I’m a late recruit to the ‘online catch-up’ movement, despite the endless screenshots of other people’s Zoom meetings clogging up my social media feeds.
BL – before lockdown – the question “shall we Skype or Zoom?” filled me with dread. Why use either, when we can use our voices on the phone?
What’s so important about seeing somebody’s actual face during a call, let alone their chaotic background (the camera view in my office showcases two beaten-up cat carriers, a ‘Billy Blanks Blaster Ball Workout Kit’ box I’ve never bothered to open, a pristine assortment of business books I’ve never bothered to read, a fake orchid in a misshapen plastic pot, and a few crumpled-up shopping bags)?
But now we’re all feeling our way around Zoom territory, like it or not, I’ve discovered a few unexpected advantages lurking in the online undergrowth.
Here they are.
1. You Can Change Your Zoom Background
My world changed when I discovered I could replace my sad little office backdrop with a palm-fringed beach scene, or the iconic boardroom from the TV show Mad Men.
(To do this yourself, just click on your Zoom profile picture, hit Settings, then Virtual Background, and the visual world is your oyster).
I’ve got no idea why all those meeting screenshots don’t feature more of these virtual backdrops, because the creative possibilities are endless.
One idea: instead of Dress Down Friday, host a ‘dress for your backdrop’ meeting, with swimwear and goggles for the beach, a suit for the boardroom, sequins for the disco, etc.
If nothing else, the resulting screenshots will be far more interesting to all those strangers on social media.
2. You Can Make Your Own Meeting Snacks
Meeting food is usually very disappointing (aside from the bowls of stuck-together Fox’s Glacier Fruits that graced the boardroom tables of yore).
Especially the breakfasts, which are unimaginatively centred around eggs and bacon, so particularly rubbish if you don’t eat meat or dairy.
Meanwhile, I’ve found that slopping shots of rum into your coffee is frowned upon at most networking catch ups.
But for online gatherings, your personal catering choices are king. If you really must maintain a professional image, simply pour that home-mixed pina colada into a bog-standard coffee mug.
3. It’s Much Easier To Get Out Of An Online Meeting
If somebody’s waffling on and you’re aching to leave, sigh wearily and explain you’ve been having serious problems with your broadband.
On Zoom, click the ‘Start/Stop Video’ button a few times so your feed looks intermittent, then tell everybody you’re really sorry, but you’re having trouble hearing them properly.
(This is harder on Skype, but it can be done. Just stutter your voice instead, making only the odd word audible – like when you pretended to go through a tunnel on your old mobile).
To finish with a flourish, write a message in the ‘Chat’ box asking if you can be emailed anything important, then apologise again.
Finally, click ‘Leave Meeting’, then go and do something more interesting instead.