Teleconference and Webinar Etiquette, Vol. 15, Issue 2

Almost without exception, anyone in the professional world now needs to be adept at participating in Virtual Meetings Made Possible by Technology, usually in the form of a teleconference or a webinar. Teleconferences, of course, take place via a telephone. Webinars, a comparatively new phenomenon, utilize both telephones and the computers of participants. Webinars allow video of participants in front of their computers, and also the ability to share documents and images on one's computer screen. These are very useful and helpful tools to have when everyone can't be around the same conference table - but only so long as a participant's inability doesn't jeopardize the time, resources (and hearing) of the others. So Etiquetteer wants to put forward some Gentle Suggestions about participating with Perfect Propriety in a teleconference or webinar:

  • R.s.v.p. promptly. Login information may only be sent to those who respond that they are going to participate.
  • Verify the arrangements. The day before the call, check that you have the correct dial-in/login information. Yes, the day before. the organizer certainly can't respond to your email or voicemail after the call has begun, and may not be able to even five minutes beforehand.
  • Schedule yourself honestly. If you're with your children at the zoo, in a bar waiting for a birthday party to start, in the doctor's waiting room, or - worst of all - operating a motor vehicle, you shouldn't be on a conference call. Not only is the background noise where you are impeding the acoustics of the call for everyone, your vocal participation is disturbing those around you. You show respect for other participants and for the agenda by being sure you're in a quiet space where you can participate fully without disturbing others.
  • Arrive early. Everyone's been on a call where the leader has had to repeat the first five or ten minutes for late arrivals. Plan to call in two minutes before the designated start time so that the content of the meeting can begin promptly. That makes a more efficient use of the time of all participants.
  • Know the technology. If you're unfamiliar with the technology being used - and Etiquetteer knows you don't when you call to ask for parking at the meeting - become familiar with it before the day of the call. Ask the organizer whether or not your available technology can accommodate the technology being used, and find out specifically what you need to do to get on the call with no disruption. (Good webinar organizers send instructions in advance, but not all participants make a point of reviewing beforehand.)
  • Know your mute button. Background noise where you are is magnified on a conference call, and has the power to drown out the words of other participants. If you aren't speaking, mute your phone. Unmute when you wish to speak.
  • Start every sentence with your name. Not everyone will recognize your voice.
  • At the end of the call, if you want to have a private conversation with another participant, hang up and call that person. The organizer can't be expected to keep the line open for you.


Today is Twelfth Night, the final day of Christmas, and therefore the last day on which Etiquetteer will allow Christmas to be sent with Perfect Propriety. Imagine how delighted Etiquetteer was to receive in the mail today a Christmas card from friends with the inscription "You said this would not be too late!" Indeed, it was not, and Etiquetteer was deeply touched to have been so remembered.

Holiday Fallout, Vol. 5, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer:

As has become my tradition, I made a charitable donation at Christmas in the names of several loved ones in lieu of sending paper greetings. I have chosen to support [insert Name of Appropriately Altruistic Non-Profit Institution Here]. So, Etiquetteer, what say you about this effort? I’ve done this now for several years. Some love it — others, I fear, are silent, finding it in bad taste expecting that I donate AND send paper greetings. In other words, I wonder if they consider me cheap and/or lazy and using it as an excuse not to send cards.

Dear Lazy:

Etiquetteer cannot call you Cheap, since you’ve generously supported the Non-Profit of Your Choice. Forgive Etiquetteer’s bluntness, but you’d be writing the check anyway, right? So what’s in it for the "honoree:" the knowledge that you were thinking of them when you wrote a check? Etiquetteer could see people thinking that wasn’t much of a holiday greeting for them. Perhaps they aren’t even particularly interested in the mission of the Non-Profit of Your Choice!

Now Etiquetteer does know of people who make donations to organizations their friends support in honor of their friends; that’s more like it. But those people make those donations instead of gifts, not Christmas cards. If your loved ones mean enough, you can at least send a Christmas card.

