Doing the Wrong Things on Video Conference Calls

Despite the fact that the epidemic has been going on for months (and we've officially stopped counting), every now and then we hear of someone doing something humiliating on a video conference call.

For those of us who work in offices, virtual meetings have become the new standard, but whether you're at home or at work, there are some easy etiquette rules to follow to prevent the dreaded Zoom fail.

So, whether you're new to one of the various video conferencing services, such as Zoom, Teams, or Slack, or a seasoned pro, avoid these four blunders to prevent humiliation (or, worse, losing your job):

Do not assume that the microphone is turned off

When on a video call, it's always a good idea to turn off your microphone. It allows the speaker to talk freely without being interrupted. However, in journalism, there's an ancient rule that says you should always presume the mic is on, even if it isn't.

It's reasonable to assume that everyone in front of a computer during a virtual conference now falls under this criteria. Even if you think you've turned your microphone "off," there are times when a button is accidentally pressed, and your team members are hearing things they shouldn't be hearing — you muttering your true feelings, your kids screaming in the background, dogs barking, or, worst of all, someone farting–like this teacher who makes her students laugh when she farts on camera.

Do not use your computer in private settings

Nature intervenes, as it does in every actual encounter. If you're working on a laptop, fight the impulse to carry it to the restroom with you. It may seem ridiculous, but there have been several reports of individuals getting caught on video in the toilet while believing their camera and/or microphone were turned off.

For example, Jennifer didn't allow her meeting get in the way of her need to go to the bathroom. Her coworkers were understandably stunned, and Jennifer rapidly became an online superstar with the hashtag #PoorJennifer. Don't make the same mistake as Jennifer. If necessary, excuse yourself and leave the laptop where it is.

Don't believe that video backdrops block everything

The virtual backdrops are the most "fun" element that Zoom and Teams have to offer. They're excellent for blurring out a cluttered room in the backdrop of a photograph. You may choose from a variety of fascinating backdrops, ranging from beach scenes to deep space. You may also use your own photographs as a backdrop by importing them.

A video backdrop, on the other hand, will not conceal anything. The effect does not operate if there is a moving item or person. Unfortunately, one former Vancouver City Councillor discovered this the hard way, live on air with Global BC. His spouse made a "cheeky" cameo in the background during his Zoom interview, and that's when he and many others realized that digital backdrops don't conceal everything.

Don't eat in front of the camera

It's simple to always have something to eat when working from home if you have a full fridge handy. Eating while on video, on the other hand, is horrible virtual meeting etiquette (unless everyone is eating on camera).

It's better to switch off the camera and microphone to eat if your meeting is going late and you're truly hungry. Nobody wants to see you eat a sandwich while they're talking to you.


It's always ideal to practice, practice, practice before making a genuine call if you're new to virtual meetings. While Zoom and Teams are quite simple to use, there are a number of options that may be confusing. Before your appointment, familiarize yourself with each platform since they are distinct!

It's also a good idea to test your camera and microphone ahead of time to make sure they're in functioning order and that you're comfortable turning them on and off. Also, be on your best behavior; you never know what may happen or who might be watching.

Thanks to Justin Wong at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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