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Zoom etiquette: How to video call without losing your cool

Zoom is the omnipresent video calling service that has become a household name ever since the first lockdown was instituted. But even after all this time, have you accustomed yourself to it yet? Here are the rules you should definitely follow to avoid causing absolute havoc on your next work call.

Lockdown is back in the UK, and therefore so is Zoom. The two arrive hand-in-hand, like those sinister sisters from The Shining, and yet somehow appearing to be even more unnatural. But for now we want to focus on the good things – like human interaction without masked faces – and give our tips on how to avoid the bad and downright ugly sides of the video call service so that you can get the most out of it on your business meetings, chats with friends or even virtual dates. Here’s the rundown:

Camera Position

First thing’s first! When you’re setting up your laptop to make a Zoom call, remember where the camera is pointing. You can even check this out with your webcam in advance of the meeting starting, not just to make sure that your face is clearly visible, but also so you don’t have give your callmates a very unflattering, off-putting angle of yourself.

In other words, nobody wants to see up your nostrils. Nobody. And if your face is far too close, it’s almost intimidating – a bit like having a conference call with that guy at the pub who’s had a few too many and is eager to tell you about how your generation just isn’t seizing the day!


Also when you’re putting together your set-up, think about what others can see behind you. For most of us, a plain background will do just fine – it makes your face easier to see and won’t serve as a distraction.

However, if you’re called to give your expertise on Newsnight then it seems compulsory to have a fully laden bookshelf just over your shoulder but make sure to clear it of your trashy airport paperbacks, and replace them with your unread French philosophy textbooks instead.

But whatever you do, make sure there’s nothing embarrassing or incriminating in the background – or any opportunity for unexpected guests to join you. Remember the journalist in Korea who was interrupted by his toddler walking in? Cute, but not very professional.


Mute Responsibly

As with well-behaved Victorian children, you will be required to be seen and not heard during certain periods on many Zoom business calls. So remember to mute your microphone to cut out any distracting noise. And then remember when you are called on to speak, unmute the mic again – or simply wait until everyone takes it upon themselves to remind you in a mix of embarrassed mumbles and unsubtle sign language. 

And most importantly… don’t get your bits out

The New Yorker is a high quality magazine, the sort you’d like your friends to catch you reading by chance. There’s also something you definitely wouldn’t like your friends to catch you doing by chance, and that’s what happened to New Yorker journalist Jeffrey Toobin.

Thinking his video was switched off, Toobin proceeded to get his “Toob” out, and after days of embarrassing coverage of the incident he was accordingly fired. 

We know that after months of working from home that some boundaries get blurred… but not this one, please. This is a boundary that must stay erect for all our sakes. Wait, not like that!


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