Being Stood Up

Having been stood up three times in the last two weeks for a Zoom meeting, it made me wonder how long you should wait before you close it and what, in general, Zoom etiquette actually is.

My personal reaction is that you wait about 10 minutes – but is this enough? After all, it’s pretty easy to turn up for a meeting on Zoom, but 10 minutes can easily disappear and you might click ‘leave meeting’ just as the other side is sitting down, full of apologies, and with a perfectly understandable reason. And likewise, it’s pretty easy to leave the meeting open for a while – if you’ve got more than one screen of course.

However, on one occasion, I sat in a client’s reception for 2 ½ hours. For the first hour, they sent messages to say sorry they were late, but after that I just waited. Now they were an important client, and the meeting needed to happen, but it was no surprise that despite the meeting going very well, my opinion of them wasn’t positively reinforced.

On the other hand, I waited in the Storyhouse, Chester, for 40 minutes, thinking that the client was late – and a little rude – before I realised that in fact, I was a day early!

The point is, we can all get things wrong.

So, what is video call etiquette? Everyone is busy and no one has time to wait for an hour on Zoom – but of course, while you are waiting, you can do other things and it’s not as if you’re wasting the travel time.

Do you send an email saying sorry we didn’t meet? Do you send another link to reschedule? Or do you wait for them to contact you – all the while trying not to feel a little aggrieved?

It also makes me wonder about how often you should chase people. Personally, if I am working on a project and getting no response, by the third email asking for the same information I tend to stop chasing.

And yet, if they are an ongoing client, I will send them a link again, asking when they want to meet.

I have a deep-rooted aversion to being late, whether in business or in my personal life, and that will never change. But I do acknowledge that there’s a difference between being a bit late for a Zoom book group or picking one of my children up from the station than a Zoom business meeting.

So maybe the etiquette is different – or at least more flexible – depending on the circumstances and who you are meeting. Your friends would surely start book group without you, and you’d join when you could. Despite their opinion to the contrary, it won’t do my children any harm to wait for a bit, but it might harm business.

Time management is a crucial skill. When you are late, if it’s a one-off, then people are more likely to be understanding – and the chances are you’d text ahead anyway. If it’s habitual, then you can just appear rude and disrespectful of other people’s time. It’s probably worth any of us using reminders on our phones or setting our watches a few minutes fast, just in case.

Then there’s the other thing: you’re waiting for an organised Zoom, you’re busy, and you’ve got another Zoom scheduled in an hour. It’s hard not to let emotion – and by that, I mean anything from mild annoyance upwards – creep in.

So how about a few Zoom etiquette pointers for us all?

If you’ve scheduled the meeting, send a reminder plus login details to the attendees 10 minutes before the start. If, 10 minutes after the start time, they’re not there, it’s your call whether you waste your time after that – but if you do wait, be aware that your feelings are likely become increasingly negative.

Nevertheless, once you’ve left the meeting, you could send a blameless apology for both of you missing it and ask if and when they’d like to reschedule. This is much easier to do calmly if you haven’t left yourself time to simmer and are already doing other work. The chances are they’ll reply quickly if your tone is pleasant.

And if a bit of a pattern starts to emerge, frankly, don’t waste your time. If they want you, they’ll get you, so after you’ve done what you feel you should, walk away.

Now all I’ve got to do is sort out the leaving Zoom for the loo etiquette …

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