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After the Bar

Practice Management

Top 10 Tips for Zoom Etiquette in Court, Meetings, and Beyond

Mathew Kerbis

Top 10 Tips for Zoom Etiquette in Court, Meetings, and Beyond

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Whether you’re using Zoom for court appearances, meetings, or for fun, here are 10 tips (and a bonus tip) to make a great impression.

1. How do you get to proper Zoom etiquette? Practice, practice . . .

Set up a free account to practice the following tips. If you lack a laptop or webcam in addition to a tablet or smartphone, borrow another device. Download the Zoom app on all devices. You can only sign in to your account and access a meeting on one device at a time. You will need to mute both devices; otherwise, you will hear an echo. Ensure the speaker volume is turned down on both devices when entering the Zoom meeting to avoid this problem. Connecting headphones to at least one device allows you to practice without the sound echo. 

2. The early sign-in gets extra time in (the meeting).

Proper Zoom etiquette requires functional technology. Your settings should carry over to any meeting upon sign-in. Sign in at least 10 minutes before to troubleshoot. Depending on the organizer’s settings, you may be in the meeting early or a waiting room. Either way, check your microphone and video settings. The location of these buttons differs depending on your device and if you use a web browser or the app. A smaller button on the microphone and camera button is called a caret, which looks like this: ^. Clicking the caret shows you which microphone and speaker you are using. This menu also has the option “Audio Setting.” Select it to troubleshoot your audio settings. When in a waiting room, select “Test Audio” for the same menu. Here, you can test your speakers or headphones to make sure they produce sound and that your microphone picks up your voice.

Add a professional headshot to your account, which will appear when your camera is off. If your headshot does not appear, then sign in. Clicking the caret takes you to the video settings. In video settings, check the box to see participant names so that you can refer to them as such. Turn on HD but keep off “touch up my appearance.” You want to look as genuine as possible, and this feature has an uncanny valley effect.

Zoom frequently adds features, so revisit these settings often.  

3. It’s better to keep yourself muted and be silent than stay unmuted and remove all doubt that you lack etiquette.

To avoid causing an echo, make sure to mute upon arrival. Use the feature that allows you to press and hold your spacebar to unmute temporarily or key the mute/unmute button with a press of your spacebar. Turning on the spacebar functionality allows for a smoother transition when it is your turn to speak. After speaking, mute yourself again.

When attending a Zoom meeting from a mobile device, go into your settings on the bottom right corner of the screen to the icon showing three dots (…) with the word “More.” Select “Meeting Settings,” and under the “General” setting, turn on the feature that shows your meeting controls. This way, you can quickly mute/unmute yourself on your mobile device.

4. In the land of limited bandwidth and spotty Wi-Fi, the one with the wired device is king.

Everyone’s bandwidth is different. Signals drop, and batteries die. If you have a wired headset or wired headphones with a microphone, use them. While this may not look as aesthetically pleasing, it will prevent an echo. Plug your device directly into the internet via an ethernet cable to ensure a better connection.

5. Sh*t happens.

Mute your microphone and turn off your video before taking a bathroom break. Most importantly, leave your device where it is—do not bring it with you in case it gets unmuted or the video turns back on. We all do it, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but we don’t need to hear or see it. Thank you.

6. Lights, camera, action!

Attend the meeting in a well-lit room. If you don’t have enough light, your shrouded silhouette will look like you are in witness protection. You want to sit under light or with lights to your front and angled from your sides. Avoid light coming from behind as it will be hard to see you. If you cannot find a space with ideal lighting, consider purchasing a “ring light” and position it behind and above your device, so it is shining on your face and torso. Offset the ring light so that the light does not blind you.

7. Well dressed, will impress.

Dress well, including your bottom half. While this may not matter as the expectation is to see your upper half during a Zoom meeting, this could change. Also, we are conditioned to have a certain mindset when getting dressed up for court or a special occasion. Dressing from head to toe will get you into the right mindset.

8. Don’t bend; stay snapped.

Maintain good posture when in front of your device. Keep your head in the center or center top but leave space between the top of your head and the top of the screen. Don’t let your head leave the frame. Stay close to the camera but not so close that all we see is your head. Back up so that some of your torso is in the frame. A good rule of thumb is to see just above the bend of your elbows. Assume that people have their screens set to gallery view and will always see you. You will find the gallery view setting in the top right corner of your screen. Some Zoom meetings are recorded, and others are live-streamed, so always have good posture and avoid resting your head in your hands. 

9. I know what you meant to chat privately last Zoom meeting. 

If the chat feature is available to all attendees, use it cautiously. You may chat with people individually by clicking on their name if they posted in the public chat or sent you a private message. There is also a dropdown menu to send a private chat message to anyone or message “everyone.” Private messages and public messages to everyone show up in the same chat box on Zoom. It’s easy to get those mixed up, so don’t send anything privately that you wouldn’t mind accidentally sending publicly.

10. Virtual background: To use or not to use?

Not to use. At least not in a professional setting. The only exception is if you cannot find a clean background. Even a plain white wall is better than a potentially distracting virtual background. Virtual backgrounds result in a line around your silhouette that may distract, and things may pop into and out of the virtual background when you move. You want to minimize all distractions when using Zoom professionally, so avoid this feature. 

11. Throw-etiquette-to-the-wind bonus fun tip: virtual shirt/green shirting*

You’ve heard of Zoom’s virtual background, but have you heard of Virtual Shirt? Of course not, because I made it up! Zoom democratized green screen technology and dubbed it a virtual background. Going into your options on Zoom’s virtual background lets you select what color in the background will change. You can wear a colored shirt different from everything else in your frame, but green is best because nothing else in the frame is that color. Select your green shirt when picking a virtual background and watch as your shirt changes to whatever image you chose. Voilà! You now have a virtual shirt.

*NOTE: Do NOT use this tip in conjunction with tips 1–10.