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6 everyday Zoom gaffes that nobody talks about

Posted by Carol Mahamedi

June 14, 2021    |     4-minute read (639 words)

Now that Jeffrey Toobin has been reinstated at CNN, eight months after a widely publicized Zoom incident led to his disgrace, it’s worth another look at some of the less-obvious gaffes that can lead a video call astray.

While Toobin’s behavior was blatantly inappropriate, there are some commonplace, everyday things that can give a bad impression on Zoom, and they wouldn’t necessarily be embarrassing outside of the context of a video call.

Below is a recap, in no particular order, culled from real-life observations on professional video calls, with the perpetrators’ privacy preserved for obvious reasons.

  1.     Your eyeglasses. Worse than just a glare, they could also be reflecting what is on your computer monitor screen. That means your boss and everybody else in the call can see the reflection of your Facebook chat or your Amazon shopping cart. Yes, this really did happen. 
  2.     Forgetting to leave the Zoom “room.” What could be the harm? Think about this. After a contentious video phone call with a member of the C-suite at a pharmaceutical company, a participant immediately launched a profanity-laden rant about the executive’s “idiocy,” only to realize five minutes in that Zoom was still on. To this day, she does not know whether the subject of her wrath heard the diatribe and was just too polite to comment. Not a good look. Be careful to actually sign out at the end of every Zoom meeting.
  3.     Leaving the microphone on while you multitask. On a call with an important client, one team member forgot to turn his mic off while he noisily washed dishes to the chagrin of others on the call, who could not alert him to his mistake without embarrassing all participants. They had to carry on as if nothing untoward was happening. Or how about the time that, unbeknownst to others on the Zoom call, the host was apparently in the car, which became evident when someone in the background shouted, “This is a f**** highway buddy.” How do you recover from that? Both these incidents make it obvious to colleagues that their colleagues were multitasking and probably not paying full attention.
  4.     Looking at a monitor instead of the camera. Sometimes people prefer to place their camera next to their monitor and look at corresponding documents on the screen. While this is perfectly acceptable, if you keep looking at the monitor when the conversation has moved past the documents and you should be focusing now on the other speakers, everyone assumes you aren’t paying attention.
  5.     Not using a Zoom background when you’re in a high-traffic area. You can’t control what the people who may walk behind you are doing. Sometimes people just have very little awareness, like the roommate who decides now is a good time to sashay around in their underwear or start doing yoga stretches. For privacy reasons and for your own credibility, always leave a background on rather than risk someone doing something embarrassing behind you.
  6.     Speaking with your eyes semi-closed. Some people have a habit of talking with their eyes partly open, which you can get away with in real life, as it can even make it look like you are thinking very carefully about what you are saying. But depending on the angle of the camera, your viewers may only be seeing the white of your eyes, and that’s creepy.

 Takeaway: Turn off anything that could be problematic if reflected in your glasses or relocate away from it. Sign out of the video call altogether when it’s over. Turn the microphone off if you must multitask. Use a background if someone might walk through the camera’s line of sight. Look at the camera and keep your eyes open.

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