Rules for telework Zoom meetings: No. 1 — no nighties!

Happy Friday! Yeah, it’s tough. Who hasn’t had the horizons of their lives close in?

The final straw came for me when Dare County, North Carolina, officials cut off the Outer Banks to visitors.

That stung.

Like you, I had a decent panoply of now-canceled events: A Washington National Opera first-ever presentation for which we had opening night tickets, home opener for the Washington Nationals, a Saturday night Washington Capitals game. My six-month dental appointment.

But the Outer Banks trip was more special. My wife was going to hop onto the back seat of my Harley, and we were going to head down for a few days to celebrate my major birthday (it ends on a 5 and you get a card from a really big government agency). Alas, the Sea Horse Resort will have to wait, as will Outer Banks Bike Week. The Dare County Control Group — an Orwellian-sounding panel if there ever was one — is trying to control the spread of you-know-what.

Everyone has something to be gloomy about. Cruises, European travel, AFCEA breakfasts are all kaput, or moving to the workable, but less fun, “virtual” mode.

But there is one entertaining upside to the restrictions, and that is courtesy of Zoom. The group video conferencing product has become nearly as indispensable as a 24-pack of Charmin.

I’ve been on a half dozen Zoom meetings so far, and it’s been like a stream of house tours, mostly of  Middle Class Grandiose with all those hollow-core faux panel doors, A/C registers, crown moldings, recessed ceiling lights.

If you do Zoom or any other videoconferencing and you’re at home, a few rules, people:

  1. Everyone mute their mics. At one Zoom meeting I was on, one guy couldn’t quite get that. Every time he moved in his chair or shifted his device, the mic picked it up and their bewildered face popped up in the “on air” screen.
  2. Tell the family you’re on a meeting. During another Zoom session, someone’s wife strode into the room behind him, in her nightie! Soon the screen filled with the color of flesh — the caller’s thumb trying to block the camera.
  3. Use a chair, for Pete’s sake. At one I attended via Zoom, a couple of people propped themselves up in bed for the duration! On a television broadcast I saw Virginia Rep. Don Beyer on Skype from a bedroom. No!
  4. Think about camera placement. Get your notebook PC or tablet up, up higher and looking slightly down on your face at the Rembrandt angle. Too low and the group has to stare up your nostrils — you’d be amazed what is up some people’s nostrils. Plus, a low angle makes everyone look like Shrek.
  5. Don’t forget people are looking into your very house. Straighten up the books if you insist on showing your scholarly chops in front of your Ikea bookcase. Take the junk off those stairs peeking in the background. Got little kids? Hide the Cozy Coupe. Straighten the bottoms of those Next Day Blinds. In one meeting,  a participant’s ceiling had a big piece of taped-up plastic falling down. I joked, “Are you gonna fix that ceiling?” He quickly swiveled the camera away.
  6. Silence the alerts on your PC or close Outlook altogether. All those chimes, dings, chirps, beeps and toots drive everyone crazy. One woman’s phone had a barking dog as the ring tone. You may think that’s how your boss sounds, but don’t bring it into the Zoom meeting.
  7. Restrict oral intake to coffee. It’s an ordinary thing for people to have coffee during a meeting. But don’t eat and chew during a Zoom video session. Not a good look. On the other hand, when you’re at home, no one can tell whether your “My Boobie Lives in Florida” mug is filled with Scotch.
  8. Remember: It may be informal but it’s still business. Comb your hair, put on whatever makeup you’d normally wear to the office, keep your shirt buttoned, let the dog out.

Yes, business is difficult and somewhat strained with everyone teleworking. But if you tune into a Zoom meeting, don’t overlook that a little staging can put our best face forward.

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