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20-40-60 Etiquette: Keep presentation in focus during video calls

QUESTION: Is there video conferencing etiquette in place? Do I need to look my best when meeting remotely on Zoom?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: What are you meeting remotely for? Is this a professional meeting or a meeting with friends? I wouldn’t be in my robe or pajamas for a professional meeting. Try your best to get dressed.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: If you have watched any of the parodies and seen the mishaps about Zoom and other video calls, you will realize that we are all figuring this out as we go along. (Even ABC reporter Will Reeve, the son of the late Superman actor Christopher Reeve, recently went on air wearing a coat and tie but neglected to hide from the camera that he wasn’t wearing pants. Another person on a large group video chat used the restroom and didn’t turn off the camera while holding her phone.)

Comedy skits have made fun of dropped calls, people who enter late, those who forget to mute themselves, dogs barking in the background and those who try to talk while they are muted. So it appears we’re all laughing together.

The biggest thing we should all be doing is giving each other grace for mistakes. After that, for a professional call and probably for calls with friends, I would say, get dressed, brush your hair and look presentable, and make sure your background is acceptable and doesn’t reveal anything you don’t want others to see. If you’re in a large group, keep yourself muted unless you need to say something; if you don’t, background noise makes it difficult for everyone to hear. Once those things are in place, follow the same etiquette rules that you would if you were meeting in person.

HELEN’S ANSWER: In most Zoom meetings, people are clearly shown in their environment, unless a backdrop is installed, so it is a good idea to comb your hair and look presentable.

I was so happy to see my co-workers recently in a Zoom meeting, that I didn’t care what they looked like. They looked healthy and were their usual creative selves. The same goes for a Zoom meeting with friends. Waving through the computer was better than not seeing them at all. I didn’t want those meetings to end!

GUEST’S ANSWER: Richard Rosser: author of “Piggy Nation,” a series of books, a cartoon and more on etiquette: There is a strict code of etiquette that has been put in place by the committee for Responsibility Under Duress and Etiquette, otherwise known as RUDE. There are five rules:

•Wear a hat if you have not showered in the last 48 hours.

•Do not tilt the camera down if you are only wearing pajamas, underwear or are going commando.

•Sign into the meeting five minutes prior to the start time and use that time to test your mic and camera.

•Check your camera framing to make sure others can see your face — not another body part or the ceiling.

•Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home! Connect online with family and friends to flatten the curve!

Since 2009, Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this generational etiquette column. They also include guest responses from a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is 20-plus; Lillie-Beth is 40-plus and Helen is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email