Wear pants, and other business video conferencing tips for success
Profanity in the background and swearing by people to others off camera are not unusual.
And a few people have forgotten they didn’t put bottoms on and then stood up.
And some people have become internet sensations.
Like the lawyer who pleaded “I am not a cat” when he could’t get rid of his kitty. A more recent sensational episode was of a doctor showing off his multitasking skills by performing surgery while making an appearance in court via Zoom video conferencing.
This is life in the world of virtual meetings. As much as a business might like to keep up with the appearance of being professional, it’s not always possible when employees work from home.
“The other day we had a meeting, it was a late evening meeting and some people were enjoying dinner and wine. It wasn’t a happy hour,” said Susana Morales, organizational development consultant with Leap Business Solutions. Afterward a senior staff member talked to those eating and drinking, explaining that no matter the time of day a business meeting requires a certain amount of professionalism.
The six-person Santa Rosa-based company is a business management consulting firm specializing in organizational development, human resources, executive search and recruitment serving clients primarily in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties.
While Leap wants to maintain a professional environment, Morales said her firm is understanding of kids wandering into view. One meeting ended with it looking like a colleague was posing for a family portrait with the couple and two children on camera.
The Solano Small Business Development Center and Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce each had meetings which were “Zoom-bombed.”
“They were putting up images that were obscene,” Tim Murrill with the Solano County group said. “One thing we learned from that is to always require registration and a password, and to have an administrator so if that did happen, you could get that person out quickly.”
Even after a year of working remotely the rules about how to behave during an online meeting are still being written.
At the Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa County, online meeting etiquette is similar to if everyone were in the same room.
During virtual meetings the nearly 250 employees must have the video feature turned on. What their background can be depends on the type of meeting.
“Having the camera on allows us to stay connected and to personalize the interaction more,” Jeffrey Peterson, director of sales and marketing, said. “For internal meetings, we do not have any rules as long as the background is professional. For external meetings, we ask that our team showcase a Carneros Resort and Spa photo as their background.”
Business casual had been the mantra at the Hess Collection Winery in Napa long before the pandemic struck in spring 2020. Now attire for employees can be even more relaxed depending on who they are interacting with.
“I’ve seen some people on calls who had been working out or were going to,” Sarah Davila, director of human resources with the winery, said. That’s fine with the company for internal meetings. When it comes to interacting with the public during virtual tastings a more professional dress code is required.
When employees with the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce started attending online meetings dressed in attire that would not have been permitted in the office President/CEO Joanne Webster had a talk with her four-member team. It’s not just about the image one presents with colleagues, but everyone the chamber interacts with.
“We talked about making sure that you didn't take a big drink of something in the middle of a presentation, that the camera is always on, to dress appropriately, and to show up like it’s a pre-pandemic meeting,” Webster said. “You need to put energy into how you present yourself in this new platform.”
At Marin Health in Greenbrae (formerly Marin General Hospital) camera functions must be on during meetings, the 220 full-time employees need to mute themselves when not talking, and questions should be submitted via the chat feature. All of this is done for a smoother meeting, so people are not talking over each other, and allow the speaker to be heard without interruption.