Etiquetteer received quite a few responses from a recent column about Christmas cards vs. holiday cards, two of which Etiquetteer shares with you now:

From an Orthodox matron: To your response on the subject of which holiday cards to send to whom, I must add that the whole issue of non-Christians who celebrate "with trees and presents" is a matter that tests my own capacity for Perfect Propriety. During all the December holidays I was asked by a colleague whether or not we celebrate Christmas. This is someone I've known for years and who knows my persuasion. Just after I'd said "No," the phone rang -- saved! But if the conversation had continued, I'm sure this person would have cited the example of so-and-so who was Jewish but . . you know. Between the "J's with trees" and the people who know "J's with trees," this season is simply fraught with occasions requiring the obligatory exhibition of The Indulgent Smile.

From a doyenne: I am no heathen and I was one who sent the Happy Holiday cards to people of faiths other than Christian. Having time restraints I couldn't go shopping to select cards for every faith even if I'd know which was proper. I'm lucky enough to have Christian, Jewish, African-American, African-African, Chinese and a couple from India on my list! The Christians got a Merry Christmas and the others got a Happy Holiday (no red or green ... it was white with gold) with a hand written note mentioning "what kind" of holiday if I knew it or could spell it!

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Holiday Cards and Other Correspondence, Vol. 4, Issue 52

Dear Etiquetteer:With all this “national dialogue” about how Christians have to take back Christmas, what’s your take on mailing Christmas cards to non-Christians. I always feel uncomfortable sending Christmas cards to Jews I know, but then some of them surprise me by celebrating Christmas with a tree and gifts. Please let me know what you think. Dear Thoughtful:Christmas does need saving, but not from the politically correct dogma you might think. To Etiquetteer, thoughtful Christians should turn their efforts to saving Christmas from the Retail Frenzy that grips our Great Nation every winter. Already the news stories have come in of riots at big box stores from people coming to blows over the last available [Insert Highly Desirable Toy or Computer Here]. That is NOT Perfectly Proper behavior, and it certainly isn’t good everyday Christian manners. Stop it at once.But you were asking mostly about Christmas cards. Other etiquette experts disagree, but Etiquetteer strongly believes that one should not send Christmas cards to those whose religion is other than Christian, whether they celebrate Christmas or not. One sends one’s Jewish friends Hanukkah cards, and Kwanzaa cards to those who celebrate Kwanzaa. Etiquetteer fancies that pagans and others might welcome a generic “Happy Holidays” card that didn’t have blatant red-and-green Christmas imagery all over it.Of course there is a VERY elegant way to avoid this whole hullaballoo, and Etiquetteer doesn’t know why more people don’t do it. Send New Year’s greetings to everyone instead of holiday greetings! These have an added advantage: you may mail them as late as January 6!

Dear Etiquetteer:A kind gentleman conducted an interview with me one month ago. Immediately after the interview I forgot to thank my interviewer, much as I had intended to send a card. The interview was for something whose acceptance letter is due earliest by February, but it seems inappropriate to thank my interviewer only after receiving a reply; yet, I am incredibly late. What is the most proper and polite thing to do now?Dear Carded:Etiquetteer’s dear mother has always said “Better late than never.” The later one is, however, the more oomph needs to be put into the communication. This is especially true in your situation, which Etiquetteer can tell involves admission to a college. Most of the “kind gentlemen” you mention, and a greater than or equal number of kind ladies, too, volunteer their time to interview prospective students like yourself. So by all means, get that letter out today! – don’t even go to bed until you’ve finished it – and thank your interviewer for his time, attention to your case, and service to his alma mater. Please don’t use some frilly greeting card. Grown-up business stationery is most Perfectly Proper here.Etiquetteer wishes you all the best in your admissions adventures!

Dear Etiquetteer:What do YOU want for Christmas?Dear Presenting:Aren’t you sweet for asking! Thank you! All Etiquetteer wants is a world of Perfect Propriety for all, where the Wicked and Evil are confounded, where women know not to wear sequins before 5:00 PM, where gentlemen remember to hold the door, and where cell phones are perpetually set to vibrate.

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