Zoom Chat

Last week, I tweeted, “Does anyone just want to have a conference call? I’m not sure how much longer I can stare into a camera and pretend not to be multitasking. Just asking.” I was only half kidding.

This week, I’ve read several articles about Zoom fatigue. Apparently, it’s a thing. I don’t mean to single out Zoom; fatigue is a problem with all video chatting services, and it’s easy to understand why.

Video is a high-focus activity (as opposed to audio, which is very low focus; you can drive, exercise, read, watch video, mute your microphone and have another conversation, etc.). When you’re involved in an interactive video, that is all you can do. It’s like being in a one-to-one meeting, only worse, because you never know when your boss, your client, or other person to whom you should show respect is looking directly at you.

It’s time to evolve some video chatting etiquette. Shorter durations, better agendas, signals that it’s OK to turn off your camera, appropriate ways to mute your mic without insulting your host (or getting fired) – we need all these for work and for life.

I’m on Zoom or Slack or WebEx or BlueJeans or Skype or Teams when doing business. I’m on Facebook or WhatsApp with my friends. I’m on FaceTime with family members. Each use case has “native conventions” that seem to dictate what is and is not acceptable behavior. Here are just a few…

Your Boss Knows

If you’re on a company computer, your boss knows when your computer is in use. So, don’t think that just leaving yourself logged in to the company VPN is going to make anyone think you’re working. From an IT or HR perspective, working from home is just like working in the office: every keystroke is monitored.

Don’t Be Late to an Online Chat

The commute may be all the way from your kitchen to your home office, and there might be a lot of traffic, but when you’re working from home, being late for an online video chat is a clear indicator that you are not culturally ready to work from home.

Don’t Sit in the Dark and Stare into Space

There are few things more annoying than being forced to video chat with someone who is sitting with their back to a window without proper lighting. You see a big bright light and a black spot that looks like the silhouette of a person. It’s bad enough when your boss does it; you should never do it. If you don’t have lights, face the window and let nature do the lighting for you.

Be in the Shot, Please!

This one isn’t hard. Sit on the whole chair, face the camera, look into the camera when you are speaking and pretend that the camera is the person you’re speaking to. Your viewers hate looking at your chin or worse, up your nose. Please frame your shot.

I Can See You

The most diplomatic way I can put this is simply, “I can see you.” Dress accordingly and – um – you might want to pick up the place a bit.

I Can Hear You Too

The mute button is for everyone’s protection. When you’re not speaking, be kind: mute.

Your Assignment

Your assignment today: please send me your ideas about how to make video chatting less exhausting. Video chatting is clearly the most productive business communication tool I’ve ever been forced to use. Email wastes hours, txts and messages are super interruptive, paper letters are just for formal occasions, and the value of conference calls generally decreases proportional to the number of people on the call.

I like video chat, but I’m going to get a sunburn from the video lighting, gain 20 pounds from sitting in front of the camera all day, and (at some point) get in a lot of trouble for playing video games and reading news and blog posts when I’m supposed to be singularly focused on the open video chat. Help!


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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.



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