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  • Writer's pictureAIM

Pardon Me, Counsel, But Your Strategy is Showing: Avoiding the Hazards of Virtual Meetings

Like the random cell phone dinging during a church service or theater performance, some people just don’t recognize or somehow forget device etiquette in public. And we’ve all cringed during a meeting when the presenter has forgotten to turn off instant messaging, and their spouse pops in to ask if anything is needed at Target. While annoying and possibly embarrassing, these faux pas are typically harmless. But the same casual forgetfulness during virtual meetings can, at the very least, embarrass you in front of a client, colleagues, or the court, and, far worse, can cost you a case or possibly your identity.

Here are five reminders on the hazards of screen sharing during mediations, CLE webinars or Zoom calls.

1. Close - Don’t Minimize - All Applications

Have the mindset that anyone viewing your screen is mining for your private information to use against you. If your email or spreadsheet applications are up and running, think of all the gold laid out for everyone to see. The opposition can gather a lot of intel on you and your clients just from glancing at your subject lines, folder names and tab topics. Don’t give anyone that ammunition. Don’t give away your hard-earned research. Don’t show your cards.

2. Your Desktop Icons Are Showing

While you’re discussing med-pay subrogation with your mediator or the opposing counsel, don’t forget we can see your desktop icons. Are they titled by client, prospect, or case name? Do they reveal your strengths and weaknesses? Are you exposing ideas that may have never occurred to your competition? If you must toggle back and forth between screens, and your desktop icons are disclosed, consider renaming them to remain covert.

3. Prepare, In Advance, the Documents You Plan to Screen Share

It’s important to take as little time as possible to share your screen while pulling up your presentation materials. Have your documents ready and minimized or in an appropriately-named folder so you can quickly move to them for screen sharing. Move that document or folder to your desktop. Don’t mine for it during the presentation. Practice moving back and forth to these documents before your shared-screen presentation. Pay attention to everything being revealed on your screen during your practice run.

4. Keep Your Background Clutter-Free & Neutral

This is America, and you have the right to decorate your office and desk however your employee handbook deems appropriate. But we can’t concentrate on you and your subject matter if there’s a half-eaten to-go box of nastiness on your left and a questionable piece of art or memorabilia hanging above you. Be mindful of your audience. Keep employees, clients (and potential clients!) from being seen as they walk in and out of your shot.

5. Do I Hear a Cat?

Is that a baby crying, or do you have a cat? Sometimes life is real and gets in the way of a well-planned caucus. But do try to plan for a quiet, uninterrupted meeting. It’s hard to hear all the details of the client’s outstanding liens when FedEx is ringing your doorbell and now your dog is foaming at the mouth. It’s hard for the court to focus on your argument in a virtual hearing when your freshly-showered family member walks through the room behind you wearing a towel. Place a Do Not Disturb sticker on your door, temporarily place your pet in the bathroom, turn off your mobile phone and mute your office phone. Ask your coworkers to keep their voices low around your office space while you’re hosting a meeting. Wear AirPods to avoid outside noises and other distractions.

Many of these suggestions are common sense. And we tried to use a sense of humor with the hope that these tips remind you to consider your personal surroundings and proprietary data before you host your next screen-sharing meeting. You work too hard to divulge your secrets! And be sure to mute your phone and desktop audio settings when you’re playing the attendee, too.

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