Virtual Meeting Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts
The global pandemic has had one significant effect that was felt throughout the entire business world: virtual meetings have replaced face-to-face conversations.
This is something that will continue for the foreseeable future, and the companies that know how to stay productive with remote collaboration will find it easier to thrive. This emphasizes a new set of soft skills – communication, active listening, teamwork, brainstorming skills, etc.
Another intriguing effect of this shift to virtual meetings is a whole new set of meeting etiquette and rules that no one is really at home with.
To make it more comfortable for you to get into virtual meetings, we researched the topic and compiled a list of essential tips to follow.
Table of Contents
Helpful tips for organizing virtual meetings
Establish a policy of mandatory video
Why do many companies have a video-required policy?
- Communication is most effective when it includes non-verbal cues. There is no doubt that what we say is very important, but how we say it also matters.
- Put a face to your voice. The fact of the matter is that humans respond well to faces. This is why it is so easy to make a nasty comment on YouTube and so difficult to have an honest conversation with your partner. Facial gestures humanize virtual meetings, which is why it is imperative to use video.
- Enhance team spirit. Regular virtual meetings are critical to building relationships among remote team members and they can make the difference between reaching goals and exceeding them.
- Simultaneous tasks are prohibited. Studies show that multitasking negatively affects our performance. Multitasking is no longer considered a desirable skill and certainly should not be allowed during a virtual meeting.
- While some of our colleagues who work remotely wear their pajamas all day, pushing them out of their comfort zone every now and then would help increase their productivity. During the video conference, they will be forced to work hard to be presentable, making them put in even more effort than usual.
Focus on what’s important
Any meeting should have a clear objective. It’s essential to remember that everyone’s time is valuable. Asking participants to stay connected while discussing non-relevant topics that do not concern them is not an efficient way to run a meeting.
If there is something that we should discuss with one of the team members and it does not affect the others, do it very briefly or arrange a separate meeting with that person.
We need to coordinate the conversation by focusing on the key issues, the big picture and the main obstacles. If there is something that can be solved with a simple Google search it should not appear on the agenda.
Organize your virtual meeting properly
- Have a group calendar. Send an invitation to the participants’ calendar well in advance and make sure that everyone confirms whether or not they will be able to attend. This will help everyone plan and organize their week.
- Have a notification system. By working remotely, we are disconnected from the rest of the team for most of the day. For this reason, a sound notification system can be of immense help. It’s crucial to ensure that all attendees are notified at least 15 minutes before the meeting. Not showing up, being late or showing up ill-prepared only serves to waste everyone’s time.
- Find the most suitable tool for your needs. Good quality technology is crucial to avoid communication problems caused by a bad connection or equipment malfunction. There are multiple meeting software available that you can use for your remote team meetings. Some of the best known include Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting.
- Structure the meetings. Instead of allowing participants to intervene whenever they feel like it, we must structure the meetings clearly. This way, everyone will know exactly when to ask questions or comments. An excellent way to do this is to keep the structure the same week after week. If it’s a one-time meeting, you must set a plan and send it to all participants in advance.
Once you know the basics of video conferencing etiquette, you should have no problem setting up and making video calls with your colleagues. However, just like when you’re in the office, it takes a little more effort to make your video conference meetings effective and time productive. Therefore, if you plan meetings with your colleagues, ensure you have all the materials you need.
Virtual meeting etiquette: the DO’s
Here are some things you should make an effort to maintain/implement in your virtual meetings.
Check your Internet connection and hardware in advance
You will look unprofessional and irresponsible if you try to start a virtual meeting, but your microphone or webcam is not working. When you have scheduled an appointment, always check in advance that your conferencing setup works and not two minutes before the meeting starts. Test the built-in microphone or headphones to verify that the software detects them.
You should also test if your Internet connection can support a video conference. It could be a significant misstep if the connection was cut at a critical moment or in the middle of the conversation.
If the connection is not good enough, many applications allow you to limit the quality of video you receive or turn off the camera so that you can continue to participate audibly. Even if you are not present in the video with everyone else, participating and following the conversation is important.
Keep in mind that some people may reject the video option for various reasons, especially if they are in a shared space with children or pets, or they may simply not want to be seen at the moment.
Maintain a positive atmosphere
Even miles away from other meeting participants on the call, it’s still essential that you’re polite and cheerful. This means paying attention to each speaker, minimizing distractions and avoiding the need to multitask.
A helpful tip for video conferencing is to smile and show confidence. It’s a simple but very effective tactic for creating a positive atmosphere during virtual meetings.
Fix your background
You must have an appropriate setup for your online meeting. The ideal situation is that you have a proper home office.
But even if that’s not the case and you have to participate in the meeting from a makeshift space or room that other people in your home also use, make sure to put some effort into fixing the background.
Visual distractions are a real thing and other participants might have a hard time focusing if they had to look at your unmade bed and a bunch of clothes in the background, provided that you’re attending the meeting from your bedroom.
If you can’t eliminate all the visual distractions, you can still use many meeting apps’ virtual background feature. That way, you can keep your background private and mess-free.
Dress appropriately for the video
We have all done it at least once – get out of bed and go straight to the laptop for the early team meeting. However, attending a video conference meeting in your pajamas may not be the best professional image you want to send. If you’re going to be taken seriously on a video conference call, dress accordingly.
