Welcome back to lockdown!

This time, at least, we have the difference that there appears to be an end to this, courtesy of the roll-out of the vaccination programme.  However, we’re not done with Zoom (other online conference software is available) just yet. In fact, I suspect that because we’re also more relaxed about home-working in general, it’s likely that we’ll continue with Zoom et al even once the restrictions are relaxed.

That, of course, creates other challenges. As with all meetings, preparation is key (learning about the person/company you are meeting with, checking them out on LinkedIn, etc.), but online etiquette is still evolving…

When you are meeting with clients, whether it’s the marketing/comms teams with whom Global Connects normally interacts, or even if it’s just an internal meeting, with, in our case, translators or interpreters or admin colleagues, preparation is still key, but one of the other key considerations is the agonising choice over your choice of background. At least in an office or other ‘traditional’ meeting venue, we’re all on neutral territory and it’s the same for everyone, but on Zoom your choice of background can say a lot about you.

Many go for lots of books, believing (hoping) that it shows them to be intellectual and well-read. Others are happy to have their child’s paintings behind them. A colleague recently took part in a group call where the main speaker had a rather arty nude painting on his living room wall.  Each to their own, but it may not go down well with some (although others might quite like it!).  One solution is to use a standard company background. This, especially if it’s carried consistently through all other corporate comms (individual’s LinkedIn backgrounds, email footers, etc.) is generally a good idea, but be aware that your features can distort on-screen against such a background and be a distraction to your interlocutor(s).

Anything that distracts the other party is not good.  Your mobile going off or emails pinging across your screen in the middle of your explanation as to how you are going to transform the marketing strategy are just such distractions – and easily avoidable.

Similarly, your broadband flickering in and out doesn’t help. Check everything before you press the ‘video’ and ‘audio’ buttons.  Also, look straight into your camera and maintain eye-contact.  As in a ‘normal’ meeting,  make sure you answer the questions put to you and just don’t give the answers you want to give. Think, listen, respond. And above all, make sure you don’t dress inappropriately.This sounds so obvious, but far too many people think they can get away with it.

You wouldn’t turn up to a conventional, face-to-face meeting in your underwear, would you?   So don’t turn up in your pyjamas (language note – a word we took from India), and above all, don’t take the risk of  being half-dressed.  Surely no-one would be that dim?  Au contraire…

Last year, ‘Good Morning America’ reporter Will Reeve went live wearing a suit jacket and a pair of shorts. Apparently, he “didn’t know anyone at home would be able to see his full outfit.”

More recently still, in fact early this year, the Mayor of Antwerp was sans trousers during a Zoom interview.  Like Mr Reeve, he wore a smart shirt for his interview with Belgium’s Radio 2. Unfortunately, he hadn’t reckoned with a mirror that revealed his embarrassment. The Mayor said: “I’ll remember this for a long time.” So will those you have just finished Zooming, but only after they have finished laughing (and probably crossed you off the suppliers’ list!).

Fiona Woodford, Head of Language Services, Global Connects