Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Webex, Google Hangouts, streaming, gallery view, speaker view, invite to meeting, ask to join, leave meeting, dial back in, can you hear me?, can you see me?, mute your mic, unmute your mic…

Social restrictions imposed by the novel COVID-19 virus have ushered in an equally novel lexicon that is on everyone’s lips, along with a few expletives cursing the challenges of technology. Even seniors are in on the action. Like “Google,” “Zoom” has become a verb.

Videoconferencing technology has allowed us to remain socially and professionally connected to one another, even as we keep our safe social distances. That’s a very good thing that is only going to become more prevalent as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of our world today.

Video calls have also presented some unique issues of finesse and decorum.

While social calls (birthdays, happy hours, chats with grandma) are more casual, less formal and generally more forgiving of various gaffes in etiquette, all videoconferences come with some do’s and don’ts from which users can benefit:

  • Square away technology ahead of time. While technical snafus can – and do! – occur even under the best of circumstances, many of them can be eliminated by preparing ahead of a videoconference call. At least 30 minutes in advance of the call, especially if you’re the host, make sure you’ve shared/received the call link, number and/or password. Also ensure that your Internet connection is strong, your microphone and camera functions are working properly, and turn off any other apps that could drain bandwidth. Once the call has begun, mute yourself when you’re not speaking to eliminate feedback, echo effects, and background noise. People working or sheltering at home share space with dogs, lawnmowers, children, passing cars and any number of other interfering sounds. And for goodness’ sake, don’t type on the device you’re using for the call, as the internal noise will be loudly audible – and annoying – to all participants.
  • Assign a moderator. While this may be unnecessary for social calls, anyone who’s ever tried to participate in a call when it seems that either everyone or no one is talking knows that it’s helpful to have someone guide who will speak and when. Questions or comments can be made in the chat section at any time and addressed later in the call, and everyone will see them.
  • Don’t interrupt or talk over one another. In a video call, it’s not as easy to tell who’s going to speak or when they might be finished. It’s always important to be respectful and give everyone a chance to speak in equal measure, even more so on video when the advantage of body language isn’t there. Wait until someone has stopped talking for as long as it takes to spell out “WAIT” in your mind (Why Am I Talking?) before speaking. If someone else talks at the same time, stop and either wait for a later opportunity to speak, jot a comment, or politely cede the “right of way.”
  • Limit verbal space fillers. “Uh, um, mmm, well, like, ah, yes…” While these pause words may indicate that someone is either speaking or listening, they add little to the discussion, waste time, and may cause others to inject their own unnecessary comments: “Sorry, say again?, please repeat, what was that?…”
  • Optics are everything. Even though you may be working from home in your curlers and PJs, it’s important to dress for your video call like you would in a face-to-face professional meeting (at least from the waist up, unless you plan to stand up!). Whatever you’d wear to the office is how you should dress on a video call. If you’re not using the background blur function or one of the backdrops many video conferencing tools provide (tropical islands, landscapes, SpongeBob SquarePants), try to find a quiet, uncluttered area of your home in which to attend the call.
  • Behave as if you’re there in person. Be on time to the video call, ideally ahead of the host, and give it your full attention – even when you’re not speaking. Make eye contact with your fellow meeting members, and limit fidgeting or distracting movements. Don’t look at your phone, have side conversations with other call participants, chat with people in your house, chew gum, pick your teeth, slurp coffee, etc.

Seniors and Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing technology has been a saving grace for seniors, many of whom are isolated and apart from family and friends during the pandemic. While older people may be intimidated by technology or reluctant to try it, many are finding that it’s paving the way for greater connection and are willing to ride out the learning curve.

It’s important to be patient and understanding with older people learning videoconferencing technology. There are some very senior-friendly software and apps on the market; consider researching and installing them on their behalf. Sit with them as they’re learning, going slowly and methodically through the process. Write out step-by-step instructions with screen shots they can refer to later, and don’t use techy terms, no matter how intuitive they may seem to you. “Cloud,” “portal,” and “stream” mean something entirely different to people born years ago.

IVY Is Here for You
The IVY team is adapting to the ever-evolving “new normal” of social distancing, meeting virtually and conducting business remotely. But we know that, as many of our clients are considered essential employees, they cannot operate in the safety of their own residences. We recognize that they are frontline heroes who are inventing new ways to keep residents and staff safe, while also engaged and happy.

We thank and admire our clients, who are making a positive difference for seniors and their families, even amidst negative press and unscrupulous lawyers. Let us help share your good news of tireless care, compassion, creativity and celebration.