Zoom Etiquette for Hosts, Trainers & Participants

Have you been Zooming?  Many of us who are working from home have relied heavily on the Zoom platform for face-to-face meetings with friends, family, colleagues and clients during the last few weeks of this rahui.  (I've a preference for using rahui rather than lockdown because rahui is about prohibiting an activity or area temporarily to protect a resource.  While we are under rahui we are honouring the earth, protecting the people and nourishing the spirit all for the greater good).   Let's get back to Zoom ...

Like it or not, Zoom, like any other meeting forum works best when there are a few agreements in place.  Your face-to-face meetings will often have an agenda, a time frame and a few behavioural practices such as one person speaking at a time, devices off, and so on, and Zoom is no different. 

Given the amount of time we’re spending on Zoom and are likely to be in the coming weeks, I thought it might be useful to collate all of the hints and tips I’ve collected over the last month in one place for easy reference for you.  Trial and error is always a good place to start.  And, if you have a few pointers to reduce some of the errors, then you’ll deliver a well-run session and feel professional while doing it.  I hope you find these helpful. 

The following list is for meeting hosts or facilitators running a Zoom meeting or training.  Once you’ve completed your karakia (prayer or incantation), and introduced yourself, you might want to share these etiquette guidelines at the beginning of your session:

  1. Familiarisation.  Before starting the session, check your participants are all familiar with the Zoom platform.  I’ve been opening my sessions a half hour earlier so that new participants have a little time to familiarise themselves with the features such as mute and chat and get comfortable before we start. 
  1. Mute!  Always ask participants to mute their microphone when they’re not speaking.  Many computers, laptops and phones have microphones that are sensitive to minor noises, so that what seems like a vague background sound can become ditracting interference for other participants on the call. 
  1. Chat Box. Let participants know they can use the chat box for questions.  As the facilitator or trainer, you’ll need to remember to leave the chat box open on your screen and periodically check it as you progress through your session.  Remember to you can respond to everyone, or individuals and your participants might want to know this as well. 
  1. Resources.  Encourage participants to have a pen and paper for notes before they start, as well as a tea, coffee or water.  Make sure you’ve got a cup or glass of warm water to keep yourself going as well. If you’re facilitating a meeting, ensure that your participants have any required notes or documents in front of them before you start.  Another good reason to be online a little earlier.  
  1. Contingency plan. Outline your contingency plan for an outage or potential internet disruption.  Sometimes the internet signal can drop out in the middle of a session either at your end or you may lose someone on your call.  What’s your plan?  If you’ve set up the Zoom session you can assign another host, or nominate someone to facilitate discussion and questions until you can resume your connection.  Remember to let participants know that they can reconnect to the call if they are disconnected.
  1. Recordings and screen shots. Confirm whether you’ll be recording the session and whether screen shots are allowed.  You wouldn’t usually take photos in a meeting or record it covertly, so ensure that you let your participants know if this is your intention.  If you’re planning on recording the session, let your participants know when you email out the invitation to attend and obtain their express permission to share the recording if that’s what you intend to do.
  1. Mobile phones.  Remind everyone to pop their mobile phone on silent. 
  1. Outline timings & programme.  Confirm time frames for the session, whether there will be a recess for a comfort stop and a cup of tea refill, your planned finish time and remember to outline your session structure or agenda. 
  1. Introductions.  Depending on the type of session you’re hosting, you may wish to invite participants to introduce themselves.  Ensure you have allowed time for this in your session planning as some individuals will be concise and succinct, and others may take longer.  Remember to outline what you want them to cover off in their introduction.
  1. Hang around after.  As the host, make sure you allow time to remain on-line afterwards to take any private questions or to chat.

If you have any other brilliant ideas for delivering a Zoom session that I’ve missed, please do let me know and I’ll add them in.  A couple of things I've thought about since creating the list above, is these agreements/protocols/etiquettes, could be entered into the chat box before you start so that latecomers can read them as they enter into the session.  That said, there's also another tool on Zoom that allows you to lock the session once you've started, which prevents latecomers joining and potentially disrupting your flow.  

Regardless of whether you’re a host/facilitator or a participant on a Zoom session, there’s a few general rules of thumb that apply to everyone. 

General Zoom Meeting Etiquette

  • Set yourself up in a private room or location.  Ensure you have lighting on your face so that you can be seen – this can be as simple as facing the window or light source rather than having your back towards it.
  • Position yourself so that you can be seen from the chest upwards – you want to maintain a good distance from the camera so that you’re not right in people’s faces. 
  • Adjust your camera so you're at eye level or looking slightly upwards.
  • Use ear pods or head phones to ensure you can hear clearly.  These can also cut out excess background noise, and prevent others from hearing the call.  You may decide against this if you're in a private room.
  • Join the meeting early to allow time to check your audio and video before the official start time
  • Ensure you've got a work-appropriate background or use a virtual background.
  • Dress appropriately for the meeting.  Check the guidelines before the meeting if you’re unsure.  Pants are usually recommended!!   
  • Leave your camera on during the session unless the session suggests you turn it off, or you discuss with participants why you’re turning it off.
  • If you need to leave the session for any reason, remember to excuse yourself, the same as you would in a face to face meeting or training.  Others can see when you get up and leave and it can be distracting to the facilitator as well as other participants. 
  • Remember you’re on camera.  I know - sounds daft, however it's really easy to forget and start minor grooming activity or looking at your phone.  Maintain your attention and remember to excuse yourself if you have a pressing grooming need or reason to be distracted, and once you've excused yourself, switch your video off.
  • When you are speaking to the group, look directly at the camera on your device so they can experience you speaking directly to them.  When a participant is responding to you, you may choose to look at their image on your screen or maintain eye contact with the camera.  Either way, ensure you use non-verbal encouragers such as a smile and nodding your head, to show them you're listening. 
  • Avoid distractions such as what’s happening outside and around your laptop or device.  The facilitator and participants can see your distractiedness (new word here), via the video.  This includes if you’re taking a call, or speaking to someone in the background, even if your microphone is on mute.  Simply don't.  
  • Refrain from speaking over the top of others.  It doesn't matter how right you are and how wrong you think they are.  If you wish to speak, pop your hand up, use the ‘raise hand’ feature available on your screen or type a question in the chat box. 
  • Always keep your microphone on mute if you’re not speaking – interference from your environment can make it tricky for others to hear.
  • When you’ve finished speaking say “thank you” or “that’s all”, so others know you’re finished and they can contribute.  I often end by saying 'that's me done'. 
  • If it’s a family meeting or an informal gathering like the many 'Friday Fives' or ‘online drinkies’ that are happening, be mindful of who is speaking and wait your turn.  When you speak on Zoom the others who may already be speaking can be cut off.  You'll start to notice who the chatterboxes are and that's okay - simply notice.  Informal Zoom meetings are a wonderful opportunity to hone your listening skills!  

Whew!  This list turned out to be much bigger than I thought it would.  It might seem like a truckload to read through and remember, and,I know from experience that once you’ve attended or delivered your first couple of Zoom sessions, some of these suggestions will come more easily and start to become second nature to you.   Have fun Zooming!