Posted by: brandextenders | October 25, 2010

Ready, Set, Flush!

Did you ever see the Leslie Nielsen movie, “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad”? Remember the scene at the press conference when he goes to the bathroom still wearing the live microphone? As funny as that scene is, faux pas like that in business are becoming more common as technology puts us in situations that aren’t normally equated with business.

More and more meetings are held via conference calls and video conferencing and the chances to do something really stupid have gone up astronomically. In a 2006 study (the most recent I could find) by Internet Security Company SonicWALL, they found 12% of male and 7% of female telecommuters worldwide work at home in the nude. As long as you aren’t the person hosting a video conference using a webcam I guess working in the nude can be…fun?

While it may seem like common sense to hit your mute button or look professional in front of a webcam, many of us truly remain clueless as these examples show:

  • On a regular basis I’ve been on conference calls where some of the participants are working from home and I’ve heard everything from babies crying to passing gas, dogs barking, people cussing, siblings fighting and heavy breathing.
  • People hosting a webinar forgetting that everything on their desktop and messages they may be writing can be seen by the audience. From online chats with romantic interests that get a little spicy to credit card information, lewd pictures and personal appointments (5pm laxatives for the colonoscopy tomorrow!).
  • Just last week I was on a conference call with three new clients I had literally just met and five of my co-works on the call-in line. During a brief lull in the conversation there was, over the speaker phone, the unmistakable sound of a toilet flushing. To this day no one has confessed!

Etiquette in business has taken on a whole new meaning in this world of instant communication and you must be aware of how to incorporate it into your business life. Here are a few things to remember as you jump on that conference call or hook up your webcam to join others in a video conference meeting.

  1. MUTE, MUTE, MUTE. It’s true that conference calls can drag on for eternity and given how our minds wander after just a few minutes it’s important to hit the mute button. That way if your other phone rings, your kids are fighting and need a referee, the dog is barking relentlessly or you drop something and spout an obscenity, you won’t be heard. Be ready though to un-mute if you’re asked a question or need to respond so the others on the call won’t think you’ve fallen into a coma.
  2. If you are on a video conference call it’s a good idea to dress as you would if you needed to be at the meeting in-person. No one wants to see you in a T-shirt with an inappropriate saying, in your PJ’s or with a hang-over. And if you happen to be running the meeting, remember everything you do on your computer can be seen by everyone. Plan ahead, rehearse and make sure you are in a place where there is nothing inappropriate behind you.
  3. If you are on a conference call in your office, you most likely have music on hold or some other message for callers to listen to when they are on hold. If you put the conference call on hold, everyone on the call will get to hear the music or message. Not cool!
  4. Don’t eat while you are on a conference call unless you follow rule #1 and mute. Even then, if someone asks you a question and your mouth is full you might be challenged to speak legibly.
  5. Learn at least the basics of the technology you are using and be on time. Also know that on certain kinds of calls; usually videoconferencing, the host and anyone they want to share it with can see who is, or more importantly, who isn’t on the call.

 Face it, it’s here to stay so better to make friends with and know the technology than to be caught doing something really dumb. Like the guy who was running a video conference call and could be seen in a shirt and tie and looked very professional. Until he stood up to reach for something and everyone saw he had neglected to put on his pants. Let’s at least hope he was wearing clean underwear!!

With 24 years in promotional marketing, Steve Woodburn works with clients to develop creative and measurable solutions that solve their marketing needs using promotional products, uniform programs, online company eStores, point-of-sale initiatives and rewards and recognition. He builds long-term relationships and becomes a trusted advisor and consultant his clients can turn to for all their brand extension needs. You can reach him at:

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