A 👋 Clubhouse etiquette for moderators and guests

After participating in Clubhouse both as a guest and moderator for events, I am thrilled by the potential of this new medium. The unique combination of audio and live events, fueled by the potential of your smartphone as the interface, is simply huge!

As with every new medium, conventions are emerging, that prove to be valuable. As Clubhouse is new technology, there is no way to know in the beginning how to use it. But the longer you stay on the platform — after one week you lose the little party icon on your avatar — the more you might be misjudged if you don’t know and cannot consider these emergin norms.

Now this is all work in progress. Don’t treat anything here as set in stone. But consider it for yourself and let me know your own experiences.

Follow me in Clubhouse as @arothe, if you like to see events about this topic appear in your app, or contact me on Twitter.

Gestures and cues

As the interface is still very limited, people came up with clever workarounds to make the most out of the available possibilities.

  • Muting yourself as an unmistakable sign that you finished talking (do this as often as possible)
  • Applauding by tapping the mute/unmute button fast and repeatedly (works only on stage)
  • Raising your hand as a sign you want to be involved in the discussion (do this often)
  • Leaving the stage as a sign that you currently cannot speak or sometimes not even pay attention
  • Unmuting yourself while on stage, as a sign that you want to say something right now (be very careful with this as it is interrupting)

Participation by default: raise your hand anytime

Most of the time rooms in Clubhouse are about having a conversation. Even if you don’t know the speakers, even if they are world-famous, assume that you can raise your hand and come on stage if you have something valuable to contribute. This includes questions. So whenever you feel like contributing something, raise your hand. Only the moderators will see this so you don’t disturb anyone.

Moderators will actively point out in case of the format limiting this to a certain time or group of people. If you just joined, then there is no way for you to know. So by default, assume that you are invited to participate. An obvious sign for no intended discussion is if in a large room only the moderators are on stage.

When arriving on stage, wait for the moderator to call on you

Moderators typically accept your raised hand right away. So when you entered the stage, generally wait for the moderator to call you out. You should mute yourself, otherwise expect a moderators to do this for you.

In urgent cases, when you want to say something directly to the person who talked before and think it is valuable enough to cut the cue, then talk right away. In that case, I would start with an apology and a question of whether this is OK: “Sorry. May I contribute something to what [name] just said.” Then wait for the moderator to approve.

If you already said something but the moderator keeps you on stage, treat this as an invitation that you can say more anytime you like. From now on you don’t need to wait to be called out. Use unmuting yourself if you want to indicate that you could say something. Or just say something if you fear that the conversation moves forward without you. If you don’t want that privilege, then just leave the stage by yourself. No need to say goodbye.

Make an effort to limit your talk to 1 minute

Clubhouse as medium supports to have long-form conversations. But especially in larger rooms, whenever you speak, try to keep in mind that others may want to contribute as well. As a rule of thumb, don’t talk longer than 1 minute in one go. You’ll soon get a feeling for whether it is OK to reply in longer form.

It is never a bad idea to stay concise. It only amplifies the power of your message. One strong point that other people can engage on is much better than 3 points where only one of them can be addressed.

I’m sure there will soon be a term for people talking in long sentences that never stop, like a chain or even a loop. They are caught in the opportunity to talk. This is never pitied at best and frowned upon at worst. The worst thing is, you’ll never see the expressions from the listeners on the other side, so there is no direct feedback.

Only address questions in long-form that are useful to the room topic. If you address the question of one person only, which might be off-topic, avoid getting deep. Instead point to your socials to continue the conversation in a different medium.

While talking, watch for cues from other people on stage, especially the moderators. If they unmute themselves, it is a strong indicator that they would like you to come to an end or at least a pause.

In large rooms trim your contribution even more

Minimize intros — people can see your name and easily check out your bio on demand. You can introduce yourself but do it as fast as possible, ideally in one sentence. Focus on profile information that is highly relevant for the current topic or the thing you are going to say. As you didn’t provide any value yet when you start talking, a long introduction will be seen as self-promotion and typically not well received.

Minimize praise — if you go a lot of value from a person or an event, ideally express this afterward on different channels, e.g. via social media. It is not only far more effective but it also doesn’t come in the way of the conversation. If you want to do it in the conversation do it right at the beginning of your question and very, very fast. For example: “wow, I get so much out of this conversation! Here is my question:…”

I believe you can go slightly longer when highlighting the value of another audience member as it is a little less likely that you will follow up later on. Also, it feels good to witness when people are nice to each other, so you have a little more slack for that.

