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6 not-so-obvious Zoom gaffes you need to watch out for

Posted by Shivali Anand

February 4, 2022    |     3-minute read (570 words)

Zoom mishaps have grown more common as people get increasingly comfortable with remote meetings. Many of us have been privy to an awkward online meeting blunder by this point and know the big no-nos. But it’s worthwhile to examine some of the less-obvious gaffes that might also derail a virtual meeting.

The following is a rundown based on real-life observations made during professional video conversations, with the perpetrators' identities protected for obvious reasons.

  1. Your eyeglasses. Your spectacles might be reflecting your monitor’s display. Depending on what’s on your screen, that could be quite embarrassing. Your manager and everyone else on the call might be able to see your Facebook conversation or Amazon shopping cart. Yes, this actually happened.

  2. Forgetting to exit the Zoom "room." What's the worst that might happen? Consider the following scenario. One of the participants in a problematic video call with a member of the C-suite at a pharmaceutical company went on a profanity-laced outburst about the CEO's "idiocy," only to realize five minutes later that she’d never exited the Zoom room. Not a good look. After each Zoom meeting, double-check that you’ve checked out.

  3. Multitasking with the microphone turned on. In a conversation with a client, an attorney turned off his camera — but failed to turn off his microphone and proceeded to wash dishes. Although it was distracting to the other parties, nobody wanted to humiliate him by telling him to stop. They had to go about their business as if nothing was wrong. Or how about the time a Zoom host was apparently in the car, which became clear to others in the meeting when they heard someone in the background shouting, "This is a f**** highway pal." How do you recover from that? It conveyed to his co-workers that he probably wasn’t paying full attention and undermined his credibility.

  4. Instead of looking at the camera, looking at a screen. People sometimes like to set their camera near their display and look at related documents on their screen. While this is okay, if you continue to glance at the monitor after the talk has moved on and you should be concentrating on the other speakers and looking at the camera, everyone believes you aren't paying attention.

  5. Not having a Zoom background when you're in a busy place. You have no control over what individuals walking behind you might do. Some people, like the roommate who decides now is a good moment to stroll around in their underpants or perform yoga stretches, just have no self-awareness. Always leave a backdrop on for your own privacy and reputation if there’s a chance someone could pass through.

  6. Talking with your eyes partially closed. Some people tend to talk with their eyes partially open, which they can get away with in real life since it gives the impression that they are carefully considering what they are saying. However, depending on the camera position, your viewers may just see the whites of your eyes, which can be very unsettling.
Takeaway

Turn off your monitor, or at least clear anything that might cause an issue if reflected in your glasses. When the videoconference is finished, be 100% sure you sign out completely. If you need to multitask, turn off the microphone. If someone might stroll into the camera's line of sight, use a backdrop. Stay focused on the camera, and keep your eyes open.

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