Work changed for many people in 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis forced businesses and workers to adapt to a new paradigm of working from home and social distancing.
Thankfully, modern technology made this shift much more possible than in years before, with team collaboration solutions letting remotely distributed teams work together as if they were in the same room, no matter how far apart their new workplaces were.
However, it hasn't been without its growing pains. The rise of widespread video conferencing in 2020 meant the rise of video conferencing incidents: Kids running in to our workspaces while we're on important client calls, family dogs howling in the background, or cat filters in important legal meetings.
At MegaMeeting, we think it's important to be able to laugh at these moments. 2020 was a stressful year for many of us, and working full-time from home means that these moments are unavoidable. So why not celebrate them?
Here are 13 of the most embarrassing video conferencing "fails" that full-time WFH-ers shared with us. What are yours? Let us know on social media!
My wife and I have been home-schooling our 13-year-old son since the lockdown started. We trade-off on education duties, and now we supplement this with online classes. But back in August he was working on assignments he felt were too advanced for his level. My wife was trying to help him, but he was getting frustrated. I could hear this from the other room, but I was on a Zoom call so I didn't intervene.
He burst into the room (closed door and everything) nearly in tears with frustration. I apologized to my employees and took the assignment to figure out how I could help him. I hadn't realized my camera and mic were still on, so I was working through a pre-calc problem, trying my best despite not being the biggest math buff.
I apparently got it horribly wrong. I heard someone trying to get my attention (my headset was off) and one of my employees told me that wasn't the right answer. They offered to walk my son through it, so he sat down in my chair and three different people helped him show his work and come up with the right answer.
— Dan Bailey, President, WikiLawn
We had a pretty funny Zoom "incident" early on in lockdown. Everyone was getting used to working from home, and of course that means spouses, kids, and pets are getting used to it, too. We were working on some new education initiatives to launch in the summer, and our content manager needed to step away for a few minutes to deal with a mild family crisis.
We continued the meeting, then the mic picked up sounds as his cat jumped up on the desk. It was in the frame, walking all over the keyboard. Because I had my Zoom settings set to show the active speaker, I just kept seeing the tuxedo cat moving in and out of the frame, and we all kept hearing it knocking things off his desk.
When he came back, there was a lot of swearing as he didn't think we'd actually hear him. It was impossible to keep a straight face, but everyone had a good laugh about it.
— Adam Chase, President, Music Minds
One of the funniest moments when conducting a video meeting last year was when an employee stepped away from his computer for a little while. We were in the middle of a semi-regular meeting between a few of us at Broadband Search, when an employee had to step away for a few minutes.
While he was gone, his grandma shuffled into the room and started organizing the area that he was sitting in - straightening his chair, putting some of his notes from the meeting together - she obviously didn’t realize we were all on the screen or thought we were some sort of screensaver.
After she’d finished organizing all the papers, she pulled out a wet cloth and a spray bottle (probably of general purpose cleaner) and proceeded to to spray and wipe down the laptop! Of course, you can imagine how this could potentially damage it. The rest of us were trying to get her attention but as I said, I think she just thought it was a screensaver or something.
Luckily, the employee walked in seconds before his gran started spraying the keyboard, and told her to stop what she was doing. It gave us all a good laugh. Now, when someone needs to step away in meetings we’ll sometimes joke with them to lock the door and hide the spray bottle.
— Carla Diaz, Cofounder, Broadband Search
One of the funniest video conferencing fails my team and I ever experienced was because of a small incident caused by myself. In the middle of the call, I accidentally played some workout music I had been saving for my exercise after the meeting.
Needless to say, my team and I got a few chuckles out of that mistake and I made sure to recheck my applications and browsers before going through a meeting again.
— Simon Elkjær, Chief Marketing Officer, avXperten
A really great fail that happened was just before the holiday season. I was having a conversation with my employees about our changes to the holiday party, considering we were all working remotely and felt like coming together was not the right thing to do.
We were all getting a little upset about the state of the world, and not being together for the holidays, and completely out of nowhere, an employee's child walks into the shot behind them and does the loudest burp/belch I have ever heard in my life. It rattled in my headphones, and we all just burst into laughter. It really helped to save us from feeling sorry for ourselves, so it was actually quite a great moment. We still talk about it now!
— Thomas Fultz, CEO & Founder, Coffeeble
I think the funniest video conferencing fail in terms of the one that actually had everyone present in hysterics was the meeting in which one of our manufacturing team leaders learned that her toddler had picked up a new word, and that said word was “penis;” at exactly the same time her whole team and members of leadership right up to C-suite level learned it too.
