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2020 brought with it a new, not so awesome reality that no one was expecting. There have been plenty of byproducts from it and most are not good whatsoever. One exception has become the cornerstone for business meetings both external and internal. Zoom has become our new virtual conference room and portal by which we do business.

And, nobody asked me, but I’m going to give you some advice to make your next Zoom call a better one for everyone lucky enough to be participating.

Before we go any further, let’s plagiarize what Wikipedia tells us about them. Technically, Zoom Video Communications, Inc. is an American company based in Silicon Valley or as we normal people call it, San Jose, California. In what can only be described as a historically ironic twist, the majority of their employees are based in China. You can’t write this stuff!

Wait, I guess I just did.

Zoom’s all about being simple and inexpensive. Essentially, that’s their business strategy and if you asked me (again, you didn’t) they’ve accomplished just that. Here’s another quote from Wikipedia, “Zoom’s business strategy focuses on providing an easier to use product than competitors, as well as cost savings, which include minimizing computational costs at the infrastructure level and having a high degree of employee efficiency.”

Zoom was founded in 2011 and quickly grew to be worth more money than ReThinc by copying the smart words I use all the time. In a word, they were “awright” right up until this whole COVID thing hit the world and ended boardroom meetings, long lunches, and expensive coffees. If you would have purchased their stock in February, you would have paid less than $75 a share … today, they sit right at $250 a share.

To say they benefited from the global pandemic would be kind of an understatement. But, now that you are educated on the history of the platform, let’s talk about a few tips to use it more effectively in our ‘don’t you shake my hand’ world we work in today.

Right now I’d say we’re still in the adaptation stage, meaning that people don’t really know how to properly use or maximize Zoom, but I’m hoping these tips will help you and others be more successful at using this platform.

  1. Treat Zoom like you would an in-person meeting. Yes, it’s cool that technically you can knock out an email, text a friend or trim your fingernails during a Zoom call but don’t. Just don’t. It’s really no different than if you did it right in front of your (client, boss, co-worker, prospect) during an in-person meeting in a traditional conference room.
  2. Treat Zoom like you would an in-person meeting. Pay attention and be engaged at all times, even when the conversation moves away from you. It’s not a good look when someone asks your opinion and you’re mentally running through a field of daisies.
  3. Treat Zoom like you would an in-person meeting (are you seeing a trend yet?). Take a minute to make yourself look professional, especially for Zoom meetings involving clients. Yes, you can go waist up on this but just be sure you don’t stand up and show your board shorts.
  4. Treat Zoom like you would an in-person meeting. Get there early and be ready to go when the meeting starts, especially if you’re the host. We feel like technology is instantaneous … and sometimes it’s not. Zoom can get weird on you and require a password or move slower than your 86 year old neighbor backing out of her garage. If the meeting starts at 9AM … get your Zoom on no later than 8:55AM.
  5. Treat your … OK, just kidding. I don’t have any more of those. Mind your background. A lot of us are working from home and for the most part, we understand that your work space is not quite as buttoned up as your office. But regardless, think about what’s behind you. Don’t execute even the most informal business oriented Zoom with a messy backdrop. Be mindful of that potentially scandalous poster that’s 100% OK in your bedroom and 100% uncomfortable for people on your Zoom call.Some people are really into custom backgrounds. OK, if that’s your thing. I personally don’t care for them and think they make you look like a D-Bag but don’t let that go to your head. Company logos and things of that nature, acceptable … a scenic background of a football stadium or a tropical beach, not so much. Maybe save the silly custom backgrounds for your Zoom happy hours and keep it buttoned up for business meetings. I know, you didn’t ask me … but still.
  6. Minimize distractions. I know this is so much easier to do in an office than it is in your home. Dogs bark, kids cry, and significant others like to walk around with no clothes on (or is that just me?). Regardless, you need to keep these things in check when you are on a Zoom call. One of the more useful features that you can utilize is the mute button that sadly doesn’t work also on your dog or your kid.
  7. Do you text and drive? Well, then you are a bad person. Do you text and Zoom? That is not quite as bad but it is super poor behavior on a Zoom call. Two things you should do with your phone when you are on a Zoom call … one, put it on silent … two, put it out of reach face down somewhere so that it does not distract you.
  8. Use the record function liberally. That’s strictly a host thing but it also allows you to keep pace with fast-speaking clients and keep tabs on slick talking vendors who are trying to sell you the latest thing to help your COVID stricken business stay solvent. If set up correctly beforehand, Zoom emails you about 15 minutes after the call with a link to the call in its entirety. That is easily archived, shared and utilized for improved follow up.
  9. Don’t eat or drink on your Zoom call. I mean, a water bottle is understandable but knocking down a protein bar with your venti iced coffee is bad form. Remember the screen you see and the screen your Zoom party sees are different so you’re not necessarily in some obscure little box.
  10. Chat is a great tool but should be used sparingly and carefully. If you are in a meeting and can’t implement conversation altering keys like uncomfortable eye contact, the subtle kick under the table, or the nuclear option of RUSSIAN PARATROOPERS … the Zoom chat function is an awesome way of communicating something privately (but always make sure you look before you mistakenly send to the whole group).

Look, it’s a new reality and we’re dealing with a completely new set of rules. I can’t shake hands, hug you uncomfortably, or use my subtle, yet overtly masculine sandalwood cologne to close a deal. The truth is we all have to adapt and thankfully, Zoom has helped us to do just that. Sure, it’s not as great as sitting at The Henry drinking super expensive coffee, but it does have a lot of advantages. Companies, and people who use it well, will be adapting well to a new way of doing business and people who don’t will continue to be annoying.

Either way, it’s adapt and thrive in 2020. Here’s hoping you Zoom your way to success!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Ed Olsen is the president/owner of ReThinc Advertising. He has lots of opinions on all things marketing. To read more of them, click here.

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