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Dear Heidi: I accidentally hit “on” for the camera, and a client saw me partially clothed! Help...

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Yikes. Who knew the age of Zoom could be so "dangerous?" You may feel like you'll never recover, but you will. I have a few suggestions.

More than 300 million people meet on Zoom every day; there's bound to be a mishap or two. If you're the mishap, don't despair, you're in good company.  

In April, Will Reeve, a reporter for Good Morning America, was caught with his "pants down" while doing a live segment from home. Mr. Reeve, son of the late Christopher Reeve, said that his full thigh shot revealed his shorts, not his underpants. He made the best of a bad situation and did a tongue-in-cheek follow-up segment shortly after his mishap, about Zoom etiquette. His best advice is to get dressed, and frame your camera angle well.  

There have been many, many other wardrobe malfunctions on Zoom, around the world, and for the most part, everyone has recovered. As with Mr. Reeve, it's often best to admit you've made a mistake, apologize and move on. If you can, and it's appropriate, make light of your error quickly and drop it. It's important to remember that we are in this together across the planet, and we all understand. Heck, any one of us could be caught in a compromised situation. Zoom was fun initially, way back in March, but we are all a bit weary of it now and need a refresh.

Many firms are extending WFH until the spring, and some of us may never go back to the office full time again. Video platforms are here to stay, so it's high time we establish virtual meeting charters. If you already have a charter, congratulations, but it's probably time to re-evaluate and refresh your Zoom etiquette.

Your Zoom charter should be comprehensive and include how often and for how long to meet, who leads, mute or no mute, and make sure you stick to a plan— create an agenda for your Zoom meetings. Other items can include the time you meet. Mix it up when working with a global team; Australia's team member shouldn't always be the one up in the middle of the night. Also, seriously consider including a dress code of sorts.  

I offered a webinar featuring Zoom etiquette a few months ago, and in it, I use the term "at home professional" to help people know what is appropriate to wear on a virtual meeting. If you virtually meet a vital client or big boss, dress more formally, whatever is suitable for your industry.  

Some organizations have begun issuing virtual meeting dress codes. In the wake of COVID, we became so casual a dress code now necessary. A virtual meeting dress code helps remind everyone that they are still working, despite the short commute. Keep your background clutter-free, and make an effort. Be neat and clean, and look the part—you know what that is. Change your clothing to workout in later, and do something with your hair, ditch the ball cap. 

I wish you luck; you will recover. Remember, watch your camera angle, and please get fully dressed.


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