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Artwork by Stacy Nguyen

5 Uncommon Ways to be More Kick-ass in Zoom Meetings!

Written By Stacy Nguyen | Nov 17, 2020

Hey, y’all. I know we all know the basic stuff like being well-lit, having a plain non-distracting background, putting on clothes, etc. etc., but I’m here to give you the more uncommon tips on how to have more powerful Zoom meetings!

Yo, don’t join early. Join right on time.

I know that the rule of thumb is to physically show up at least 5 minutes before in-person meetings and to show up at least 15 minutes early for job interviews. But in the virtual world of meetings, we gotta throw that conventional wisdom out!

To illustrate this point, let me tell you a true story.

One time I had a job interview with a potential client for a design gig. I did not know the client contact that well at all. Our relationship was super new and super distant and professional.

I was actually kind of nervous about the interview because the job was one of those ‘reach jobs’ for me. It was the kind of gig that I was slightly underqualified for, so my best bet was to make up for lack of experience with charming, not-too-intense enthusiasm.

The video meeting platform was something esoteric that I had to download a special app for and install on my computer (or it was Skype for Business?). Anyway, I wanted to test it out before the meeting — like right before the meeting.

So I ended up popping in right in the middle of someone else’s job interview, like, my competitor’s job interview.

I know. You’re like, “So did you get the dirt, Stace? Did you intimidate the competition with your excellence?”

Not even. I just froze in shock — I stared at the two of them as they were staring back at me — everyone stopped talking. Then it became horrifically awkward and kind of embarrassing for me. I stuttered an apology and announced real loudly that I was leaving.

And while it wasn’t the biggest deal to the client — like, they understood how that happened and laughed it off — the incident really messed with my head, and so I did not come across charming with not-too-intense enthusiasm at all. I came across anxious and bland.

And I did not get the job either!

Y’all, sometimes people stack their meetings back-to-back and treat video calls like they’re the Wild Wild West and aren’t moderating who gets into their meeting rooms. Be careful.

Turn on your camera, weirdo. It’s okay if you don’t look like Kylie Jenner today.

This is not only polite, but knowing you have a captive audience may stop you from accidentally peeing on camera.

I’ve heard a few reasons for why people don’t turn their cameras on during virtual meetings, but the most common one I hear is not even a legit reason: “I look terrible because I didn’t brush my hair today.”

Lies!

Also, what kind of monster am I, if people think that I would recoil in horror if I saw them without their hair brushed?

When a person says this, I’m pretty sure they are just making up a reason for not turning on their camera. Maybe they didn’t clean their home and they don’t want you to see the shambles of their life. Or maybe they want to secretly multitask other stuff, and they just don’t want to give you their undivided attention and are trying to hide it.

Because this is what comes across to me when people don’t turn on their camera. It gets noticed in meetings too, when there’s a wall of faces… and then the lone black rectangle. It kind of conveys a subtle lack of vulnerability to me, an ‘opting out,’ and even a certain lack of transparency.

Come to think of it, try to look your most average.

Because of the times we are living in, it now shocks people when I look too good in Zoom meetings. So I make a concerted effort to dress down. I come in a t-shirt and no pants. I come sans makeup. It’s because I don’t want to stun and distract with my beauty.

For real. These details become talking points.

I was in a meeting not too long ago with someone who not only combed his hair, his cut was also freaking amazing and strands of it fell artfully over his forehead.

Because of the times we are living in, it now shocks people when I look too good in Zoom meetings. So I make a concerted effort to dress down. I come in a t-shirt and no pants. I come sans makeup. It’s because I don’t want to stun and distract with my beauty.

And all I could think during our meeting is, “I wonder what his grooming regimen is. Oh my God, that is a great cut.”

And I even brought it up because I couldn’t stop myself! We lost like, ten minutes because I asked him to explain his hair routine to me and that evolved into him talking about his life…

Mute your mic AND your computer.

I know most of us have mastered the mute button, we know that it’s good manners on a big meeting to turn off your microphone so that there are no disruptive sounds when you’re not speaking.

But what I often fall prey to is forgetting to mute my computer.

I always have my email open. Connected to my email are my IMs. Also connected to my email are my text messages. I know! It’s a lot of things connected to my email! So at any given moment, my computer will go bloop! with a new message.

One time, I was the one speaking in a team meeting, so of course I was unmuted. As I was speaking, my computer went nuts with bloops. It was like:

“So the deal with —” Bloop! “— this design is —” Bloop! “— it might not look great —” Bloop!  “— in black and white.” Bloop!

And later, I checked my messages only to find that the bloops were my friend getting super mad that she had to stand in line for something, and she just wanted to tell me about that injustice.

When you check your phone, keep it out of frame and keep your chin high — or use an emulator.

It’s pretty obvious whenever someone is on their phone. Their gaze turns down, all you see is forehead, and sometimes there’s even a bluish glow cast over their face.

Don’t be the punk who looks like they’re chronically on their phone as someone is speaking!

Note how I said don’t look like it. Like, I know sometimes meetings run long and boring. And sometimes my work requires me to be on social media. And other times I just want to scroll through pics of cute dogs to pass the time.

To stealthily check your phone, you should keep your face up and at eye level to your camera. Hold your phone up in front of your monitor, higher than your lap, but not within sight of your webcam. And that’s it! It’s not rocket science! Just scroll to your heart’s content!

And don’t forget to occasionally nod vigorously and go, “Uh huh,” before smiling.

Alternatively, you can also do what I do the most, which is use an emulator. With that, a virtual phone is on my computer so in meetings, my attention looks ironclad and rock hard all the time — even though it rarely is!

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