Have you attended a zoom or virtual meeting recently, and there are one or more people who lurk on the call? You know the ones. There is a gallery image with their name as a placeholder, but they are never there? Let’s discuss how this strategy is damaging to your reputation
Lurking: “lying hidden or moving about secretly, as if to ambush someone. In internet culture, it specifically refers to browsing social media sites or forums without engaging with other users.”
I understand how there are times that you want to be on a call and need to step away for a few minutes, that will happen for most of us from time to time. I am not talking about that. And when you do, I’m sure you simply turn off your camera and have a beautiful photo of yourself taking your place in the meeting. (if you don’t, you will want to do so)
I am talking about those who show up for training or other meeting and never turn on their camera, talk, chat, or respond in any way. They will typically arrive late and, most times, stay on until the end when they are thrown out of the meeting when it ends.
If this were a live meeting, it would be the same as me entering the meeting room, putting my jacket over the back of the chair and putting a piece of paper and pen as my placeholder, and perhaps placing a baby monitor in the seat and then walk out of the room. This sounds ridiculous, yet virtually that is precisely what a lurker is doing.
During the last couple of months, I have been part of a community where the leader holds several online training sessions for us to learn, participate, and network. Over several meetings, we have all gained much value from the information and made great connections with one another. With one or two exceptions. There has consistently been a couple of people who show up to the meeting a few minutes late, never turn on their camera, and only have their name displayed on their gallery image square. Sometimes the leader will ask a specific question of one of these lurkers with never a response!
One of these lurkers has partnered up with the trainer to offer value to the community; at that call, he actually did show up! Yet, he lurks at all the other calls. This has me questioning his expertise, reputation, and ability to perform his services. Why? If he is not able to show up any other time except when he wants something, it creates doubt and hesitancy that he would show up 100% if working with me directly. I don’t have confidence in what he has to offer.
When a lurker shows up to a meeting, these are a few thoughts which other participants are thinking:
• Is he or she too important compared to the rest of us?
• What happened to him or her?
• Why did he or she even join the call?
• Who else is listening in on our call or in the room with him or her?
• What is his or her purpose?
• Who is this person?
Any of the above questions do not evoke a positive image of the one who is lurking on the call, just the opposite.
Virtual meetings are here to stay. How we show up on these meetings plays a significant role in our reputation as a professional. Just as when we meet people in person, we receive and feel their energy, attitude, and confidence in themselves and product or service. The same occurs in virtual meetings. I have experienced people becoming more lackadaisical as they attend these meetings. This approach serves no one. The participants receive it as a lack of respect. The lurker is viewed as questionable, disrespectful, and possibly arrogant! After all, his or her time is more valuable than everyone in the meeting!
I learned early on in my career that ones’ reputation precedes them. Once your reputation is tarnished in any way, it is rarely corrected to the truth. As you attend future virtual meetings, be present, and if you need to step away for a while, let the group know in the chat that you need to do so. This shows respect and communicates your intention. You don’t have to have your camera on all the time, for instance, if you are eating – others don’t want to see that, turn off your camera so instead we can see the photo of you smiling. If you don’t plan to participate or even show up at all at the meeting – I would ask you why you are even there? All you are doing is creating a blank image and impression of yourself that will damage your reputation.
Be present, participate, and others will take notice and interact with you. Communicating well virtually is critical to our future success.