Whether you are on a Zoom, Google Hangouts, Uberconference (does anyone still use this?), or Microsoft Teams, you’ve probably noticed in the hundreds of unnecessary video meetings over the course of the last year and half, that certain archetypes tend to emerge on a videoconference call. At OfficeUpgraded, we are very familiar with all the characters you might expect to find in your next meeting and the tell-tale signs that will allow you to spot them.
After months of hard research and observational data in the field, we’ve boiled it down to 8 distinct personas that you can find on any given videoconference. Hopefully this isn’t you but if it is, we hope this guide can help you either change your persona or amplify it for maximum effectiveness.
Buzz Word Bill
Bill knows all the latest buzz words and he will be sure to drop them into the conversation as frequently as possible. There’s very little substance to what he says but there is certainly style. You might find Bill using phrases like “circle back” or “take this offline”, and he’ll be sure to mention synergy and optimization at least 17 times per call. Bill’s commitment to learning and using the lingo is sure to take him far in the corporate world, you can expect Bill to be a director, VP, or C-level executive, and if he isn’t yet, he is probably just a few more buzz-word laden conversations away from taking the leap.
One Comment Carl
Carl understands the importance of making a good first impression. He will be chomping at the bit from the outset of the call, eager to make that one insightful comment that will then allow him to sit back and scroll through Instagram, browse ESPN, or practice the new anime cartoon drawing skills he picked up during COVID.
Carl is a solid preparer and he’ll spend literal minutes coming up with a couple of different potential options to throw out from the beginning of the meeting. Usually his comments will dazzle the other participants and allow him to maximize his authority and status among his peers while minimizing the amount of actual effort and contribution that goes into the meeting. If you hear someone drop something like, the “ROI on our email marketing campaigns is down 17% over the last 30 days, we should really look into that”, you might have a One Comment Carl on your hands.
That one person who always has their camera off and their microphone muted, no one really knows what Melissa is doing or why she bothered to join the meeting. Obviously she is too important to actually participate in the meeting but didn’t want to commit the social taboo of declining the invite. We suspect Melissa could be eating a bag of Doritos and doesn’t want the distinct crunch to be heard on the call, or be spotted with neon yellow coloring of Nacho Cheese on her fingers or lips, though we can’t be entirely certain that she isn’t more of a Cool Ranch fan.
Hard Stop Harold
Harold is a BFD and he will be sure to let you know about it. He will authoritatively announce as soon as he joins the call that he has a hard stop at 11:30 so we should jump right into it. Honestly, as characters go, we personally respect Harold’s style as it tends to minimize the amount of bullshit and small talk that you can expect to encounter at the meeting. Harold is sure to look impatient throughout the course of the call and will probably be checking emails and glancing at his phone periodically.
Letting people know how many other calls you have that day is a surefire way to convey your status to the other participants and let them know how valuable your time is. We find that there is significant overlap between Hard Stop Harold and Buzz Word Bill, anyone who is important enough to always have a hard stop on the call is sure to have mastered a number of buzz words to achieve such an exalted status in the corporate world.
Small Talk Susan
Poor Susan has been in total lockdown for a really long time, leaving only to pick up groceries or to take her Pomeranian to the dog groomers. She is starved for human contact and it shows. She might totally bypass the customary 2-3 minutes of banter at the outset of the call and even go so far as to show you pictures of her grandchildren or tell you about the loud noise she heard in the neighborhood last night that she’s convinced was a gunshot. It’s tempting to engage with Susan because she can be oh so friendly but we’ve found that once you get going on the conversation, it can be near impossible to right the ship and get the meeting back on track.
Susan is also known to sometimes explicitly plan meetings with no agenda with a vague term like “Circle-up”, we suspect this is a ploy to get people onto the call so she can catch up on all the latest gossip.
Even after a year and a half of nonstop Zoom calls, somehow Melvin just can’t figure it out. His audio isn’t working, he is going in and out of the call, he might have accidentally turned his face into a fucking cat. We don’t know if he is actually this technologically challenged or if it’s just an elaborate ploy to avoid truly participating in the monotony of your average Zoom call. If the latter, we commend the high risk, high reward strategy. In any event, the presence of a Malfunctioning Melvin is sure to disrupt any chance of a valuable meeting but hopefully it will at least provide some entertainment.
Tuned Out Tina
Tuned Out Tina is not listening to anything that anyone is saying, and she doesn’t care who knows it. We suspect Tina has probably participated in a number of job interviews recently and thus is insulated from any sort of blowback from her antics. If you suspect you have a Tuned Out Tina on the call, just ask her a direct question and she is sure to ask “sorry could you repeat that?”
Thanks to the leniency of travel WFH has granted, and the luxury of portable hotspots, Outside Oliver is almost guaranteed to be the only person on the zoom call sitting outside… and will make sure everyone knows it. You’ll typically find Outside Oliver rocking new shades, airpods, an iced coffee, and so much sun glare on the camera you won’t even be sure who’s actually on the other side of that computer.
While everyone is inside, dealing with their dogs barking, kids running around, and a blanket because the AC has been running all day, Oliver is embracing the outdoors, with a smug look on their face thinking “why doesn’t everyone else do this?” Power moves by Oliver include, but are not limited to: not muting their audio so everyone can hear the birds and the wind just to remind you you’re not outside, mentioning how beautiful, warm, and refreshing it feels, and having their computer start lagging because it overheated on the patio table (Bonus points if they’re the one leading the meeting and have to call a 5 minute break so they can get themselves re-setup inside).
While our research on this subject has been exhaustive, it is always possible that a Zoom character has escaped us. If you’d like to submit another character or have any entertaining stories you’ve encountered on a Zoom call, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re lucky, we may feature it in an upcoming article…
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