Etiquette 101 When Conducting and Attending Virtual Meetings
The meeting landscape has changed. Now, don't get me wrong, our calendars are still filled with the same (if not more) number of meetings; but now most of our meeting environments have gone virtual. Meeting etiquette has always been an important aspect of working with a team but is continuously changing to reflect updated meeting technologies. While the conference calls of old created a virtual world of connecting with others, there were no associated visual elements. Now, however, virtual meetings have given us an increased sense of exposure to viewers and listeners-which means etiquette is more vital than ever before. Here are a set of guidelines to follow pre-, during, and post-meeting!
Dress Rehearsal - Whether you are speaking or observing, your appearance will give the audience a snapshot on your professionalism and show you came ready to participate. When it comes to attire, think about appropriate outfits, and look to dress up rather than taking the risk of dressing down.
Don't Wing It - Prior to logging on, make sure your technology is ready to go. Download the latest software, test the camera, microphone, and lighting, as well as testing out the most used features the virtual platform has to offer (chat function, polling, etc.).
Early Bird Gets the Worm - Be on time. This is an obvious suggestion for the speaker, but just as important if you are a participant. Treat all virtual meetings as if you were meeting in person. Showing up on time, or at least five minutes prior, is considered good etiquette and will allow you to set up, double check what will show up on camera, and say hi to a few of the attendees before the meeting begins. Another benefit of timeliness is that you can sit back and relax as the attendees trickle in.
Fuel Up Prior - Try not to skip a meal prior to any virtual meeting, unless that is something you are accustomed to. Consume higher energy foods and try to avoid sugar if possible. Fueling the body will help fuel the mind.
Eliminate Distractions - We all have been there when unnecessary disruptions happen during a meeting, and if you are working remotely, it is almost impossible to eliminate every distraction-especially if you have some 4-legged friends running around. Preparation prior to logging on is the key:
- Ensure all devices are in silent modeKeep your mic muted until you are ready to speak
- Inform everyone in your household of your meeting time so they don't interrupt or start a loud activity
- If you are expecting anyone, leave a note on the front door so any guests refrain from ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door
- If you are sharing your screen, make sure you turn off any computer notifications
During the Meeting
Start on Time - You may have created the meeting, but every attendee has reserved this time in their calendar. Respect their time so that they may respect yours.
Introduction - Strong first impressions of an individual and his or her content is crucial. The average amount of time to make any first impression during a meeting is four to six seconds, meaning the preparation you put into your virtual meetings is an important factor to your overall success.
Present an Agenda - In the beginning, go through what the meeting will entail and what the takeaways will include. If the attendees will be investing their time, they will want to ensure this meeting will be of value. It's tough to focus on a screen during the entire meeting, so providing a roadmap with topics, timing, speakers, and takeaways will enhance the experience of the attendees.
Begin with a Visual - Starting the meeting with your video on instantly builds a connection with other members on the call. Companies will have varying policies on whether they want meeting attendees to have their webcams on during meetings and presentations. For attendees, turning off your video during the meeting is appropriate if you need to get up for any reason, like to grab a cup of coffee or go to the bathroom.
Participate Appropriately - It can be difficult to maintain a good flow in discussion during virtual meetings. Using the mute/unmute function is a helpful tool to keep attendees from talking over each other. As an attendee, you should be actively listening to who is presenting: answering questions, raising your hand when prompted, etc. Meetings are not the time to zone out or catch up on the latest social media. You should trust that the information is important, or there would not be a meeting about it!
Lighting, Angle, and Audio - You should check your lighting and acoustics beforehand to provide the most quality visual and audio experience for attendees. Quick adjustments during the meeting may also be appropriate. Lighting in rooms will shift as the time of day or weather changes. Open and close window coverings and turn lights on and off to ensure everyone can see you in lighting that doesn't wash your features out. Remember, the only visual others have of you is what's on the camera. Place yourself in the center of the camera so you don't cause an unnecessary, uneven distraction. When it comes to audio, every device and software can produce a different sound. Speak up, speak clearly, and speak slowly. If possible, based upon the virtual format you are using, create a recording and listen to how others will hear you during an upcoming meeting. For attendees, it is less important to have high quality audio and video, but everyone should at least be able to see and hear you.
Multitasking - Multitasking is only appropriate if it is relevant to the meeting you are participating in (e.g., checking social media statistics to answer a question about customer engagement, visiting a page on a website to help visualize a formatting change, etc.). Trying to do multiple tasks during a virtual meeting is not only distracting for yourself, but also disrespectful to the presenter and others on the call. Pro tip: Keep your hands in view of the video feed to send the message that you are fully committed to this time you have with everyone.
Emergencies - If you need to leave the meeting for any reason, utilizing the chat function is an ideal way to notify the speaker (or anyone else) without causing an unnecessary interruption. As a bonus, it prevents a potentially embarrassing moment if you were to be called on to speak and instead, the group is wondering what happened to you.
End on Time - The same rules apply when ending a meeting as they do when beginning one. Respect the time for those attending and use the "Golden Rule" as a gauge. You can also let the group know that you would be happy to address any concerns by phone or email later in case someone's questions were not answered.
Last One to Leave - If you are the speaker, allow everyone to log off first before you leave the meeting. If you are an attendee, be gracious and thank the presenter-they not only took the time out of their schedule to plan for the occasion but also to teach you this information.
Make it About Them - Ask yourself as a speaker or observer these two questions:
- What worked well during the meeting that I should continue to emulate? We have all experienced those "aha" moments during a meeting where the audience, content, or transitions seemed to just click. Make note of your successes so you can be sure to include them in your next meeting.
- What could be adjusted in the next meeting to continually strive for a better outcome? Improving your virtual meetings for the viewers can only be done by looking for new ways to enhance their experience.
If you are ever not sure on virtual meeting etiquette, just apply the same rules as if you were about to step into an in-person meeting. Good luck in your next meeting (which is probably in about 5 minutes)!