Whether a virtual summit or a company meeting, you always want to put your best foot forward. You may not be aware, but there are ground rules (albeit unspoken ones) that will do us good to follow whenever we're in a virtual meeting.
Virtual meeting etiquette isn't just wearing business-formal tops and using appropriate visual effects for your background. It also has to do with creating a space conducive to engagement and formalities.
Virtual engagements show no apparent signs of waning. Though businesses slowly embrace face-to-face events and meetings, virtual communication is here to stay.
All we have to do is present ourselves accordingly and make the experience smooth sailing and productive. Below are some pointers to remember as part of virtual meeting etiquette.
The Importance Of Virtual Meeting Etiquette
Virtual meeting etiquette, ideally, should be followed by everyone involved. The idea is to ensure virtual meetings run smoothly as if they were held face to face.
By understanding unspoken ground rules, companies can maximise their video conferences. Teams working remotely can stay efficient and contribute to the overall experience of the virtual meeting.
Without further ado, here are some best practices when it comes to holding virtual meetings:
1. Set A Clear Agenda
Have you ever been in a meeting where the host did not know what to say? Like others, you'll probably think they went into the meeting unprepared. It'll seem like a waste of time. The time spent scratching heads for an agenda can be better delegated to doing actual work.
Avoiding these situations is relatively easy enough by ensuring a clear structure before attendees enter the meeting room.
Having a clear and well-defined meeting agenda helps everyone stay on track and easily discuss essential matters.
If you're the meeting host, ensure all presenters have their materials ready. All participants should be informed accordingly to avoid confusion if there are any last-minute changes.
Meanwhile, attendees must also have all bases covered. If they are presenting, they should prepare a list of talking points to keep everything in order.
2. Allow Everyone To Introduce Themselves
No introduction is necessary for virtual office meetings. Everyone's likely familiar with the other participants.
But, if there are new people in the team, a round of introductions helps everyone settle down.
Introductions are also for the benefit of anyone arriving late. They won't miss anything important. Additionally, introductions help break the ice and put everyone at ease.
3. Limit Distractions
As mentioned, part of a successful virtual meeting is ensuring a conducive environment for everybody. Thus, it's crucial to hold virtual meetings free from distractions.
Mute your smartphones, deactivate notifications, chat apps, and close social media tabs. Keep only relevant tabs and windows open, especially if you're presenting.
As for your surroundings, stay in a room where you'll remain undisturbed for the meeting's duration. Turn off unnecessary systems. If your home office space is in a bedroom, lock your door to ensure no one will arrive unannounced.
4. Limit Use Of Devices
Part of any meeting, not just virtual meeting etiquette, is staying focused and paying attention to the speaker. During the ongoing meeting, you may be disrespectful if you fiddle with other gadgets or devices.
This is why you must avoid typing on your computer, laptop, or any mobile device that could disrupt the flow of the virtual meeting.
It's also a form of respect towards the speaker. Try putting yourself in their shoes. Would you want to be in the same position? Or would you appreciate it if everyone listened intently to what you had to say?
5. Stick To The Timeframe
Even if virtual meetings are effective at keeping everyone aligned, it doesn't mean that they're not time-consuming.
Virtual meetings take up a chunk of people's time. Setting expectations regarding the timeframe is essential, allowing other participants to return to their actual tasks.
Set an example by starting the meeting on time. Be punctual and avoid long, drawn-out, and irrelevant introductions. Keep everyone engaged, but also make it worth their while.
Short icebreakers like light chatting and mini-games will suffice, but covering the meeting agenda as soon as possible should ultimately be the priority.
6. Dress In Appropriate Clothing
Contrary to popular belief, the dress code must also be tackled in virtual meeting etiquette. You want to present yourself like you're in a professional setting.
Dress professionally by looking fresh, sleek, and clean-cut. Try not to show up to your virtual meetings, looking like you just got out of bed or went out for a quick jog. You don't have to be in your Sunday best, but you don't want to be too casual.
The dress code for men may be proper business attire. A clean long-sleeve or polo shirt will easily do the trick. On the other hand, women may wear a blouse or any clean shirt appropriate for the virtual meeting.
7. Use A Professional Background
Of course, the importance of a professional-looking virtual background can't be overlooked regarding virtual meeting etiquette. Apart from your face, people will also pay attention to your background.
