Months into the reality of ever-evolving pandemic related mandates, impacts, and realities, one thing is for certain, the use of webinar based technology is only accelerating. From checking in on grandma, to virtual happy hours, remote learning, and the continuation of business, everyone has a reason to connect via webinar.
As scores of people, ranging across the spectrum of ages, have been jumping into using webinar technology to stay connected amidst public health concerns, some veterans users have had their patience tested as newbies navigate this new landscape. We may have forgotten that platforms like Zoom, GoToWebinar, WebEx, Adobe Connect, and more have a small learning curve that we too once traversed.
While each webinar platform is set up slightly differently, the great thing is that you’ll inevitably find just about all the same features and functionality. For those of you still getting accustomed to hopping on webinars, you should know that not only is it your responsibility to familiarize yourself with where and how to use the tools of each system, but there are also years of social etiquette that have evolved around using this type of technology.
Take a deep breath, you can literally catch up in just a few minutes by reading these essential NEED TO KNOW TIPS!
- First and foremost, almost everyone has a webcam today, before you launch a webinar session check to see if that webcam is on or off. An easy pro-tip for devices without a webcam cover is to invest the few cents it costs to buy one and pop it on your device. I always have my cover shut in case I launch a web session and forget to turn off the video activation, this gives the most control in showing your smiling face only when you are ready.
- Speaking of webcams, it is polite to share your screen especially when you’re having more intimately sized meetings. Seeing engaged individuals really goes a long way in making your meeting enjoyable and productive. That said, there are some caveats, sharing your screen is NOT ALWAYS a good idea, please, please, please, turn off your webcam in the following situations:
a) You need to move around. Everyone needs to warm up their coffee, but spare your other guests motion sickness as you walk from your office to the kitchen.
b) If you are not fully engaged in the meeting (regardless of the reason), turn off your webcam. Not only is it rude and distracting to your other participants, but inevitably you’ll end up doing something you wouldn’t actually want others to see (I’ve seen business colleagues pick their nose on camera, yell at their kids/partner, make faces that they really didn’t want others to see, eat with less than stellar manners, etc.)
c) If you are on a webinar meeting with more than 10 people, turn your webcam off until or unless you are speaking. Not only is it distracting to see pages of people with webcams on, it can actually become confusing to locate the actual speaker if more than one person is doing much of the talking.
- For the love of all that is sacred and holy, ALWAYS MUTE YOURSELF. Seriously, unless it’s only you and two friends, you will ruin a webinar by keeping yourself unmuted. Literally there is always some person who forgets to mute and either you hear something embarrassing (like “I’m on this stupid meeting with my boss who I can’t stand”), or the feedback from multiple unmuted lines results in a poor auditory experience for all webinar participants.
- Have you triple checked that you’ve muted your line? This is so important that it gets another mention on my tip list. It’s literally infuriating to other participants to hear someone furiously typing away and oblivious to the pleads of “Can everyone mute their lines,” because the culprit is never paying attention to know that they are disrupting the group. Make it a practice to find and mute your line the moment you jump into a meeting, only unmute yourself if you are speaking (disregard if you’re having an ultra small meeting or virtual happy hour).
- Being late happens to the best of us, but interrupting a meeting in progress to announce your arrival is rude. That said, it’s equally rude to lurk without others knowing that you have finally joined them. Simply jump on the chat feature and politely indicate that you’ve joined, of course also jump into the conversation as is appropriate.
- If you are attending a webinar for business, training, or educational purposes, please use a screen name that is referenceable (as in your first or full name). Yes, people will judge you (rightly so in my book) during such a meeting if you need to be referred to as SadPanda54…
- Avoid the faux pas of interrupting a large group webinar by saying “Can I ask a question?” This is a great time to use the chat and/or Q&A function. Larger meetings often have a moderator who will respond and/or the presenter will set aside time to review and discuss the comments and questions that have accumulated over the course of the meeting. Also, active participants may proactively respond to your inquiries while the presenter is in the flow of the meeting.
- Most savvy presenters of webinar training and large group meetings will establish rules of engagement for the sessions (things like whether they want you to use the Raise Hand function, muting your lines, when questions can be asked, etc.), please respect these rules. It is also your responsibility to check the chat feature for these rules should you arrive late to a meeting.
- Mentioned above, some webinar platforms have a Raise Hand function which is super helpful for training, education, and large group webinars. This literally flags your profile so the presenter knows that you have a question or want to provide input, what most people don’t know is that once they have had a chance to speak, they need to deactivate their virtual raised hand.
- If you are the lucky (or unlucky as some may see it) responsibility of running a webinar, in all situations save potential social usage, it is imperative that you manage time so you are respectful to all participants. Sure, going over time by 3-5 minutes is fairly standard with those having back to back meetings jumping off early to get to the next engagement, but chronic disregard for efficient use of the allotted time is extremely rude. Set an alarm for yourself to know when it’s 10-15 minutes until the end of the allotted time so you can wrap up or make plans for a follow up session.
Most of the above is common sense; however, the combination of newness to some and chronic usage to others can sometimes make us forget the fundamentals of webinar etiquette. Remembering to appropriately use the following trifecta of features will keep you engaging respectfully: webcam, mute/unmute and chat/Q&A. Happy virtual connections!