Embarrassing Online Meeting Faux Pas You Better Not Make workplace

Updated Aug 1st, 2022 by   Nicolas Zenker

We’re all used to virtual meetings by now, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily have a perfect grasp on Zoom etiquette. In general, the ground rules for Zoom meetings are nearly identical to the ground rules for real-world meetings, but there are a few key differences it’s helpful to be aware of. That’s why we’ve brought together this list of embarrassing online meeting faux pas and some tips to make sure you can avoid them.

  1. Forgetting to mute yourself
    When it comes to virtual meetings, there’s one golden rule — if you’re not speaking, you should be on mute. There are a few cases where it’s okay to bend this rule, for instance, if you have a very small meeting and everyone has agreed to stay unmuted. But for the most part, it’s a serious faux pas to leave yourself unmuted. Why?

For starters, you may think you’re being silent, but your mic could be picking up ambient noise in your apartment or home and broadcasting it to your coworkers. Plus, if you forget you’re unmuted and make a sudden sound, it can be seriously disruptive. Finally, it’s a sign of respect to your coworkers to mute yourself when not speaking, giving them plenty of space to air their thoughts and ideas.

  1. Distracting backgrounds
    In a virtual meeting, people won’t pay too much attention to your background, unless there’s something strange about it. Whether that’s a towel hanging over a chair, a pile of unfolded laundry, or just a general sense of clutter, letting your coworkers get a glimpse of these backgrounds can be embarrassing and distracting. The best backgrounds are simple — a blank wall, a picture or painting, or a bookcase. The same is true of virtual backgrounds. Aim for something simple and neutral — although you may get a quick laugh with an aquarium background, it can quickly get distracting once the meeting is underway.
  2. Unprofessional attire
    One benefit of working from home is that you can be productive while relaxing in comfortable clothes. If you plan on being in a virtual meeting, however, it’s important to dress professionally. That typically means business casual, though you should feel free to dress up or down based on your office’s standard dress code. In other words, no t-shirts, hoodies, pajama tops, ill-fitting or dirty clothing. When it comes to pajama bottoms though, that’s completely up to you!

The same goes for your overall appearance. If you have a 9 a.m. virtual meeting, it’s not a great idea to roll out of bed and right into your call. Sure, we’ve all done it before, but we shouldn’t make a habit of it! Make sure to brush your hair and smooth out any other aspects of your appearance, just as you would if you were heading into the office.

  1. Zoning out
    Letting your attention wander during a meeting is always a faux pas, and it’s even easier to do — and notice — during virtual meetings. Resist the urge to check your email or respond to a text during a meeting, even if they’re work-related. Zoning out, even if it’s an accident, can leave your coworkers feeling disrespected.

That’s why it’s a good idea to practice signaling attention when you’re in a virtual meeting. Maintaining a clear, upright posture, looking directly into the camera, and avoiding any large, unnecessary movements are all great strategies for showing that you’re in the zone.

  1. Failing to send an invite
    You’ve set a time for your online meeting, prepped for it, and are waiting in the chatroom when suddenly you get a flurry of last-minute emails. Nobody can seem to find the link for the meeting! Or picture this: You’ve set up a great event and people have shown plenty of interest, but day of the attendance ends up being much lower than expected. What exactly happened?

In all likelihood, you forgot to send an invite. Of course, you can always set yourself a reminder to send out an invite once you’ve chosen a time for your meeting. But the easiest way to avoid this common faux pas is to take advantage of a calendar management service like AddEvent. The right calendar management tool makes it easy to send an email with a simple add-to-calendar button that works with Google Calendar, Outlook, and more.

  1. Having an inappropriate username or photo
    Many video chat platforms, including Zoom and Skype, give you the option of choosing a display name and a photo for your profile. Sometimes, you can end up with a display name or photo that’s a little bit less professional, especially if you’ve recently started using a personal profile for professional purposes.

Double-check your display name and photo in your profile settings and change them if need be. Ideally, your display name should be your first and last name. Though just your first name is fine if your office likes to keep things casual. For your photograph, use something professional. Instead of a simple selfie, find or take a professional photograph of yourself that’s well-lit and shows your head and shoulders. A simple, neutral background is best.

  1. Having the meeting timer run out
    Depending on which video conference tool you’re using, your meetings may have built-in time limits. For instance, many Zoom meetings will end automatically after 40 minutes. It goes without saying that if you’re in charge of a meeting and this happens, it can be pretty embarrassing. Even if you can bring everybody back to the meeting quickly and painlessly, the interruption can seriously derail your conversation and make it difficult to get back on track.

There are a few things you can do ahead of time to make sure this doesn’t happen. Most video conference tools that have a time limit will also offer a subscription service that enables you to host longer meetings. Alternatively, you can research what your meeting time limit will be, and make sure your meeting won’t run overtime. This can also be helpful in keeping the meeting focused and productive.

  1. Leaving your camera off
    We’ve all been guilty of leaving our camera off during a virtual meeting. Maybe you were tired, in an inconvenient location, or were hoping to get some other work done while the meeting was in progress. Although some of these excuses may be better than others, it’s a best practice to always have your camera on during a virtual meeting.

Leaving your camera off automatically signals that you’re not paying complete attention to the meeting — even if you are! It’s a general sign of respect to others in the meeting to turn your camera on. Leaving your camera off is tough on the meeting’s speakers as well because talking to a bunch of blank squares can make it much more challenging to deliver an engaging presentation.

  1. Eating or drinking
    Although most workplaces won’t frown on sipping from a cup of coffee during a virtual meeting, and it’s perfectly okay to take a sip of water, it’s generally best to avoid eating or drinking during a virtual meeting. Eating or drinking can be distracting for other meeting members and can be a sign you’re not fully engaged with the meeting, especially if you forgot to mute yourself. Nobody wants to deal with the embarrassment of their coworkers hearing them chomping away at a salad!
  2. Forgetting to raise your hand
    It’s a virtual meeting, after all, so you won’t really be raising your hand. But most video chat platforms have a “raise hand” feature that signals to others that you have something to contribute to the conversation.

Good meeting etiquette means being careful not to talk over people or cut them off. That can be difficult over video, especially if different people have varying internet connection speeds. Raising your hand will let everyone know that you intend to speak soon and will help them give you space to air your ideas and thoughts.

Cutting someone off in a virtual meeting is always going to be a little awkward. If your team knows you’re supposed to be using the “raise hand” feature, it can turn into a serious faux pas.

These are just 10 of the best reminders we can give you to master virtual meetings and not fall into an embarrassing situation. Stay present in the moment and always be professional.

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