Remote employees can use clean backgrounds found on video conferencing platforms. Opt for muted and solid colours as much as possible.
You don't have to remove posters or images plastered on your wall, but they could get distracting.
Good background and good lighting also go together. Make sure to hold your virtual meetings in a well-lit area.
If there are windows, try opening them a crack to allow a bit of natural lighting to pour in. Artificial lighting also works. Just make sure it isn't too blinding or harsh.
8. Know When It's Time To Speak
Figuring out the main speaker in a small conference is easy. But knowing who's speaking can be a bit more complicated in an online meeting with multiple attendees.
Another essential ground rule is to know when it's time to speak. Mute your microphone if someone else is talking unless they're addressing you directly.
When presenting something, make sure to speak slowly for everyone's benefit. Try not to rush during a virtual meeting, as some attendees may be experiencing poor internet connection.
9. Make Eye Contact
You might wonder if making eye contact during an online meeting is possible. The simple answer is yes, but not in the way you might think.
You're not just talking to a screen when speaking in a virtual event. You're also addressing an audience ready to hear what you have to offer.
Make eye contact by looking directly at your camera. It's another best practice in your virtual meeting etiquette playbook and arguably one you should master.
If you have to read some talking points or notes, try to refocus your gaze on the camera. Even better if you can commit your script to memory.
Try to minimise your hand gestures as well. It may make you seem uneasy and unprepared when you want to appear confident and personable.
10. Take Breaks
This rule is reserved for hosts. Similar to a face-to-face conference, your virtual meeting should include short breaks. Trust us. Listening to someone talk for six hours straight isn't as enjoyable as it sounds.
Give your participants time to use the restroom, get light refreshments, or rest their eyes.
Ideally, 15-minute breaks should be set after every hour of discussion or engagement. This allows your audience to recharge and stay as productive as possible. Feel free to change the time as needed.
11. Ensure Sensitive Information Remains Confidential
As a host, you'll likely share your screen with the participants. But there's a chance they'll see other non-work-related stuff on your laptop or computer.
If there's any sensitive information, keep them private as you're sharing your screen. You wouldn’t want them to view your search history now, would you? Keep it professional and make your presentation as neat and clean as possible.
Video conferencing platforms allow you to share only a tab or window. Use these features to your advantage. Be mindful that you’re sharing your screen, so you may want also to avoid doing unnecessary things, like opening random apps or software.
12. Check Your Internet Connection And Peripherals Beforehand
Starting a virtual meeting with a non-working microphone or webcam can seem unprofessional, especially if you have a scheduled meeting.
Another aspect of virtual meeting etiquette to keep in mind is to ensure your setup is in working condition. Test your microphones or headphones to see if they're working.
Also, your connectivity must be fast enough to support video conferencing. It could reflect poorly on you if your connection or systems suddenly stop working as you present.
13. Share Files Or Presentations Before The Virtual Meeting
If you're presenting and expect your team to collaborate during a video conference, provide them with all the necessary materials.
Send all files, documents, and information beforehand to the meeting host and make sure everyone can access them. This is so that no one gets lost during your presentation and they have proper references to help them engage with one another.
Conclusion About Virtual Meeting Etiquette
Virtual meeting etiquette is non-negotiable in the age of virtual and online meetings. You must always be mindful of how you conduct yourself before an audience online. As long as you're actively following these best practices, you'll get the hang of virtual meetings in no time.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual Meeting Etiquette
What Are The Different Types Of Virtual Meetings?
Virtual meetings can be:
- Team-building activities
- Breakout sessions
- Trade shows
What Is The Difference Between Virtual Meetings And Online Meetings?
The terms virtual meetings and online meetings are often used interchangeably. They describe real-time interactions using audio-visual tools, messaging apps, and many more. All of these are done online without the need for any physical location.
How To Excuse Yourself From A Virtual Meeting?
Use your meeting platform's chat feature to send a quick message informing everyone you're leaving the meeting early. Always make sure to mute your microphone unless you have to speak. Unnecessary sounds may draw attention to you, so you need to be discreet.
Is A Phone Call Considered A Virtual Meeting?
Yes. Phone call virtual meetings are referred to as teleconferencing. It's one of the most popular virtual communication methods and is used by companies and organisations worldwide.