No hello and goodbye — unless you are part of the moderator team you don’t need to say goodbye when you leave the stage. It just saves time and keeps the conversation going. This is a new social medium where it is implied that anybody can leave anytime. It is not rude as nobody can judge the circumstances. Don’t stick too much to old habits that fit other mediums better.

So again, breaking these rules might be appropriate, if you do it with purpose. But keep the value for the others in mind and use it as a compass to guide your actions.

Help to keep the stage audience small

This advice depends on the format of conversation but generally an event benefits from not having too many people on stage. It allows to watch for signals and helps to guide the conversation. It has several advantages if people go back from the stage after they made a contribution and are not part of the moderator team.

But even if you left the stage, don’t be shy to raise your hand again repeatedly. It will still be a great sign for the moderator that you want to say something. It is also very polite as it is delivered silently and you don’t have to say something, bringing speakers off track.

If a moderator keeps the stage small, removing speakers that finished talking, the stage becomes even more useful for everyone in the room. By seeing the number of non-moderators on stage it allows estimating the waiting time to be able to say something.

Leaving the stage in silence is an indicator that you are currently not available. No need to say goodbye or apologize, everyone knows you are on your phone and could be unavailable anytime. Keep also in mind that you can come back up anytime and an experienced moderator will most likely even preserve your place in the cue to talk.

Take your bio page seriously

Put as much content about yourself in the bio as you like. This is the place for self-promotion and additional remarks about yourself. If people are interested and click your bio, they don’t mind reading a lot of things.

Consider having one section on top that allows moderators to quickly know who you are it might at some point help to be called on stage quicker. Adhere to the pyramid principle, the most condensed information on top, then get broad further down.

Generally, don’t assume that people will follow links in your bio during a conversation. Rather prioritize the core messages of what you want others to know about you right inside the bio.

Currently the Clubhouse search scans for words in people’s bio. So include topics that you may find valuable. This can include alumni organizations or organizations that you follow.

Take unmuting as a sign that someone wants to talk

As we don’t see gestures in Clubhouse, it is the little things that are important to guide a conversation. When on stage, mute yourself by default. Sometimes the moderator will do this for you, so pay attention if you didn’t unmute yourself. When you want to say something, unmute yourself.

You can even use this as a strong signal that you want to say something right now, by just unmuting yourself and wait. Moderators will likely mute you but unmuting yourself again could be treated as a strong sign you want to say something urgent.

While talking pay attention to other people unmuting themselves as a sign that they want to contribute something to what you just said.

Finish audibly and visibly

It is sometimes hard to judge if a person has finished a point. You can contribute with clear language and by going mute directly after you finished talking.

Pass on the microphone (optional)

As a guest speaker, you can consider passing on the mic to other people on the panel if you think it is appropriate. This is not only a sign of the end of your sentence, it can also help clarify what comes next. Most of the time the moderator will be glad about not having to steer the conversation. It also avoids that more than one person tries to speak.

For example, if you said something and saw another person unmuting themselves while you spoke, you could actively ask if this person wanted to contribute something.

Allow the moderator to say something while others talk

It is the role of the moderator to guide the conversation. In real life, a moderator can work with gestures but in Clubhouse that is not (yet) the case. So please don’t take it as rude if the moderator sometimes cuts people off. Most important, don’t take this as behavior that you can mimic.

Sometimes subtle signs are not enough and a moderator needs to give signs for a speaker to come to an end. When I am moderating I generally do the following to stop someone if talking too long:

  1. unmuting myself
  2. unmuting myself repeatedly (not too fast to be misinterpreted as applause)
  3. approving with words like “yes” or “mhh” or “aha” while the person is still talking
  4. start talking at the end of a sentence, for example, “thank you x, this is a lot of insights to digest”
  5. jumping in the middle of the sentence “excuse me”

So this is it for now. It is already too long but then again you might fight something in there that resonates. As you can see I am excited about this new medium and can’t wait that more people make the most out of it.

So consider checking out my profile @arothe and follow me to see events on this topic by me appear in your app.

Also, let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I am sure we’ll evolve this together 👋😀

Collector of wisdom, tech enthusiast, lifelong learner. Founder of trickle.app. Helping knowledge entrepreneurs to earn additional income.