Mind Your Digital Etiquette in Virtual Meetings

As you settle into the changed world, here are a few pointers to make sure you don’t falter in social protocols.

Experts advise against bringing food into a virtual meeting. Photo by Chris Montgomery/ Unsplash
Experts advise against bringing food into a virtual meeting. Photo by Chris Montgomery/ Unsplash

There was a time when video calls were thrilling and exciting before they became an extended part of our WFH corners. Since virtual meetings have now become the new normal and an inseparable element of our daily work routine, it’s still easy to fall victim to some major meeting faux pas. Virtual meeting etiquette is a whole new ball game and we need to master it.

Here are some simple virtual meeting etiquette rules and tips that are easy to follow and imperative to remember. 

1. Leave the keyboard alone 

Whether you’re diligently taking notes like a model employee or sneakily chatting with your work friend, 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), it’s also preventing you from devoting your full attention to the meeting. 

2. Dress appropriately, and professionally

 Take a few minutes to throw on a clean shirt and brush your hair. The best part of actually getting ready while working remotely is that you’ll put yourself in the right headspace to be productive. Keep aside those extra minutes to look presentable and formal, and you will realise the difference it makes to your online presence and productivity.  

3. Be aware of your surrounding 

Your co-workers 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 work from the inside of a cave because of bad lighting. Adjust your work setup so that you face a window or are exposed to plenty of light.

Try to create a professional background for your webinars. If these options are still not feasible, you can always mute your microphone when you’re not talking. 

4. Mute it

As mentioned above, unless you live alone, your house is probably pretty noisy these days. Muting your microphone when you’re not speaking gives other participants the ability 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 on the meeting, introduce yourself, and say hi, just make sure not to interrupt someone mid-sentence. 

Don’t be afraid to project your voice, too! Introduce yourself professionally like “ Hello! My name is John and I am the CEO of”. 

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. 

7. Be attentive not just 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. It is advised not to check your smartphone or answer phone calls while on a virtual meeting. 

If you’re using your webcam, use attentive body language like sitting up straight, not making big extraneous movements, and not letting your eyes wander too much. It is advised to not leave the meeting and off your video without informing your colleagues.

8. Agenda setting

Sara Sutton, CEO, and Founder of FlexJob corporation once said: “Agendas don’t have to be long, involved, or even particularly detailed. By providing staff with an agenda, attendees know what to expect, can guesstimate how long it will run, and, if there is an element of participation, will allow them to prepare talking points.” 

9. Microphone testing

Don’t wait until a couple of minutes before a meeting to sign in. On cell phones, make sure you have: 

  • A strong signal 
  • No interference on a computer 
  • Use a wired connection rather than a Wi-Fi 
  • Make sure the computer camera (uncovered), speakers and microphone works

10. Lights, camera, action 

Video adds a human touch to meetings, which can combat isolation and strengthen team relationships. And it can help the meeting facilitator identify whose attention is wandering, so they can bring them back into the conversation. Being seen on video is an important element of conference call etiquette, especially in the current scenario. 

However, if due to some emergency, you’re unable to attend the meeting, it is courteous to inform your absence beforehand to not let others wait aimlessly. 

11. Relevance over routine

An often missed yet important thing to remember is to make the topic to be discussed relevant to at least three people in the meeting. Otherwise, send an e-mail on the topic or conduct a smaller meeting. Virtual meetings have to be more mindful than just a tick box exercise.

12. All on-board

It sounds simple, but it’s worth stating clearly. If you’re inviting someone to an online meeting, they must have access to the right software or hardware to join in. Make sure you announce meetings with plenty of notice so participants can download or acquire what they need to participate in.

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