Blog » Virtual Meeting Etiquette: 15 basics every professional should know

Virtual Meeting Etiquette: 15 basics every professional should know

9th June 2022

You have prepared an engaging presentation for your team. You have even performed a few dry runs to make sure your points hit home.

Five minutes into the meeting, your cat jumps onto your worktop. Then, as the cat leaves, it walks over your keyboard and closes your meeting window.

About an hour into the meeting, a team member starts humming a trending tune. 

Another attendee gets up, stretches loudly, and hits the blender for their mid-morning smoothie. However, they both forgot to turn off their microphones and webcams.

Sounds familiar?

After the pandemic hit, many companies adopted virtual meetings to maintain productivity and continuity. The shift to virtual workspaces changed how employees interact over the internet.

While virtual meetings are a game-changer, they introduce unique challenges. 

Aside from logistical and technological hurdles, it can be hard to manage attendee behavior. Additionally, distractions from pets, family members, and other participants during the meetings cost precious time and reduce productivity.

Understanding and adopting virtual meeting etiquette is essential as we adapt to the new normal.

The following simple virtual meeting etiquette rules and tips will help you maintain professionalism and productivity.

Why is virtual meeting etiquette important?

Meeting etiquette, virtual or otherwise, encourages team members to act respectfully and professionally. To carry out a successful meeting, members must be there on time, not interrupt each other, and reduce distractions.

Due to a lack of visual cues, it may be hard to follow the basic rules of conversational etiquette. As a result, participants may lose attention, tune out or multitask, causing them to miss vital information. 

In addition, without remote meeting etiquette, meetings may wander off course and fail to pass on important information.

Virtual meetings can quickly turn chaotic and therefore require proper planning and structure. Preparing a concise agenda helps team leaders steer the sessions effectively and achieve the desired outcomes. However, to ensure virtual meetings deliver on their potential, it is vital to establish etiquette rules that govern each session.

Adopting and prioritizing virtual meeting etiquette also helps your team accomplish its goals. It also helps employees feel valued. 

Let’s face it. Following along in a meeting that lacks basic etiquette is quite challenging and that defeats the purpose of having the meeting in the first place. 

Virtual meeting etiquette basics

1) Behave As You Would In Person

Attending remote meetings from your kitchen, living room, or bedroom may seem casual. However, remember that the information exchanged during the meeting may be critical to the success of a project. Therefore, as you attend a virtual meeting, pay attention as you would in an in-person session.

2) Keep Track Of Your Mute Status

When joining a virtual meeting, remember to mute your microphone. Ensure to stay on mute unless you have to answer a question or it is your turn to speak. If you are unsure how to mute your microphone, these handy step-by-step tips for zoom and Microsoft teams can help you.

3) Position your camera correctly

Unless you’ve been requested not to have your camera on, then you need to ensure your camera is on in every virtual meeting you take part in. 

Position your camera so that it is level with your face. Look into the camera and not your thumbnail during the call unless viewing a presentation. Looking into the camera helps you maintain eye contact and signals your active involvement in the meeting.

4) Turn Your Video Off If You Need To Get Up

It is important to master some video conferencing etiquette if you are going to take part in virtual meetings.

For starters, if you have to go to the bathroom or deal with an issue in the house, turn off your video before getting up. When you return and are ready to rejoin the meeting, ensure that you are seated and positioned appropriately in front of the camera before turning on your video.

Doing so allows for a smooth transition, as moving around or walking in and out of a frame can distract the other participants.

5) Minimize Background Distractions

As most virtual meetings happen at home, distractions from pets, children, other family members, or roommates are bound to occur. To reduce the distractions, lock yourself in your meeting space. Notify those around you to stay quiet before joining the meeting. Additionally, keep your telephone and mobile devices on mute while in attendance.

6) Keep Your Background Clean And Professional

If you do not have a home office optimized for virtual meetings, ensure that you have a neutral background. While a busy meeting background may not bother you, it might distract other participants. However, if you are not comfortable sharing your surroundings, you may apply a filter with a custom plain or blurred background.

