Over the last month, we’ve been forced to make some major changes in our personal and professional lives.
In times like these, we can be thankful that, in many cases, our businesses can still survive if we are able to move them to a virtual setting.
Due to social distancing, many companies are holding online conferences and meetings, as it’s a great way of staying productive and engaged despite distance.
However, if you’re new to working remotely, it can feel intimidating at first. Plus, there is some definite virtual meeting etiquette that needs to be learned…
On the other hand, it’s a cost-effective way of doing business, and many companies will likely continue with it once things get back to normal.
7 Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips Everyone Should Follow
The main problem with remote meetings is that many people aren’t familiar with virtual meeting etiquette. But that’s okay! Like anything else, there is a learning curve.
So, here are some tips to follow as you embark on this new way of interacting with coworkers, clients, and vendors.
1) Test Technology Beforehand
It’s a waste of everyone’s time when technical difficulties get in the way of a video conference call.
That’s why it’s important that everyone log in to the meeting 10 minutes before the start time.
That way, you can check that you’re able to successfully join the online meeting and that your webcam, Wi-Fi, screen-sharing tools, and any other technologies you’re using are running properly by the time the meeting starts.
2) Dress Appropriately
Although working from home is pretty awesome considering you can do it in your PJs, you should put in a little more effort when you have a meeting scheduled. Dressing appropriately is a virtual meeting etiquette must, unless your company has instructed otherwise.
At the very least, make sure you look professional from the waist up (although we’ve added a note at the end of this article as to why you might want to take it down to your feet).
In addition to helping your coworkers and clients take you seriously, dressing for success has a positive impact on your mental and emotional psyche, allowing you to feel confident and be more productive.
3) Take Note of the Background behind You
Whether you have a home office or not, you need to make it look like you do. It’s pretty hard to take people seriously when you can see their bed, dirty clothes, clutter, open closets, plates of half-eaten food, and knickknacks.
Here are our best tips in regard to this one:
- Test First – Test out what will be seen in your camera’s view well before the meeting and create a setting that looks professional.
- Plan the Setting – We suggest having a wall behind you instead of an open room. Place objects in view that you’d be comfortable having in an office setting.
- Consider Lighting – Lighting is really important in a professional setting. Don’t have a window behind you because it will turn you into a dark silhouette. And make sure your room lighting is bright so that you can be seen easily.
4) Limit Distractions as Much as Possible
Distractions are everywhere, especially in our homes and on our devices. So, it’s important that you make a conscious effort to remove them whenever possible.
You’ll need to be aware of things that can distract you and your coworkers, including background noise, things that can take your attention off of the meeting, and things that are just downright rude.
Here are some ways to limit distractions:
- Close the door to the room you are in.
- Turn off all music and TVs.
- Turn off your phone or silence it and place it away from you.
- Refrain from checking your email.
- Use a notebook and pen to take notes (don’t type on your keyboard since the microphone inside your computer is right next to it).
- Use a headset to cut down on background noise and so that you can hear more clearly.
- Don’t eat during virtual meetings.
- Don’t have multiple windows open and try to multitask during the meeting (documents and presentations that are required for the meeting are the only things you should have up on your screen other than the meeting room).
- When someone has the floor, give them the floor (don’t talk over or interrupt others when they are speaking).
Of course, some potential distractions are unavoidable when you’re working from home.
With that in mind, practice virtual meeting etiquette by being upfront with those on your video conference call. Let them know that they may hear your children playing in the other room, your pets clamoring for your attention, or even construction crews working outside.
They’ll appreciate the heads-up, and it will reduce your need to apologize or clarify mid-meeting about what they’re hearing or why you’ve disappeared from view.
In our experience—with so many of us having no choice but to work out of our own homes—being candidate about the situation is the best approach. It’s also a great way to connect with others, as you’ll likely find they’re experiencing a lot of the same things.
5) Look at the Camera & Speak Clearly
If you were in an in-person meeting, you wouldn’t be multitasking, looking away from people, or talking so low others can’t hear you. The same goes for remote meetings.
Use these virtual meeting etiquette tips for proper interaction with the camera:
- Be Present – If you’re looking down at your desk or off to the side or anywhere but at the computer when other people are talking, it will seem as though you aren’t fully present.
- Look at the Camera – Likewise, when you have the floor and are doing the talking, you want to be sure to look at the camera so that others can feel more engaged with you. They’ll feel like you are talking to them.
- Pause – Remember that there is usually a 2 to 3-second delay between you and the others in the meeting, so after you speak, wait for a response.
- Speak Clearly – Remember that microphones, speakers, and Wi-Fi issues can make it harder to hear people during virtual meetings, so speak clearly.
6) Mute Yourself When You Aren’t Talking
Background noise is the worst, and it’s next to impossible to avoid when we are working from home.
Whether your kids are playing in the background, your dog is barking, or sirens are blaring off in the distance, multiply that times everyone on the call and you’ve got one noisy situation, not to mention the echo noises that can occur from multiple microphones.
That’s why one of the most important virtual meeting etiquette tips we can give you is to mute yourself when you aren’t talking. Many times, the host of the meeting can handle that and mute and unmute people as needed, but if they don’t, you’ll need to know how to do it yourself.
7) Don’t Take Your Phone or Computer with You to the Bathroom
You would think this is common sense, but it seems like people can become disoriented when they are meeting virtually. You’d be surprised how many people do this, even without properly muting themselves or turning off their camera.
Imagine how embarrassing it would be for you and everyone else if you forgot you were on camera and took your phone with you to the bathroom… Yikes!
Excuse yourself if you need to just as you would if you were in an in-person meeting.
And this is a good instance to make sure you are fully dressed (not just from the waist up), as people will see what you’re wearing below your waist when you go to get up.
Final Thoughts about Virtual Meeting Etiquette
Whether your company was pushed into doing business remotely as a result of COVID-19 or you’ve been wanting to move to a more virtual setting anyway, virtual meetings are a new reality for many businesses these days.
When everyone understands virtual meeting etiquette, this way of doing business can be highly productive, cost effective, and successful.