re using Zoom on a computer, there’s even a ‘press to talk’ function using the space bar — it’s well worth using.”

Equally important to removing outside distractio­ns by remaining on mute while others are speaking is considerin­g adopting an approach similar to that of Matthew Ross, co-founder and COO of The Slumber Yard.

“We require our employees to use the Zoom chat function to state they have a question or statement first instead of just blurting out whatever they want to say,” Ross says. “When multiple employees are on a video call, it can be a nightmare if everyone is just speaking over one another.”

Are there other etiquette steps to consider prior to placing or joining a video conference?

Yes. Those who frequently organize or attend online video meetings and chats stress the importance of conducting a tech check.

“That one person on the call who keeps shouting ‘Can you hear me?’ is — let’s face it — annoying to everyone else on the call,” Taylor says. “Technical issues do happen, but there’s plenty you can do yourself to ensure your technology is working properly. Skype and Zoom both have calltest functions so you can check whether you are being heard. And make sure you have a decent Wi-Fi signal and enough bandwidth (which you may not have if there are multiple other people in your house streaming HD Netflix.)”

“After checking your communicat­ion device, choose a quiet area for the call,” advises Jacquelyn Youst, president of Pennsylvan­ia Academy of Protocol. “If you are the moderator, make sure everyone has the right number to call to avoid confusion and make sure to inform all the participan­ts about who will be attending the meeting.

“This way, people will know who they will be talking to and what they need to prepare. Just like any meeting, prepare an agenda.”

 ?? PEOPLEIMAG­ES/GETTY ?? No, it’s not OK to wear pajamas or be eating during a virtual meeting.
PEOPLEIMAG­ES/GETTY No, it’s not OK to wear pajamas or be eating during a virtual meeting.

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