Additionally, ensure that your background is:

  • Well-lit,
  • Subtly highlights your business
  • It has an emotionally pleasant color palette
  • Without figures or pictures

7) Avoid multitasking

Multitasking during a virtual meeting can make you lose out on important information. In addition, doing other tasks during a virtual session distracts you and other attendees. Ensure to focus on the meeting as other participants may pick on your body language and interpret indifference.

To avoid multitasking during a virtual meeting, you can:

  • Automate note-taking using a speech to text software,
  • Close other tabs and resist the urge to surf the internet,
  • Avoid checking your email or responding to social media notifications

Read more: Bad habits to avoid when working from home

8) Breaks

The human attention span keeps reducing over time. As a result, it is not feasible to have a meeting without intermittent breaks and expect peak performance throughout the meeting. 

As a convener of a long meeting, you should schedule short breaks throughout the session. Breaks allow your participants to go to the bathroom, stretch, grab snacks or take notes. 

Taking breaks also relieves stress in you and your participant’s brains, helping you be more attentive and productive during the meeting.

9) Dress Appropriately

Since most people attend virtual meetings from their homes, it is not uncommon to show up in meetings wearing informal clothing. 

While it’s cozy and comfortable to be in your pajamas, such dressing is not appropriate for virtual meetings.  

Unless you are having a casual meeting with friends to catch up, ensure that you are dressed professionally like you would in the office. 

As you plan for your next video call, the following tips can help you prepare:

  • Wear colors to stand out
  • Put on garments that allow you to move freely
  • Minimize wearing loose jewelry as it may distract participants as you speak
  • Be conscious of glare and reflections from your glasses
  • Ensure to check your preview before signing in

Read more: How to dress for work success

10) Know when to speak

Knowing when to speak is perhaps one of the foundational virtual meeting etiquettes.

As a ground rule, remember only to speak when needed or asked to present or respond to an issue. Also, mute your microphone when someone is talking. However, if it is an interactive session, it helps to be in a quiet place.

When attending a virtual meeting, adhere to the following communication tips:

  • Introduce yourself at the start of the session
  • Strive to remember all participants’ names. Most virtual conference software labels each participant, and that can help
  • Respond appropriately and briefly when asked a question
  • Stay on topic and avoid digressing
  • Be sure to participate and share your thoughts during the meeting at appropriate times
  • Avoid interrupting other speakers
  • Avoid side conversations with other participants
  • Use appropriate gestures such as nodding to signal to others of your attentiveness
  • Bid goodbye to the other participants when the meeting ends

11) Preparation

You’ve probably come across the old adage, ‘Failure to plan is a plan to fail’ or something along those lines… 

Now, if you are set to have a business meeting, take time to ensure that you’ve made adequate preparations for the same. 

Below are some pointers that can help you in getting prepared for your virtual meeting. 

  • Know the meeting agenda
  • Select the right participants and assign them roles
  • Decide the meeting time and confirm the participants’ availability
  • Send invitations and preliminary programs on time
  • Follow-up with the invitees via email or phone
  • Test any required equipment
  • Prepare material for presentation or distribution

And in the case of a hybrid meeting, here is how to plan for it:

  • Utilize asynchronous communication effectively to ensure that all members participate as appropriate
  • Set ground rules for participation to ensure all participants stay productive and feel respected and valued
  • Start the meeting inclusively and encourage remote participants to have their cameras on
  • Use appropriate technology such as polls, virtual whiteboards, or Q&A software to make everyone feel included

12) Have a meeting agenda

If you are the one convening the meeting, ensure that the agenda is put out hours before the actual meeting. This ensures that key concerns are tackled and also gives attendees adequate time for them to prepare. 

13) Stick to the time

As with in-person meetings, punctuality is vital. If you are the convener, you should not keep other attendees waiting. Arriving late for a virtual session also shows that the person is not dependable.

