Five Tips on Screen Sharing Like a Boss

We all have a story about screen sharing gone awry. Before we get into some pointers for proper screen sharing etiquette, I’d like to share mine.

It was early on in my career. I was but a clueless, young Padawan navigating this strange, new (to me) world of advertising. I’d just landed a new agency gig and was eager to please.

About a week into the job, it came time for my first client presentation, which was to be conducted via a video call. I was feeling pretty good about the work we were going to present, and since my creative director was also on the call, I figured, what could go wrong?

Spoiler alert: a lot.

Several minutes into the conversation, it became apparent that the client was having a rough day. After a particularly memorable five-minute tirade about how all ad agencies are scams, my creative director decided to lighten the mood.

He grabbed my computer, opened a fresh Google Doc, and typed: “[client name] is an [insert expletive here].”

Now, I would never talk about a client that way, let alone during a presentation. But since I wanted to fit in at my new gig, I feigned a smile as I thought to myself, Is this guy for real right now?

All of a sudden, it dawned on both of us at the same time—WE WERE SCREEN SHARING ON MY COMPUTER.

In one swift, fluid motion, my CD reached for my computer, closed it, threw it like a frisbee into the wall, and ran out of the room.

I was dumbfounded. Did the client see? Where on Earth could my CD be running? Should I follow him?

Somehow, the client didn’t see. But from that day on, one thing became very clear to me: with great technological power comes great potential to do something stupid. With that said, here are my five tips on how to screen share like a boss.

1. Take your software for a test drive.

In my other life outside of work, I play music. There’s an old adage about music gear that also applies to screen sharing software: knowing your gear well is far more important than having the best gear out there. While it’s wonderful that screen sharing tools have tons of features, if you don’t explore them first, you’ll look as clueless as the time I played an entire show with my delay pedal turned up to 11 on my organ.

So whether you’re using Hangouts, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, or any of the myriad options out there, grab a coworker beforehand and do a quick mock meeting before getting in front of your clients.

2. Turn off your notifications.

A by-product of having so many communication channels is the endless barrage of pings, bleeps, and boops that never seems to stop. Unless you want to risk having everyone on the call know that your 3 p.m. cyst removal appointment is confirmed, nix your notifications before presenting.

This helps eliminate distractions and also helps make sure that information meant for your eyes only stays that way. Because, you know, it’d be a catastrophe if all of your coworkers saw that message from Tom saying that your exorbitant raise got approved. (Editor’s note: Hi, Tom.)

3. Avoid the auditory hypno-vortex of doom.

Also known to the layman as the “feedback sound of death,” there are few sounds in the known universe more abrasive than this one. If you regularly use Hangouts, you know it all too well. It’s caused when two devices in close proximity are dialed in to the same video call and neither is muted.

While this may seem like an obvious one, I’ve heard this sound so often that it’s become more recognizable than my mother’s voice. For all that is sacred, please hit the mute button on one of the devices before dialing in. This way, you can stay on track instead of having to wrestle with the whirling volcanic eruption of unpleasantness.

4. Keep it clean.

There was a time in my life when my computer desktop was a crowded melange of niche memes, screenshots, and rare footage of Stevie Wonder circa 1974. But then I turned 30, developed heartburn, and figured it was time I got myself together and cleaned up my desktop.

Moral of the story? It’s easy to forget that meeting participants can sometimes see your whole screen. So clean up your desktop and close those 15 open tabs of someone teaching a saguaro cactus how to speak Japanese. And if you have a less-than-corporate desktop image, it’s probably time to change it.

5. Be present.

Believe it or not, this new-age, millennial mantra also applies to online meetings. While it may be tempting to go through your inbox, check on your fantasy football team, or buy tickets to the next Killer Whale concert (December 21 at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco), fight that urge as best as you can. The last thing you want to do during a big meeting is have to say, “Sorry, I spaced out and missed literally everything you just said.” Take it from a guy who’s been there before. It’s not a good look.

6. Bonus!

Don’t bad-mouth clients. Ever. And if you hear someone else doing it, tell them not to. Even if you are a young, eager-to-please Padawan.