— This is part 3 of a 3 part series that considers information overload in times of crisis —


When phones first came along, people didn’t say “hello” to start the call. And in the 1930s and ‘40s, families would purposely gather around the radio rather than leaving it to play in the background.

Whenever a new technology becomes widespread, it takes a while for the social rules to catch up.

The same is true for Zoom and other video conferencing tools. During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is using them — but not everyone is using them well, and some of the social rules around conferencing are still being ironed out.

A year ago, it was inconceivable for a CEO to hold a meeting from the kitchen table. Yet here we are, with kids walking into our business calls, dogs barking in the background, dishes visible on the edge of the frame — all while we look up someone’s nose under questionable lighting.

And those are just the everyday fails. There are other, much more serious issues that that put companies at reputational risk, and employees’ jobs on the line. Take for example, the woman who went to the bathroom during a call. Or the professor who left a tab open on her shared screen that said “divorce.” Or the boss who went viral after she turned herself into a potato.

Clearly, the rules are still being written. Businesses need to figure out best practices for video conferencing — and fast — because as the crisis drags on, it’s inevitable that high-stakes pitch meetings, or board meetings or product launches will have to happen online, and companies need to be ready.

On the other hand, companies that do a GREAT job presenting themselves in video conferencing will absolutely stand out from the herd of potato heads and file-folder failures.

Our team at LRC just had a brainstorming session about this challenge this week. We believe companies need training on this new medium — part of which would be a frank discussion of the risks and evolving social rules.

Companies need to think of video conference platforms less as a medium for informal internal chats, and more of a mechanism for external presentations or media interviews. We think a lot of organizations could benefit from tips on how to set up lighting, composition and sound. That companies should develop a meeting prep checklist — the equivalent of tidying up the conference room. And that companies should be able to tap into resources like custom backgrounds (real or virtual) and tailored speaking points.

We’ll have more to say about this in the days to come as we launch a new suite of LRC video-conferencing services.

But in the meantime … our best and most important piece of advice is: “If you’re not talking, mute your mic!”