Virtual Meeting Etiquette

  • Tuesday August 2, 2022
  • Perception   
  • Remote Work   

By now we are probably all quite familiar with video conferencing systems like Zoom and Google Meet. Over the last two years, everything from business meetings to birthdays and baby showers has taken a virtual turn. The pandemic led to the distancing of all types of gatherings, but as humans, we still have a need to be together. So, we’ve figured out how to have just about any type of event in a virtual fashion.


Business meetings are one event that was fairly simple to convert to a virtual experience, as even pre-pandemic these systems were in place. With this shift to virtual meetings, though, comes a shift in etiquette. How do you remain professional while working from home with kids screaming and running around, dogs barking, and distractions happening? How do you decide what needs to be a meeting now, and what can be an email? There are endless questions about virtual meeting best practices, and we’re here to break them down for you.


Why is virtual meeting etiquette important?

Just because you’re wearing pajama pants with your dress shirt doesn’t mean the way you interact with colleagues in meetings should be different (well, as similar as it can be while wearing pajama pants with a dress shirt, at least). 


Distractions are exponentially more in a virtual meeting than in person because you’re not sitting in a room, observing body language, and engaging with each other. A Slack notification pops up, you get an Amazon package delivered, or your dog decides he’s ready for playtime – these are all common, everyday scenarios that happen during your workday at home that would not if you were in the office. 


Now, virtual meeting etiquette is much more about how you prepare, listen, and focus during the meeting than it is about what you say or how you dress. Proper virtual meeting etiquette will enhance your flow and productivity, making the time spent worthwhile for everyone.


What etiquette should you follow for a virtual meeting?

Prepare an agenda: A clear outline for discussion will keep your meeting on track and help you make sure you accomplish the goal of the meeting. Sharing the agenda ahead of time also gives other attendees the time to prepare, brainstorm, or come with solutions.


Behave as you would in person: Would you show up to the office with bedhead and an old t shirt? This may be your at-home attire, but if you wouldn’t wear it to the office, you shouldn’t be seen on camera during a work meeting in it. Take thorough notes, come prepared, and be attentive throughout the meeting. Try to translate your in-person meeting habits to your virtual meetings as best as possible.


Be mindful of your camera and microphone: If you’re not speaking or presenting, it’s best to mute your microphone to minimize sounds that could be distracting. Similarly, if you need to get up from your desk or do anything that may distract others, it’s a good idea to turn your camera off as well so as not to disturb the flow of the meeting.


Use the hand-raise feature: With everyone working on different internet speeds, there is often a lag time that varies amongst attendees – even if by one or two seconds. While not typically noticeable, it creates overlap in people speaking. Additionally, without body language, it’s difficult to see who may be next to speak. Using the hand raise features creates a queue if there are multiple people who wish to share their thoughts or questions in an orderly fashion. This minimizes interruptions and confusion about who’s turn it is to speak.


Signal to others in your space that you’re in a meeting: If you have family, friends, or roommates that you share a space with, let them know when you will be in meetings so they don’t barge in and cause distractions or noise. Give them a heads up, put a sign on your door, or simply close the door – anything that works best for you to minimize interruptions while you’re on a call.


Sign-on early to test your tech: Make sure your tech is all in working order for the meeting. Sometimes, Zoom requires an update and this can cause a delay in joining a call. Or, there could be an issue with your speakers or microphone. To save a last-minute scramble, sign-on early and ensure everything is in working order.


Keep your video on: Video is the best way to maintain connection during a virtual meeting. Speaking to a screen of black boxes is not very inspiring and will not yield great feedback. To avoid a cold and impersonal meeting, keep your video on. Encourage others to do the same, if possible.


What should you avoid in a virtual meeting?

Eating: Save your lunch for after the meeting, if you can. With your webcam in your face, your coworkers will be up close and personal if you’re eating so it’s best to avoid this. Feel free to drink coffee or sip your water, but eating is not something you should do during a virtual meeting.


Limit keyboard and 2nd monitor use: If you’re typing away or looking at a second monitor, it will be obvious to everyone that you’re not focused on the meeting. The changing colors reflected as you browse or the sound of your typing if you aren’t muted can be distracting and signal a lack of interest in the discussion.


Have a professional background: Everyone is very understanding of work-from-home life, but it’s important to have a professional background. If there are distractions, a laundry pile, or other people behind you, it’s a good idea to use the blur feature so you’re the only thing in focus. Alternatively, there are lots of pre-made virtual backgrounds you can download and use instead, and these have become increasingly popular.


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