— Polly Kay, Senior Marketing Manager, English Blinds
For many of our team calls, we don’t use video. You never know when someone will open the door in your room or walk by as you’re talking, so we only use video for one-on-one calls. During one of our last group calls, someone farted in the meeting with 12 participants. Cameras were off so we couldn’t tell by the reaction who it was but it was super funny. There were a few seconds of total silence afterwards and we started laughing like crazy. I realize that this is very immature but we don’t get too many fun moments during work calls.
— Petra Odak, Chief Marketing Officer, Better Proposals.io
The funniest occurred in July during one of our weekly "state of health" meetings. One of our managers was on his cell phone using Zoom with the video camera on. He began discussing some KPIs of the program he oversees and rather than seeing his face, we were seeing a view of his hallway at a crooked camera angle.
Turns out he didn’t realize he flipped his cell phone camera on reverse… and we just let him go on for roughly five minutes. When he wrapped up, we let him know we saw a nice view of his hallway and worn out rug. We all had a good laugh. Turns out it was one of the most memorable meetings we had all year.
The manager has been a real good sport and taken all the razzing we’ve given him over the past several months.
— Sam Richards, Cofounder, Trivia20
I have cats that always join my online meetings. They love being around and have become quite popular with the team as well.
One of the cats, Gari, is completely black and is sometimes hard to notice. One time, we were in the middle of a fierce discussion when I noticed a couple employees giggling. At first, I didn’t know why but as time passed, more and more people were laughing. That’s when I saw it - my black cat Gari tried to jump inside my closet but it was too high, so he stayed hanging from it. Ironically, the camera only caught the bottom half of his body that was desperately trying to climb the closet.
There I was, all focused on the company budget while Gari was literally swinging from my closet and scratching everything he could reach. My position was also funny, since it looked as if he was literally on the top of my head. People even started cheering because Gari wouldn’t give up. Eventually I went over and helped him and he became our online meeting mascot.
— Malte Scholtz, CEO & Co-Founder, Airfocus
I was having a personal call with a few friends and one of them unfortunately did not have a good connection, so every so often they would just freeze, and would have to leave the call to reset it. It would be funny, to just see them slow down and freeze in time. We even screenshotted it and used it as our Zoom backgrounds, as some of the faces were something we wanted to keep forever.
— Shayne Sherman, CEO, Techloris
The funniest "video conferencing fail of 2020" has to be when I was in a very important meeting with some potential investors when a relative who was staying with me at the time decided to shout from the other room that her pooch had swallowed her teeth.
Obviously, I tried to ignore what was going on outside the call, but the shouting just got louder and louder which meant that the whole team heard the commotion in the background. I had no choice but to leave the call to help out my distressed relative. I made my apologies and went to help in the other room. I explained I was in a meeting and if there was anything I could do to help at that moment in time.
They turned to me to apologize and when they did I noticed they had their teeth in. It turned out the dog had eaten candy teeth, not theirs. We both went back to the call to reassure the team what had truly happened which gave them a giggle. Needless to say, my relative doesn't call out anymore when I'm in a meeting.
— Ethan Taub, CEO, Goalry
Like many other people, I’m currently working remotely and many funny incidents have taken place while conferencing with colleagues. For example, many of our pets have taken the liberty of sitting with us and are blatantly demanding pets and cuddles. My cat is very affectionate and is quite happy with the turn of events. Similarly, one of my colleague’s little daughter is capable of wreaking havoc and demanding every bit of attention she can get. Some of the other co-workers have a bad but funny habit of not even combing their hair or changing the nightclothes.
— Jennifer Willy, Editor, Etia.com
I teach workshops and classes on gratitude, positivity, and other subjects specifically chosen to help people flourish in trying times. While teaching colleagues in one of these classes, I taught for almost 10 minutes without realizing that my wifi had gone completely down.
This particular session was a one-way webinar and began as usual, with me seeing attendee count jump up as people joined, and once I had critical mass I began teaching and, as always, saw myself speaking. I also saw that attendee count was stable. It was common for me to not get any questions until later in the class so I had NO idea that the lack of any chat comments or questions was due to the fact that I was talking to myself - literally - until almost 10 minutes later when a colleague texted me to ask if I was having technical difficulties!
It felt appropriate that my classes often included tips on resiliency as I was given an opportunity to practice what I was preaching!
— Sally Wolf, Entrepreneur
What were some of your video conferencing fails? Let us know on social media at @MegaMeeting!
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