11 ways to be a consummate professional during Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings

When you're on a video teleconference, there are certain things you want to avoid doing if you want to look professional, even when working from home.

How to host a Zoom meeting
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Most of the world might be working from home, but that doesn't mean it's okay to go wild when you're on a teleconference. There are certain behaviors that are acceptable to do while on a Zoom or Microsoft Teams teleconference, and some things that you just need to avoid.

TechRepublic talked to several etiquette experts and business pros to get their advice on what to do, and what not to do on camera. Roundtable participants included Karene Putney, author and etiquette consultant; Holly Duckworth, life coach at Leadership Solutions International; Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com; Emily Souydalay, SEO analyst for PixelCutLabs; Erico Franco, inbound marketing manager for Agencia de Marketing Digital; and Lior Ohayon, CEO of Hush Blankets.

SEE: How to use Zoom: 14 tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Keep your video on

It's polite to allow everyone to see you on screen. If you don't want others to see your messy room, or your spouse lingering in the back of the room as they grab a snack from the kitchen, then opt for a virtual background

Mute your speaker if you're typing

When you're typing notes, it can sound incredibly loud to anyone else in the meeting and will cause the camera to zoom in on you, not the person who is talking, if you're louder than them. Mute your speaker if you're clicking away on the keyboard. 

Don't eat or drink

When you're on camera, don't eat or drink. Sure, if it's early morning, people might really want to have a cup of coffee handy. But if you've noticed, that looks kind of overwhelming on camera. All you see is the mug. Especially as they drain that last drop. It goes double for food. No one needs to see you eating your breakfast or lunch on camera. Or listening to it. Remember how if you have your mic on, the camera focuses on you? Yeah.

Be there five minutes early if you're the host

Give yourself time to log in and account for any technical difficulties if you're the meeting host. Five minutes is plenty of time for this.

Be fully present 

Close other browser windows and use the screen that the meeting is on. Don't look down at your phone or your watch during the meeting. Treat it as you would an in-person meeting.  

SEE: Zoom 101: A guidebook for beginners and business pros (TechRepublic Premium) 

Tell participants ahead of time if it's video or audio

Don't surprise people and ask for a video meeting when the meeting begins. Let them know ahead of time what expectations will be regarding video versus audio only.

Work out tech issues ahead of time

If you need headphones for the meeting, have them handy before the meeting starts. If your laptop battery is nearly dead, then have it plugged in and ready to go. Take care of any technical concerns before the meeting starts. 

Be fully dressed

Don't sit down for a meeting in just a nice shirt but sloppy bottoms. Sometimes you might be asked to stand up, or you might need to walk around in front of the camera for an unexpected reason. We've already heard of a manager asking her employees to get up and stretch during a meeting. 

Make sure your background is professional

Turn on your camera during a non-meeting time. Look at your background. Assess it. Does it look professional? If you're the boss, does it look like you live in an expensive house that will make your employees feel underpaid? If so, go find a plain wall to sit in front of. Maybe with a bookcase or a single piece of art. If your desk is in the kitchen, is there a bunch of clutter on the counters behind you? Unless you want to use a virtual background, make sure that the background behind you sends the right message. There are plenty of guides to help you learn how to use virtual Zoom backgrounds.

Don't use an inappropriate virtual background

Speaking of virtual backgrounds, use one that is appropriate for your line of work. If you're in a creative field, you can have a bit more leeway and go for The Simpsons' couch or hanging out in the Batcave or even opt for something from Star Wars. But if you're in a more serious field, then stick with either a solid color background, or a virtual background of an Ivy League library or an eye-catching landscape

Tell everyone else in your home that you'll be in a teleconference

If you don't have a dedicated room for a meeting, then let everyone in your household know in advance that you'll be in a meeting so that you can have quiet in the background. This is proper etiquette for your household and for your meeting participants. 

Also see

Student on video call from his home during lockdown

Image: Alistair Berg / Getty Images