All your meetings are probably video conferences now.

If you’re in a meeting of <= 4, you, of course, should mute when you’re not talking. Leaving yourself unmuted creates echoes, background noise, and clearly shows your disdain for the speaker.

However, you should unmute yourself to laugh.

When to Unmute

As we have more and more videoconference meetings, there’s a clear lack of levity. Especially in larger meetings.

I believe that’s due to two things:

  1. The speaker doesn’t get the audible feedback of a laugh when they make a joke.
  2. Listeners don’t hear laughs from other people - it’s not clear that they should laugh.

Feedback from Listener ➡️ Speaker

If a speaker makes a joke and doesn’t hear anything back, it hurts the speaker’s ego. Even just subconsciously.

That creates a negative cycle. After a no-laugh, the speaker is less likely to make jokes, the audience becomes less interested, speaker gets less positive feedback, and on.

No Laughs from Other Listeners

Hearing a laugh from the audience prompts additional laughing. The first time I talked about this with my team, the response I got was:

Yes but you can see people laughing + smiling silently.

That’s true, but that’s the equivalent of someone smiling when you tell them a joke to your face. It’s not the same as something audible. We have all said a joke to someone where they’ve softly smiled or said, “that’s funny”. It’s just not the same.

Also, laughing begets more laughing. The response I get when I say this is some stupid shit like:

  1. I’m an independent thinker, I laugh because I want to.
  2. I hate laugh tracks on TV shows.

Get over yourself. Laughing from peers causes you to laugh whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s why:

  1. Standups aren’t given to an empty room.
  2. Watching funny movies with your friends is better even if you’re not talking to each other.

TL;DR: Unmute yourself to laugh in big meetings and you will have a 10x better experience.