Few things are more frustrating than attending a meeting where others are unprepared, dressed inappropriately, or constantly getting interrupted by their kids or pets during the meeting. Everyone wants the meetings they attend to be productive, smooth, and timely.
Virtual meeting etiquette is a crucial skill in today’s world to ensure that you are doing your part to make virtual work meetings more pleasant and effective for your coworkers. It’s also a great way to stand out professionally and make you look great in front of your boss.
In today’s article, we’re sharing our top 21 tips for virtual meeting etiquette so that you can always put your best foot forward.
21 Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips
1. Ask for a Meeting Agenda
In-person work meetings typically follow an agenda, so why should virtual meetings be any different?
Going to a meeting without a plan and a good idea of what the meeting will encompass leaves you unprepared for questions or topics that may come up. Meetings are also more likely to run too long or go off course without a detailed plan.
So, next time you are asked to attend a meeting, take a moment to ask the host for a meeting agenda and any pre-reading or work you need to complete before the meeting. The meeting host will appreciate your preparedness, and you’ll feel more confident going into the discussion.
2. Be Prepared
Before the meeting, give yourself extra time to prepare by completing any pre-reading, gathering reports or files to share with the group, and writing down any questions you may want to ask. Help the meeting go well by jumping right into the discussion and having all the resources you need at your disposal before the meeting starts.
We also recommend giving yourself extra time before the meeting to prepare and get yourself in the right headspace mentally. Feeling rushed before a meeting will only make you feel flustered and unprepared, so plan extra time into your day to get ready both physically and mentally.
3. Join the Meeting Early
Join the virtual meeting early. Check your microphone and camera are working correctly and that everyone can see you before the meeting begins. Joining early can also give you time to break the ice and catch up with coworkers before the meeting starts. Some of the best ideas and solutions may come before and after the meeting.
We recommend hopping on your virtual meeting call around five minutes before your meeting to give yourself plenty of time for light conversation, software updates, or troubleshooting.
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4. Dress Appropriately
Treat virtual meetings like you would an in-person meeting and dress appropriately. If you are unsure of the dress code, ask the meeting host for guidelines. Dress as you would for the office by putting on professional clothes, tidying your hair, washing your face, and taking other steps, such as applying makeup or spraying cologne.
While others may only be able to see your top half, we still recommend wearing slacks or a professional skirt to match your shirt or blouse. Not only will this make you feel more put together, but you’ll save yourself from embarrassment if you need to stand up and get something.
5. Give the Meeting Your Full Attention
Doing other work while on a virtual call is a huge virtual meeting etiquette don’t. Give the meeting your full attention and avoid checking your emails or text messages.
Think about it this way. If you were speaking with someone and they were ignoring you and scrolling through their phone, you’d likely feel lousy, right? Avoid making others feel this way by focusing solely on the meeting.
Here are a few tips for keeping your focus during the meeting:
Use your phone to take the call and shut down your laptop so you can’t scroll through your phone during the meeting.
Take notes in a physical notebook
Change your surroundings [see tips below]
Keep your hands visible in the camera view
If you struggle to keep your hands still, try using a quiet stress ball or fidget spinner to keep your hands occupied and away from noisy distractions.
6. Don’t Speak over Others
Take extra care to avoid speaking over or interrupting others. This can be tricky in a virtual meeting due to slight delays in the meeting audio.
If you accidentally speak over someone, apologize and let them finish their thought before you finish your own.
If someone speaks over you, politely respond with something like, “Doug, I just want to finish my thought, and then I definitely want to hear what you have to say on the topic.”
7. Speak Slowly
Virtual meetings can distort the audio, making it more challenging to understand you than it would be in person. Speak slowly and clearly so that others can watch your face or read your lips to get the full context of what you’re saying. This tip is especially important when you have non-native speakers on the virtual meeting call with you.
8. Don’t Leave the Room During Your Meeting
You would never sneak out of an in-person meeting, right? While it may be tempting to quickly run to the bathroom or sign for the delivery at the door, don’t leave the meeting. Even if you have your video off during the meeting, you may get called on, and if you’re not there to answer, this certainly looks unprofessional and may be awkward.
If you must leave the room for a moment, leave a message in the chat to let others know that you will be back momentarily. Send another message when you’re back to let them know you’ve returned if the video is off.
9. Avoid Interruptions
Minimizing distractions on your virtual meeting call is the best way to set you and your coworkers up for a successful meeting. Before the meeting, speak with your family or anyone in your home that could interrupt your meeting. Explain to them the importance of your work meeting and ask them to avoid the area where you’ll be set up and keep any noise to a minimum. If you have young children or pets, see if another family member can watch them during your meeting or set them up in another room.
If possible, close your door during the meeting and place a note on the door with a gentle reminder that your meeting is going on.
10. Handle Interruptions Gracefully
If someone does interrupt you during the meeting, handle the interruption gracefully and don’t freak out. Almost everyone has had this experience at some point while on a video call. We’re all human, so handle the moment respectfully and move on as if nothing ever happened.
11. Protect Sensitive Information on Your Computer
You never know when you may need to share your screen during a meeting to show your coworkers a report, file, or demonstration for something. Unfortunately, showing something inappropriate or sensitive during the meeting, even if by accident, could give you a bad reputation at your work or even lead to you being fired. So, protecting sensitive information is a critical step to protect yourself professionally and emotionally.
Before the meeting begins, assess your computer. Close any irrelevant tabs and move, rename, or delete inappropriate or sensitive bookmarks on your computer.
You’ll also want to consider if your computer auto-fills your searches or shows previous searches in the browser bar. If so, you’ll want to clear your cookies before the meeting to make sure your past searches don’t pop up and embarrass you during your meeting. You can also check that your video call is set only to share the one screen that you’re on, rather than your entire desktop. This setting will give you additional privacy during your presentation.
