"Hi mum. Mum, mum, turn the volume up if you can't hear me. Mum, no you're too close I can only see your forehead. Mum, yes we've been through this, I know it's amazing. Yep, in your day you had to go through an operator to call abroad and it cost a week's wages. That's right it is incredible..."
Sound familiar? The customary opening video call rigmarole with family has (almost) become an amusing tradition, but what happens if you're on the line with your workmates, or worse, your boss? There's no discernible room for shenanigans on Zoom and who knows, you may be committing faux pas without even realising. That's why we've put together five golden no-nos in order for your next meeting to proceed with as few eyebrows raised as possible.
1) NO EATING
It may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many colleagues can have a sandwich on the go while discussing the latest strategy in the comfort of their own home. Did that ever happen in the boardroom? Do you remember the last time the head of sales whipped out a samosa to emphasise the quarterly targets? Aside from the off-putting visual experience of watching a close-up of someone eating, the sensitive microphones on your devices amplify all chewing noises. Think back to the last time you were sat next to someone munching with their mouth open and times it by ten. Gross.
2) PANTS OPTIONAL? NO.
Urban legends regarding TV newsreaders not bothering with clothes or shoes below the waist during broadcasts have been doing the rounds for decades, though recent horror stories about normally straight-laced accountants being exposed on conference calls when their tablet falls in their lap have been sky-rocketing. It may seem a jaunty expression of freedom from the corporate world, being dressed for the beach below the belt, but is this particular thumbing of the nose worth it? We think a lifetime immortalised in gif or meme form when the crisis is all over is too high a price to pay. Just put some trousers on.
3) FUNNY FILTER...REALLY?
An admittedly hilarious pic popped up in our Twitter feed last night portraying a boss who had switched on a video chat filter which transformed their image into that of a potato and couldn't remove it in time for their team tete-a-tete the next day. An honest technical glitch, true, but we're willing to bet that manager - at best - shall forever be known as 'The Dic-tater' whenever future events take a tense turn at work.
4) WHAT'S YOUR BACKGROUND?
You may consider your poster of a tennis player being struck in the stomach by a 100km/h serve 'art', however it is most likely not going to be to everyone's taste. Nobody is going to be concentrating on what you have to say if it provides your backdrop. According to all Internet guru wisdom, the background to your video chat should be as plain as you can get it. Beige or white walls are best. If it means taking down your masterpiece, so be it.
5) POSITION IS KEY
The trouble with handheld devices is the selfie camera goes wherever your arm may wander. Why the lens always tends to point directly up a video-callers nose will remain an eternal mystery. You can see a small representation of your image in the screen's corner, so use it. Very few people wish to address a face which looks as if it's being reflected off the back of a spoon, much less peer into the recesses of your head, so straight on at eye-level only, please.
By David Light