How’s your webinar etiquette?

Webinar sign

A side effect of lockdown has been a growing familiarity with online socialising, whether it’s a Zoom pub quiz, a family gathering by WhatsApp video, or a jazz night live from Eastbourne via FaceBook Live.

As a trainer, I’ve also spent many hours running courses online using Zoom and ClickMeeting. And we’ve all been getting used to learning and networking while staring at a screen.

But as with real life, some people need to be reminded that you don’t behave exactly the same way when you’re socialising as you do in a ‘professional’ space. Even if you do both via Zoom.

Among the Zoom faux pas I have seen or heard about:

  • someone with an inappropriately clad Zoom profile picture
  • the person who posted on social media a screenshot of everyone in a freelancer coffee gathering, without checking if people were ok with that
  • the panellist in a discussion who sat with her back to a window, throwing her into spooky silhouette
  • the trainee who angrily texts and emails because they can’t get into a training session 5 mintues late (because the trainer is…er…already training)

So here are my top 10 etiquette tips for online training:

  1. Don’t be late. Aim to log in ten minutes before the session starts. You can always grab a tea once the computer says you’re in. It can easily take a few minutes to get logged in to a training meeting. If the session’s already started it may take a while before the host spots that you’re trying to join in. Annoyance value: 8/10

  2. mute iconMute your audio when not speaking. Meeting software often highlights the speaker by suddenly focusing in on them. This happens even when your microphone picks up background noise – a dog barking, toddler toddling or you dropping your pen. It also happens if there is a click or crackle on the line. Annoyance value: 10/10

  3. Don’t wear pyjamas for training. You wouldn’t come to my training in a nighty, so don’t come to my online training in a nighty. Annoyance value: 5/10

  4. Have a professional-ish profile photo. When you’re in a group session you can switch off your video if convenient, but please check that your profile photo is acceptable in polite company. Annoyance value: 5/10

  5. Show your face at the start of a training session if possible. This is particularly important if you are in a relatively small and intimate training group – say up to 15 people. Training is really networking with added learning. Annoyance value: 3/10

    [If you can’t use video because of bandwidth issues, let everyone know. And use the chat box to stay engaged.]

  6. Never, ever screenshot and share other people’s faces. At least not without getting express permission from all. So that probably means never, ever. Annoyance value: 11/10

  7. Light yourself from the front, and don’t sit with your back to the sun. Unless you want to look like you’re in witness protection. Annoyance value: 4/10

  8. Ensure the background is uncluttered and vaguely professional. It doesn’t have to look like a BBC studio, but do we really need to see your un-ironed shirts draped over your wardrobe door? Annoyance value: 1/10
    [I recently had a Zoom meeting with someone who had the bridge of the Starship Enterprise as a virtual background. It actually worked fine. She explained that she lived in a bedsit, and didn’t want people to see her bed. Fair enough.]

  9. Bring pen and paper. I know this sounds retro but you may want to jot a few things down. If you’re looking at the screen during a training session it’s good to have something off screen to focus on. Also, it’s harder to take notes on a computer when the screen is full of fellow trainees and slides. Annoyance value: 2/10
photo on computer

10. Bonus tip for trainers: try to look into the camera when talking to a group of people. That little light or round dot at the top of the screen is important.

Look into it when talking so that you make eye contact with the group and engage their attention. If it helps, stick a photo of a smiling loved one next to the camera.

Got any other online etiquette tips? Let us know!

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Posted on 03 May 2020

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