While you don’t need to dress in formal attire, make sure you are dressed appropriately considering your team members will see you. You’ll show that you care about the meeting. By wearing something other than sportswear, you can project the right attitude for a focused and productive conversation with your colleagues.
Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking
If you think you are not making any sound by being quiet while someone else is speaking, you are wrong.
This can be very distracting to other participants on the call and annoy. If your cat’s meowing and playing in the background, others won’t be able to hear the person who is speaking. An essential part of virtual meeting etiquette is to turn on the microphone only when you need to talk. Your colleagues or clients do not have to hear your family talks or deal with your background noise.
Always prepare an agenda
The essential step for an effective meeting, whether in or out of the office, is a defined schedule. This aspect alone goes a long way towards making video conferencing successful.
With the meeting schedule template available on cloud storage, it’s easy to put together a sharing agenda that outlines the basics of your meeting. Those invited to the meeting but unable to attend will also be able to review this document later. Or even better, they can view the video recording from the call that was automatically copied from the video software to the cloud.
Share files and information before the meeting
If you expect to receive input and collaboration from your team in a video call, you must give them the context to do so. While you could simply circulate a spreadsheet or write on the whiteboard in the office, video conferencing requires more advanced planning.
Prepare and share files or documents you will need before the meeting, so your colleagues cannot guess what to do. When everyone is online, you can also share your screen to navigate the document together, so everyone is on the same page.
Be careful with your screen
If you are going to share your screen, it’s crucial that you check which applications/web pages/chats you have open and turn on the Do Not Disturb option on your device. Screen sharing means that everything that appears on your screen will be visible to all participants.
Maintain eye contact
This may sound counterintuitive because you have to look at the screen to see the other participants. But, during a call, look at the camera now and then to make eye contact and make sure your colleagues feel like you are actively listening and paying attention.
One way to do this correctly is by placing the camera as close to the screen as possible.
Pay attention and focus
Of course, when you participate in online meetings, the most important thing you can do is focus on the meeting you have at the moment.
It’s much easier to disconnect from a meeting and get away with it if you are in a video conference than in the office. This means that it is up to you to participate as if you were in the office, even if you are sitting in your bedroom with the laptop.
Concentration at home can be accomplished in the same way as at the office; for example, note-taking can help you assimilate and respond to what is discussed. However, you should also avoid being tempted to switch tabs and move on to other activities or just look at your phone.
Even if you think you are good at multitasking, you will not take advantage of much of the meeting if you get distracted.
Virtual meeting etiquette: the don’ts
Typing on the keyboard constantly
It’s not uncommon to chat simultaneously with your friends while also talking to someone else on a video call. However, when it comes to virtual meeting etiquette, this is a big no-no. It’s wonderful that you wish to take notes like a diligent employee, but it’s better to do so by hand, with a pen and notebook.
When you type during the business meeting, keep in mind that everyone else can hear the sound of your keyboard. Not only is this distracting, but it may also come off as disrespectful and show that you’re not paying full attention to the matter at hand, regardless of whether you’re taking notes or chatting.
Not introducing yourself when you join
You might be a little late to the online meeting and that’s fine, as long as you have a reason for it, or you’re just a couple of minutes off. However, if you’re already late, it would be insulting just to join in and remain silent.
If you’re already late and finally got to the online meeting, at least say “hello” to greet everyone else that’s present. If someone’s speaking at that precise time, wait until they’re finished.
Eating during the virtual meeting
Online meetings for business purposes may not be as formal as what we’re used to when it comes to in-person meetings, but it’s still obscene to show up on screen while eating. There’s no room for food during the virtual meeting, so make sure that you eat your meal or have a snack before or after the call.
It’s not enough to just mute your microphone. Stuffing your face and chewing on food is inappropriate for a business setting, regardless of whether it’s remote or not.
Attending the meeting in your leisurewear
Even though your previous online meetings may not have required you to be on camera, that’s not to say that the next one won’t. It’s a good practice and a part of virtual meeting etiquette to show respect to your remote team and dress appropriately.
Never show up to a virtual meeting wearing your leisurewear or, even worse, your pajamas. Not only will this prevent everyone from having a successful virtual meeting, but it will also paint a relatively poor picture of you and your approach to remote work. If your team members take the time to dress appropriately for the virtual meeting, why couldn’t you? They too are working from home.
Speaking at the same time with others
Part of virtual meeting etiquette is to give everyone the chance to speak without interruptions. Make sure that everyone is clear on this and follow the rule of no interruptions yourself.
Suppose you’re brainstorming ideas or discussing important matters that need to be understood from every team members’ point of view. In that case, you won’t help the situation or achieve your meeting agenda by constantly interrupting or speaking over other team members in the call.
And if you have to talk to someone in your household during the virtual meeting, make sure to mute the microphone first.
Too much background noise
Just like speaking simultaneously with the remote team members during a virtual meeting is considered rude, so is having too much noise in the background. The online meeting should allow its participants to stay focused on the task at hand and not what’s going on in a drama that’s blasting from your TV, for example.
The same goes for other situations. When working from home and sharing the space with other people, tell them about the meeting beforehand so that they know not to disturb you or do things that could interrupt the flow of the meeting. You don’t want anyone vacuuming the room while you’re in the middle of a call.
Virtual and remote work is not a fad. And while meetings aren’t a silver bullet, they can be crucial in getting complex projects moving forward. By following the etiquette mentioned above rules when planning your next online meeting, you’ll be able to enjoy its benefits soon as well.