The 9 Rules of Virtual Meeting Etiquette Every Professional Should Know and Practice

As COVID-19 continues to spread, few industries remain untouched, and virtual meetings have become a vital part of how modern businesses maintain productivity and continuity. They are an easy, cost-effective way to align multiple offices, keep remote employees engaged, and work with clients and vendors. Everyone should know the nine rules of virtual meeting etiquette.

While virtual meetings have likely been part of your work routine for some time now, it is very easy to fall victim to some critical meeting faux pas, especially if you’re working at home with distractions such as pets or kids. Video conferencing etiquette is a whole new ballgame compared to in-person meetings, as many folks are learning!

To help you keep your meetings productive and professional, follow these nine rules of virtual meeting etiquette.

1. Leave the keyboard alone.

Whether you’re diligently taking notes like a model employee or sneakily chatting with your work bestie, the sound of your typing is distracting. It’s not only distracting everyone else in the meeting (because your laptop’s internal microphone is inches away from your keyboard), but it’s also preventing you from devoting your full attention to the meeting. Opt for a quality headset or pick up your notebook and pen to take meeting notes instead.

2. Dress appropriately.

PUT PANTS ON! Just kidding; I know you knew to do that 🙂

One of the magical things about working remotely is the freedom to wear anything to work. It’s the dream, right? Still, there’s no reason to show your coworkers your PJs and bedhead. (Unless it’s a joke the whole team agrees on, in which case we approve).

Take a few minutes to throw on a clean shirt and brush your hair. The best part of fully getting ready while working remotely is putting yourself in the right headspace to be productive. Let’s be serious… this is still your job!

3. Minimize your distractions (be aware of your surroundings).

Your coworkers won’t be able to hear your ideas or take you seriously when there is a pile of dirty clothes in the corner behind you. You also want to avoid looking like you are working from the inside of a cave because of bad lighting.

Adjust your work set up so that you face a window or are exposed to plenty of light. And make sure your background is professional and work-appropriate! This means:

  • Do not leave beds (unmade or made) in the background.
  • No messy rooms or open closets where everyone can see your clutter.
  • No NSFW artwork.
  • Turn off or silence your phone (if you aren’t using it to call in).

Be careful not to interrupt others when they’re speaking. However, this can be difficult if lags in audio responsiveness or video streaming make it unclear when other participants start and stop speaking. This is a significant reason to invest in a conferencing solution with high-quality HD audio and video.

While kids and pets are adorable (and a much-needed distraction when you’re feeling overwhelmed), your coworkers won’t love having to talk over a screaming child or barking dog. So, be mindful of noise and…

4. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking.

There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing that alien echo noise from conflicting microphones. Save everyone from the ear-splitting madness by joining the meeting while on mute!

Unless you live alone, your house is probably pretty noisy these days. Muting your microphone when you’re not speaking allows other participants to chime in and share their thoughts without distraction or frustration.

5. Speak up.

When you enter a small meeting (around two to five people), announce yourself when you join. It can be awkward to hear the “someone-just-joined” ding followed by silence. When you hop into the meeting, introduce yourself and say hi – make sure not to interrupt someone mid-sentence.

Don’t be afraid to project your voice, either! Your team will appreciate being able to hear you without having to strain their ears or turn their volume up.

6. No food allowed.

Try to eat a snack before your virtual meeting. No one wants to see you stuff your face with chips while discussing important business matters. Not only is it distracting to others, but you also won’t be able to focus on the task at hand because you’ll be worried about dropping crumbs all over your keyboard.

7. Keep the Meeting Moving, Stay Seated, and Stay Present.

It may be tempting to check your inbox or carry on a side conversation during a dull moment in a meeting, but don’t do it! You might miss out on crucial information or an opportunity to give input. If you’re using your webcam, use attentive body language:

  • Sit up straight
  • Don’t make significant extraneous movements
  • Don’t let your eyes wander too much

While respecting everyone’s time is always a best practice, remember that many workers are now juggling unanticipated childcare or other caregiving responsibilities on top of their usual workloads. The best thing you can do to support them as an organizer is to keep the meeting moving. First, limit meeting attendees to only those who are truly necessary. Just because you can have dozens of meeting attendees doesn’t mean you should. Keeping the guest list limited to essential participants minimizes disruptions from over-talking and can help keep the meeting’s agenda on track.

It’s also a good idea to encourage participants to use the chat and file transfer features in the video conference for side conversations or questions. This way, the main conversation can continue uninterrupted.

8. Protect Sensitive Information

If you share your screen while presenting to the other meeting attendees, ensure that only the intended content is seen. Before launching a video conference, close unnecessary tabs in your browser window and other apps you’ve worked on. Searching in the browser’s address bar could summon up potentially embarrassing auto-complete results when sharing your whole desktop. Launching a new browser window and preparing ahead of time will help keep sensitive or potentially embarrassing information confidential.

For extra control of what participants see during your presentation, choose the option to screen share only one screen or one app (i.e., only a Powerpoint presentation) instead of your entire desktop. This way, the focus is on you and your presentation, not on anything that will distract from your message.

9. Plan an Effective Wrap-Up

For the last of the nine rules of virtual meeting etiquette, don’t just log off and move on with your day as soon as the meeting ends. Instead, end with a quick recap providing decisions made and actions agreed on. In addition, let everyone know what to expect next, such as:

  • You’ll send meeting minutes and a link to the conference recording.
  • You’ll follow up with answers to questions you couldn’t provide during the meeting.
  • You’ll make arrangements for the subsequent video chat follow-up.

And, of course, thank everyone for their time. A successful online meeting requires active participation by every attendee. Please show appreciation for their efforts by saying thank you before ending the call.

Final Thought

Online/virtual meetings and video conferences are efficient communication and invaluable methods for bringing people together. However, without preparation and processes intended to make them as effective as possible, they risk wasting participants’ time without actually achieving anything of value.

Follow these nine rules of virtual meeting etiquette during your next meeting, and hold your team members to these standards. Elevating your online meeting experience ensures your next call runs smoothly and remains productive for everyone involved.

For more information on how to work effectively outside your office, please read – Coronavirus COVID-19 (Are you Prepared?)