10 Commandments of Zoom* Leadership

Seth Godin has an excellent post about doing Zoom well. Psychology today also ran an extremely helpful article about why all this teleconferencing is wearing us out. There are some unique considerations, however, that are worth considering when you are the one leading the meeting, presiding over worship, or providing tele-care:

  1. Thou shalt not go it alone.  Swap Zoom hints with other people, but, more importantly, when your presence is the most important gift to a video conference you’re leading, have someone else take the reigns for moderating the conversation.
  2. Thou shalt lay down ground rules and give a brief orientation every time.  Familiarize yourself with how your teleconference software works on desktop and mobile (and call in) and remind people how to mute/unmute and start/stop video.  Lay down ground rules:  participants who are not talking should be muted, the moderator will mute people not talking, how to signal that you have something to say, not to leave after commenting.
  3. Thou shalt provide conversation moderation.  Even if you break commandment number one, be sure to call on people, watch to signals that people would like to speak, ask talkative people to pipe down.
  4. Thou shalt take care with backgrounds.  If you must use a computer generated background, it will be extremely distracting if you move, so try to hold still (for example, don’t have your typing hands on the screen).  If there’s time to chat, it is fine to note something in the background that holds a common interest.  It is never fine to pass judgement on what you see in the background, such as messy homes,
  5. Thou shalt attend to off-camera noises.  Silence your phone, use your computer’s “do not disturb” feature to silence notification.  Find a quiet place to work if you can, but do let others know if you anticipate interruptions
  6. Thou shalt not be afraid to say, “excuse me.”  Life happens.  Children wander into offices, dogs bark, a teetering computer crashes to the floor.  Stay calm.  Do a quick mental assessment.  You have options:  check in to see if it is distracting to others; turn off your video; step away for no more than 90 seconds to solve a problem; apologize and end the call.
  7. Thou shalt take responsibility for problems on your end only.  Understand basic troubleshooting of your teleconference program.  Take a note of where to send people who have trouble.  If you internet is behaving poorly, try leaving and returning to the meeting, if you can; try turning off your video and leading with audio only; speak extra slowly; ask a co-host to take over; reschedule the meeting.  Apologize for the inconvenience, outline the steps you will take to make it better.
  8. Thou shalt thank people for attending.  Good manners go a long way.
  9. Thou shalt cover thine own face.  Watching yourself lead – that way lies madness.  Recording yourself to get some feedback on occasion makes sense, but not watching your every move.  Set yourself up in such a way that you won’t accidentally wander off camera:  sit in a chair, set up the camera so your face fills the frame and isn’t coming from too far above or below.  Then, grab a sticky note and cover up your on-screen face.  Move it around if you have to.  If you’re presenting and someone else is moderating, you might even consider covering the whole screen so you can concentrate on #10.
  10. Thou shalt look into camera and be genuine.  You are not an automaton.  You are you.  People on this teleconference need your gifts.  Be with them.  If your thoughts wander, let them go, return without judgement.  If your camera is a tiny dot, find ways to draw your eyes to it when you’re talking.  Give body-language feedback (nod your head, give a thumbs up, signal a question) when you’re not.

*Remember, there are other teleconferencing software.  Find what works for you.  Even when you buy “facial tissues” we call them Kleenex.