The Break Room: Practical Methods for Ending Your Zoom Call

Master these techniques and you’ll find that ending a Zoom call (on your terms) will become a piece of cake.

man working from home virtual meeting zoom
This satirical column is part of our series The Break Room. Each column takes a humorous look at an aspect of the workplace. All the characters and scenes are fictional.

Even though many of us have been fully remote for upwards of 8 months now, we’re still finding our bearings in the world of video conferencing.

Most of us now know how to avoid some of the most embarrassing and disrupting pitfalls — the bathroom visits, the Zoom bombs, the less-than-fully-clothed family members parading through the room. However, many of us are still struggling with some of the finer points of the virtual meeting.

One of the most challenging questions people confront when participating in a Zoom conference is simply: When is it over?

Back in the Old World, it was simply a matter of waiting for someone important enough to push their chair back from the table and stand up. But no such clear and simple signal exists for Zoom.

Even those of us who weren’t important enough to be chair-pusher-backers had tactics at our disposal … Papers we could stack … notebooks and folders we could close … fidgeting with increasing intensity … etc.

Lacking the kinds of tactics that have been standard to business meetings for well over 2 centuries now, we’ve put together a new “toolkit” of sorts for ending your meetings — if not gracefully at least definitively.

HOSTS

As host, you hold the power. You’ve got your finger on the button, quite literally, and can end the meeting at any time.

And yet, old Aunt May’s words ring heavy in your ears. With host power, comes host responsibility. You don’t want people complaining that you ended the meeting abruptly or didn’t let them finish their thoughts.

Here’s one great idea: Pre-record a few “official” Zoom notifications of a kind with the familiar “This meeting is being recorded” message. Except these say things like “This meeting will end in 5 minutes” and/or “The meeting is ending now.”

When you’re ready to go, just hit the button. Then, feign ignorance. “Oh wow did they add a new feature or something?” or “Uh-oh, looks like Carlos must’ve forgot to renew our subscription,” should work just fine.

Don’t try to explain; just glance down at your phone and say, “Oh boy. Sorry team. It’s Patricia. I gotta go.”

If you’re a manager hosting a meeting with your team, you can always pull the classic power play. Pick someone important in the company and pretend you’ve just received an urgent text from them. Don’t try to explain; just glance down at your phone and say, “Oh boy. Sorry team. It’s Patricia. I gotta go.”

If you’re feeling extra confident, just use the old “hard stop.” Sans explanation. “Sorry guys I’ve got a hard stop,” is easy enough to say, but holding that poker face that convinces everyone you really have a hard stop, when you know full well you don’t? That can be a challenge.

But if you can successfully pull it off, it can be one of the most valuable tools in your kit.

PARTICIPANTS

It takes real gumption to attempt the “hard stop” as a participant. Here are some less aggressive tactics you can try.

“Someone is at the door/trying to break in.” You don’t want to alarm your coworkers unnecessarily. But let’s be honest, some coworkers may fully expect you to ignore that doorbell and carry on with your “important” meeting. So try “someone’s at the door” first. Then, if your coworkers show no deference, add on a “Are they trying to break in?”

At this point, hop up and leave the camera, muting your microphone and/or shutting your laptop. Just be sure to send a “Don’t worry, guys, false alarm” Slack within a few minutes. You don’t want anybody getting really concerned about you.

“I think I’m losing my internet connection.” Tell them they’re breaking up. Start fiddling with cords that may or may not have anything to do with your internet connection. Mutter something like, “50 mbps my foot … bunch of crooks over there at <Internet Provider>. Then, simply leave the meeting. Message your team a few minutes (or hours!) later to let them know you’re back online and ask if you missed anything.

Start fiddling with cords that may or may not have anything to do with your internet connection. Mutter something like, “50 mbps my foot …

See? Simple. Once you’ve mastered these techniques, you’ll find that ending a Zoom call on your terms becomes easier and easier. To round us out, here are a few more simple phrases you can use to gracefully exit your Zoom call:

Is something burning?

My dog just escaped.

My child just escaped.

My in-laws are at the door. I have to hide.

Why are there helicopters outside?

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