Sticking to time also involves staying on until the end of the meeting. Unless it is an emergency, you should not leave before the session ends. If you have to exit before the conclusion of the meeting, be sure to notify the other attendees via the chatbox.

14) Be on time

Being on time goes back to preparing ahead for your next meeting.

Whenever you can, strive to join about five minutes before the start of the meeting. Arriving late to a virtual meeting could also make you miss important points. Additionally, multiple people joining late may distract the other participants or the convener if it is a private meeting.

15) Have a good microphone set up

Bad audio can make a virtual meeting experience unpleasant to participants. It is stressful to listeners when they strain to make out what was said, leading to low memory encoding. Having a good microphone helps as it filters background noise allowing only your voice through.

Top tips to remember for good virtual meeting etiquette

1) Be aware of your body language

When attending a virtual meeting, ensure that you communicate professionally and project an appropriate body language. The following are the top tips for improving your body language during virtual sessions:

  • Avoid touching your face or hair too much,
  • Sit with a relaxed posture,
  • Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera,
  • Project neutral facial expressions but be sure to smile when appropriate
  • Be attentive and show it by nodding and other appropriate gestures
  • Use appropriate hand gestures when speaking to others

Read more: Is your body language holding you back in remote working?

2) Always make Introductions

If you are the host, ensure to introduce all present. Alternatively, allow everybody to introduce themselves while minding the time. Below are some tips to follow when introducing yourself.

  • Mention your title,
  • Be brief but do not sell yourself short,
  • Project an appropriate body language,

3) Stay focused

It can be hard to stay attentive during a long virtual meeting. The following tips can help you stay focused:

  • Turn off email, messaging, or social media notifications
  • Ask questions during appropriate times
  • Be sure to take notes

4) Signal to others that you are in a meeting

During virtual meetings, distractions from family members, children, or roommates are common. Therefore, inform them in advance and ask them not to interrupt unless in an emergency.

5) Take minutes

A lot gets discussed during virtual meetings, and new ideas often come up. Taking notes helps you keep track of such information. You can even delegate note-taking to a speech-to-text software for later review.

Most virtual conferencing services allow meeting recordings. However, a session’s recording is not the same as carefully curated notes.

6) Send a meeting recap with actions

At the end of a virtual meeting, follow up by sending meeting recaps to the participants. Follow-up communication may have notes, material related to the session, and even the recording of the meeting itself. You may also request feedback from the attendants. Be sure also to thank the attendees for their time.

Virtual meeting etiquette cheat sheet

Here’s  a brief summary of the dos and don’ts from the above online meeting etiquette basics and tips

The DOs

  • Prepare for the meeting
  • Act professionally as you would in person
  • Avoid distractions
  • Turn your camera on if required
  • Dress professionally for the meeting
  • Join ahead of time and stay on until the end of the meeting

The DON’Ts

  • Avoid multitasking during the meeting
  • Don’t interrupt others inappropriately
  • Don’t move about in the video frame
  • Don’t eat during the meeting

Start Adopting Virtual Meeting Etiquette To Improve Your Meetings

Virtual meetings need not be boring replicas of regular boardroom meetings. However, they are no different from in-person meetings, and the same interaction rules apply. While teams should keep virtual meetings simple, collaborative, and fun, meeting etiquette is essential.

Following simple ground rules of participant interaction can optimize and make communication effective. From keeping track of your microphone and video to reducing crosstalk, virtual meeting etiquette improves participant experience and boosts team productivity.

Note: Being able to work from home or any location you chose can be a great convenience. However, keep in mind that proper virtual meeting etiquette has little to do with how sharp you look or how eloquent you are. 

The differentiator between a successful virtual meeting and a not-so-successful one lies in how you prepare for the meeting, address others and focus throughout the meeting. 

Related Jobs

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Further Resources

Guide to having a successful video conference

How to conduct video interviews

Things to avoid doing on your next meeting

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