Anything goes in a virtual meeting, right? You can wear what you want, eat when you want, and leave when you want. Right? Well, the rise of remote working and video conferencing may have changed some things, but it hasn’t changed everything.
Unless you have access to a virtual world where your team can interact as cartoon avatars of themselves, it’s a good idea to practice some online meeting etiquette.
We won’t give you hard and fast rules for what counts as virtual meeting etiquette these days. Every team has its own idea of what is or isn’t acceptable.
However, we’ll share some tried-and-true remote meeting etiquette tips so you can have a better online meeting experience!
Virtual meeting etiquette: Prepare ahead of time
You’ve just received an invitation to a meeting in a virtual conference room: Now what? Instead of leaving it to the last minute, take these steps to prepare.
Do a tech check
First, test your equipment! Showing up to a meeting just by clicking a link is like magic – when it works right the first time. We’ve all had to troubleshoot internet connections and webcam issues while everyone waits.
Get ahead of the game by RSVPing to your meeting invite and downloading the right meeting software ahead of time – whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or GoToMeeting.
Show up five minutes early to test your microphone, webcam, and WiFi before everyone arrives. That way, you won’t have any embarrassing delays.
Dress the part
Just because you can go to work in your pajamas doesn’t mean you should. If your workplace has a relaxed dress code, then by all means, keep it casual.
But we’ve all heard horror stories of someone who forgot that the camera was running or stood up to answer the door in inappropriate attire. Did you hear about the Irish politician who turned up to a virtual meeting with no pants on?
Always assume that your webcam is on to avoid any embarrassing moments or HR issues.
Mind your background
Not everyone has a dedicated home office, but your colleagues don’t need to see your unmade bed or your TV on in the background.
Hang up a curtain or close the door to your room, and let other family members or housemates know that you’re in a meeting. If you don’t have time to decorate, virtual backdrops are your friend!
Sitting near a window or investing in a ring light can also do wonders for your video quality, making you look more professional and less grainy or blurry.
Turn off your microphone
Mute yourself when you aren’t speaking to reduce everyone else’s background noise. No one needs to hear you make that smoothie while your video is off.
Even the sound of a keyboard can distract in a conference call or video meeting. Use a tool like Anchor AI to take meeting notes and reduce the need for loud typing.
As for the camera, that’s up to you: Some teams prefer you to keep it on to make sure everyone’s paying attention. However, if you don’t have a great internet connection, turning off your video stream can reduce the amount of bandwidth you’re using.
Virtual meeting etiquette during the meeting
Tech issues are one thing, but remote working raises other questions about online meeting etiquette – like how to behave in a home office.
Once you’ve logged on, you can take some cues from your facilitator as to what to do next. Maybe you’ll all go around and introduce yourselves, or maybe you know each other already and can get right to the memes and in-jokes.
But without eye contact and body language to guide you, it can be hard to know how to interact. Here are a few tips on how to behave during virtual meetings when you can’t be in the same room and see each other face-to-face:
Sure, you could turn off video and audio so you can eat lunch or fold laundry, but multitasking while in a business meeting is often more trouble than it’s worth.
Not only will you have to go back and re-read the notes to see what you’ve missed. You may feel put on the spot when someone asks you a question while you’re folding jeans.
If you have other things to do that you can’t avoid – like childcare – be upfront with the facilitator and work out a solution. Maybe they won’t mind if you leave early or eat lunch while they discuss an agenda item you aren’t involved in.
Don’t talk over others
When it comes to talking, virtual meeting etiquette isn’t all that different from in-person meeting etiquette. Give other team members your full attention when they’re speaking, and don’t be the only voice in the room – unless it’s your job to lead the discussion.
Some virtual meeting platforms allow you to automate note-taking or set aside breakout rooms for side conversations. This can be helpful if you have a lot of participants and don’t want to miss anything. Tools like Anchor AI can even help you identify who said what.
Most platforms also have a chat tool in the sidebar where people can make comments or raise a virtual hand to speak next.
Either way, stick to the meeting agenda, and try not to go off-topic. This probably isn’t the time for gossip and water-cooler talk.
Be patient with each other
Video calls and virtual meetings have a learning curve, and it won’t go right all the time. Try not to get upset if other team members have technical issues or get interrupted by their cat or dog. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, after all. Let’s cut each other some slack!
Virtual meetings are a good opportunity to unlearn some of the workplace behaviors we’ve accepted over the years – like speaking over each other or holding each other to unreasonable productivity standards.
Wrap up on time
Finally, keep an eye on the clock and aim to finish on time. If you can’t get through the entire meeting agenda on schedule, you’re taking time away from everyone else’s workday.
Ask for a few volunteers to stay late, or turn any unfinished business into an action item to follow-up with at the next meeting.
That way, your colleagues will know you value and respect their time. Who knows? They may actually look forward to the next meeting invite.
Virtual meeting etiquette tips for hosts
Facilitators, this section is for you! Like it or not, you have a big role to play in setting the tone and laying out the meeting etiquette rules for your video conference. After all, this is 2021, and the original netiquette rules aren’t going to cut it.
From coming up with a meeting agenda to cutting out cross-talk, it’s your job to make sure everyone can be heard and get their point across.