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How not to do a Zoom meeting

Posted: 15th February 2021

The question everyone is asking right now is ‘How do you do a successful Zoom meeting?’ Of course, the protocols to observe are equally valid on Teams, Slack, Cisco Webex and Big Face Meet Up, which isn’t a thing but should be. But rather than bore you with the finer points of how to run a smooth virtual operation, let’s look at what not to do. Follow these essential tips and your online meeting will be the dysfunctional, disorientating disaster you hoped for.

Step 1: Don’t respond to any meeting requests but turn up anyway. Quickest way to unsettle your host is to give them no idea how many people will be joining. A steady trickle of admissions after the starting time is an excellent habit for you and your team to foster.

Step 2: Make sure you arrive at least two to three minutes after the scheduled time. If you’re hosting the meeting aim for no less than five.

All good so far? Excellent. Now that the meeting is up and running, it’s all about deciding on the exact nature of your participation:

Camera on / microphone off:

This is the ideal setting for the majority, unless you are presenting. Just because your microphone is on mute doesn’t mean you can’t still disrupt the meeting. Regular glances at a second monitor or an irresistible message on your phone will demonstrate an admirable lack of commitment. By all means, have some lunch too. But the best trick to play is to be viewing another window, so everyone can see your strange, detached, dead-eyed stare as you purchase onesies from Asos or that management book on Amazon all the influential people are talking about.

Camera off / microphone on:

This is torture mode for the presenter and other participants as they wonder where those strange noises are coming from. I would thoroughly recommend dipping into a family pack of Doritos, as the intermittent crunching cuts through interminable waffle like nothing else on earth, except nail clippers. Another excellent way to broadcast your apathy is to answer the phone or type lengthy emails or customer reviews of recent Amazon purchases. For maximum effect use nail extensions (available at all good chemists) for that rage-inducing clickety-clack.

Camera off / microphone off:

Set your indifference to max and go for the full sensory blackout – it’s like you’re not even there. You can wander off, have a burrito or watch the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. Better still, it will completely destabilise the person presenting as they wonder who you are and why you view them (ironically, when they can’t view you) with such disdain. Keep your camera off and your disinterest in the call and all those on it will be kept hidden. Snowflakes will say that a human face and a friendly smile help to heighten empathy and authenticity – stuff that may be of some use during a pandemic. That’s utter piffle to you. The computer’s on, but there’s nobody in.

Camera on / microphone on:

This means you are presenting or in active participation mode. Of course, even as a humble viewer, you can bring all the learnings from above to create a symphony of chaos. But what if you’re presenting? Well, even if you have arrived on time and are using all senses currently available that doesn’t mean you can’t sabotage your own moment of glory. If you’re screen-sharing, keep the text really small and have lots of it on every slide. Never go full screen – it’s so over-rated. However, if you’re not screen-sharing and relying solely on the power of personality then make sure your set-up follows the holy trinity:

  1. Sit well away from the camera so that your head is but a tiny orb on someone’s screen.
  2. Sit with your back to a window so that you’re clothed in darkness like an IRA informant.
  3. Make sure the room, and the frame, is filled with visible but highly distracting items like washing, Amazon purchases, and sex toys on a distant shelf.

If you have ignored the above and your phizzog is in view for the entire presentathon, then your body language and repertoire of facial expressions are going to have to work a lot harder. But that’s exhausting. Why bother trying to compensate for the lack of movement and low energy that video calls impose. Instead, elect for a charisma-free, monotone that requires the use of as few facial muscles as possible. And if you remain stock-still, your audience may mistake you for a test card (ask your parents) which will have them nodding off in seconds or dipping into a family bag of Doritos while buying that management book on Amazon all the influential people are talking about.

Michael Hart
Creative Director

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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