12. Don’t Eat During the Meeting
Few things are more distracting than hearing someone munching on chips while they are on call. Not only is this unprofessional, but it’s terrible meeting etiquette!
Regardless of who you ask, nearly anyone will tell you that eating during a meeting is unprofessional and a distraction. You don’t want to distract others, nor do you want to deal with spilled food on your computer or clothes.
If you have to eat during the virtual meeting, turn off your microphone and camera so others can’t see or hear you eat.
13. Avoid Typing During the Meeting
Noisy distractions can quickly derail a meeting and distract from the presentation. Unfortunately, typing on your keyboard can be loud and distracting to others.
Avoid typing during your meeting and opt to take notes in a physical notebook instead. If you have to take meeting minutes or type notes, mute yourself during the meeting while you’re typing. You can also invest in a high-quality keyboard that is practically noiseless to minimize this distraction.
14. Speak Directly to the Camera
Before your virtual meeting, practice speaking directly to your camera. Eye contact makes a better, more powerful presentation. If you look at one person on your screen, you won’t look like you’re talking to anyone. Instead, you’ll look like you’re looking elsewhere.
Practice staring directly at your computer or mobile device’s camera so that you appear to be looking directly at the meeting participants. Avoid touching your face or fidgeting as this is distracting and makes you look uneasy or nervous.
If possible, memorize your presentation notes so that you don’t have to look at them and break looking at the camera. If you need to reference your notes, only glance away from the camera for a few seconds before refocusing your attention on the camera.
15. Minimize Distractions During the Meeting
Keep yourself and others focused on the meeting by minimizing distractions during your meeting. Distracted behavior will not only make you appear unprofessional, but it’s a surefire way to irritate others on the call.
Take the following precautions to reduce distractions during the meeting:
Silence your cell phone if you’re not using it for the call. If possible, put your cell phone away in a drawer or in another room, so you’re not tempted to scroll through or check your messages during the meeting.
Don’t multitask. Keep your focus entirely on the meeting and what others are saying.
Avoid fidgeting or playing with your pen or things at hand. If you must keep your hands occupied, try using a silent stress ball or fidget toy to keep your hands busy.
Minimize background noise by turning off any music, TV, or radio in your background. Ask your family or others around you to not interrupt you and keep noise to a minimum.
Close other browsers or apps on your computer.
Silence notifications on your computer, smartwatch, or any other device that your microphone could pick up.
16. Choose a Clean Background
A disorganized, messy background distracts others and makes you look less than professional. Before your call, turn your camera on and check what your background looks like.
If you don’t have a dedicated space, such as a home office, pick an area with a plain background. Don’t choose a room that other people need to walk through or grab things from frequently. This could cause video or audio distractions and interruptions.
Remove anything inappropriate or unprofessional in your background. This could include picture frames and posters. Take time to clear any clutter. A neat desk and background will make you look like the polished professional you are.
17. Find Good Lighting
Good lighting is crucial for any virtual meeting. Not only can good lighting improve the quality of your camera, but it allows others to see you accurately and stimulates an in-person meeting.
Check that both your background and you are well-lit. A poorly lit background can make your video look dingy and unprofessional. If possible, sit in front of a window during the daytime. Otherwise, use artificial lighting to light yourself and your background up. Don’t wash yourself out by adding too much light.
You can also adjust your video contrast and brightness in the video call software to improve the quality of your video. Some software, like Zoom, also offers a ‘beauty filter’ which will automatically adjust your lighting and smooth out your skin to make you appear more awake and lively on your call. Investigate your video call software before your call and make any adjustments and filter choices to help yourself appear more put together on the call.
18. Pay Attention to Your Mute Status
Depending on the type of meeting, you may have yourself muted for long stretches of time. For example, if the meeting host is presenting for the first half of the meeting, it’s good etiquette to mute yourself so that any noise you may make, from shuffling in your seat or taking notes, isn’t picked up by your microphone. However, you don’t want to start speaking to answer a question while muted because this can cause a meeting to lag and frustrate others listening for your response.
Before speaking, double-check that you are not muted. When you are talking, keep yourself muted so that you don’t distract from the next person who is speaking.
19. Introduce Yourself When You Join
At the beginning of the meeting, take a moment to introduce yourself and others if you are not already familiar with the other meeting participants.
This is considered good practice and will make a lasting positive impression on newcomers.
20. Create a Positive Atmosphere
Show up to the meeting with a spring in your step. Keep your attitude polite, cheerful, and upbeat. This attitude is infectious and will make others feel included.
Smile, make eye contact with the camera, and present yourself confidently. Presenting yourself confidently is an effective way to appear professional and easy to work with.
21. Set a Meeting Time
Limit your virtual meetings to a certain amount of time, such as half an hour. Meetings with a strict timeline are more likely to stay on track and be more productive.
If you are running a longer meeting, include small breaks so that participants can get up, stretch, go to the bathroom, grab water, etc. This will minimize distractions and keep people focused on the meeting longer.
If a meeting you’re invited to doesn’t have a set timeline, reach out to the host and ask how much time you should allot in your workday for the meeting.
Virtual meetings are a critical way to connect with others, especially if you work remotely full-time or have never met your coworkers. Few things can replace in-person meetings, but a well-run, professional virtual meeting can come close.
Use today’s ground rules for Zoom meetings or other online meetings to conduct yourself professionally and have a more effective meeting. If you need to take notes during a meeting, try screen recording the virtual meeting if possible and transcribe the audio instead so that you can devote your full attention to the meeting.
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