Please Leave Your Notifications at the Door

We are a lucky bunch. We live in a world where one can share the screen they’re looking at instantly with people halfway across the world. And I’m seeing more and more people take advantage of this amazing technical feature, as they should!

However, what I’m not seeing is etiquette around this channel.

When I have guests over at my house, I try to prepare for them appropriately: I clean the living room, puff up the pillows from their slouching state, put things in their proper place, spray some Febreeze and crack a window, and maybe even cook up some appetizers. And yet, when I partake in a screen sharing session, I don’t see similar preparedness. There are windows overlapping on one another, browsers with more tabs than I’d want to look at, and notifications coming in randomly to inform the viewers that the presenter’s girlfriend’s cat threw up in her shoes again. It makes me wonder where the disconnect is between people’s homes and workstations…

Given some of the bad practices and disorganized workstations I’ve witnessed, I propose the following Rules of Etiquette for the Remote Sharing of One’s Desktop:

  • If you plan on using a browser window during the presentation, open a brand new browser window. Then open any tabs you may need during your presentation. This way your coworkers won’t need to see which cat-of-the-week video you were watching or the controversial subreddits you follow.
  • Minimize all open windows and then open only the ones that will be needed for the presentation.
    • macOS: Hit Command + M for each application with open windows.
    • Windows: Hit Windows + D.
  • Enter ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to make sure push notifications don’t interrupt your presentation.
  • Try to foresee any questions that may arise and be prepared for them by having relevant tabs/applications/windows open that you can reference.
  • If you’re on a Mac, consider using Spaces to create a clean workspace to work out of.
  • Within any open applications you’re presenting, maximize them to the full size of the screen to make sure users’ attentions are focused on the current agenda item. Given people’s attention spans, it’d be very easy for them to drift and oh look! A squirrel!
  • Potentially zoom in or enlarge text on certain windows when needed, such as web browsers, code editors, etc. While you’re only a few inches away from your monitor, people on the other end may be further away from their source of video. It couldn’t hurt to ask if the current size is appropriate for all the participants.
  • If you want to get really fancy: use the application switcher keyboard shortcut to be able to transition between applications and windows seamlessly and without a fuss. You can read up more about it here.
    • macOS: Hold down the Command button. Now hit Tab once. Continue to hit Tab until the application you are trying to switch to it selected, then let go of all keys and watch as that application pops into the foreground!
    • Windows: Follow the same instructions as for macOS above, but replace Command with Alt. Also important to note, on Windows, this switches between all windows, not only applications

Following these simple rules will help make desktop sharing sessions not only more professional, but more of a freshly welcomed home visit than a messy living room with a slightly sour odor…