How to navigate the world of online conference calls, meetings during working, studying remotely

A Florida judge is urging lawyers and their clients to dress properly when arguing cases on Zoom. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

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A Florida judge is urging lawyers and their clients to dress properly when arguing cases on Zoom. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

Most of us are still adjusting to a world filled with video calls and conferences and have learned some tricks.

You probably know by now you only need to dress professionally from the waist up, with one exception.

Jodi R. R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting explains, "If you think there's even the slightest chance that you're going to need to get something from the other room then you definitely need to be dressed professionally your entire way."

Smith said that she encourages as much preparation as possible and to be prepared for the unexpected as well.

When City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu’s children jumped in at the end of one our interviews, she acknowledged it and just kept going.

Smith said that's OK, explaining, "There are plenty of us regular people who simply don't have a place in their house that they can turn into an instant video conference room with soundproofing and a door that locks."

As far as that awkward moment at the end of a meeting when no one knows how to say goodbye?

Smith said, "As the host I simply say it's been so nice having you here in a professional setting you can be more succinct about it and you can say are there any other issues and tell them when you're going to follow up."

Then there are the flood of personal invites, which sometimes you may feel inclined to decline.

Smith said you can say “Thank you so much for inviting me,” and be gracious about being included. And, “I can’t this time but I hope that you have fun.”

She explained, “People I grew up with on my street, we’d see each other every five to six years and it was great catching up with them and now they are having happy hour and it’s the work version of happy call and it was fun the first couple of times.”

It’s another sign of the times she went on to say, “We are all safe at home in our houses but there isn’t that much going on so what am I going to tell these people that I only see once every five years a week later.”

On the flip side, there are some people who could really use someone reaching out, especially the elderly and it doesn’t have to include video.

You can always write a letter or make a phone call.

"You should not feel bad about not wanting to talk to somebody and you should also understand that different personality types respond to these things differently so some people go to these virtual happy hours and they feel great and then there are others who go and that makes them feel hollow or empty inside, those are the people that are off doing one or one or one calls, understand that if you are using technology and it's not making you feel better find a different way to use technology so you feel better about it," she said.

Smith says her consulting agency is available to respond to etiquette emergencies for free on their website.

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