Virtual Meeting Etiquette Rules That You Should Know
17 July 2021
We’ve all been to a bad business meeting. Whether it be one without a purpose, one that drags on forever or one where nothing seems to be accomplished.
Adhering to proper business etiquette will not only prevent meetings like this from occurring, but it will also build respect among meeting participants, help the meeting start and end on time, and create an atmosphere of cooperation.
We’ve compiled a list of our best netiquette tips for your next Zoom meeting, to help you work productively and impress your colleagues in the process!
What is Meeting Etiquette and Why is it Important?
Good manners never go unnoticed! How you conduct yourself might leave a lasting impression on others. That’s why online meeting etiquette is just as important as it is in person.
With an increase in remote work, a lot of our meetings have been moved online. Working from home may sometimes lead to professional standards slipping. Virtual business etiquette is important because it can create an atmosphere of professionalism and mutual respect and improve communication, helping the workplace become a more efficient place. When people feel respected, they feel better about their work, which translates into better customer relationships.
Online meetings have a different set of etiquette rules than in person meetings due to their remote nature. Certain things, like the smell of food, do not translate through the screen, but the level of distraction it causes remains the same.
Show your peers that you value them by conducting yourself professionally and courteously, even when you’re working from a more relaxed environment, like home.
Virtual Meeting Etiquette for Participants
Meeting participants and hosts have different roles and responsibilities in a meeting, meaning that different rules will apply to them. As a meeting participant, you want to show that you’re being proactive, contribute to the discussion and know what is expected from you going forward. Set an example to your fellow attendees by following these rules.
One of the best things about working from home is not having to adhere to a strict office dress code. However, dressing appropriately for an occasion is an important rule of proper etiquette.
Maintaining your routine of getting ready puts you in the right headspace to be productive.
While you may be wearing sweatpants, ensure that the upper part of your body, most likely the part visible to other meeting participants, is appropriately dressed in accordance with the kind of meeting you are attending.
This will show the other meeting participants that even though you’re working remotely, you are still adhering to professional standards.
Punctuality is Key
One of the most important rules of proper etiquette, whether online or in person, is respecting other peoples’ time by being punctual. You can never be sure whether potential customers and colleagues will strictly follow the schedule, so it is best to arrive as early as possible when attending business meetings.
By arriving early, you can solve any problems with meeting tools, such as testing video, audio, and background. You can even check your presentation to make sure there are no glitches or errors.
There is nothing more unprofessional than being asked about your job and being unable to answer questions about it. Understand your responsibilities and be ready for any questions that people might ask. Compile a list of possible questions ahead of the meeting and be prepared to answer them.
By being proactive and paying proper attention, you will make your colleagues feel valued for the work they’re doing. It is easy to lose interest in meetings and let your mind wander, but it is important to listen to what is happening, as this will prevent things from having to be repeated and will therefore make the meeting run more efficiently. You will be more productive in meetings and provide support to your colleagues in the process.
Removing distractions is vital to helping you stay on track and be productive during your online meeting.
Silence your notifications, put your phone on vibrate, turn off any distracting websites or apps. Let the people in your household know when you will be unavailable and put measures in place to make sure there are no interruptions, such as locking the door or leaving a note letting them know. This way, people are unlikely to disturb you!
Mute Yourself by Default
There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing the background noise of a cafe or cars driving past, from conflicting microphones. Unless you live alone, even households can produce a lot of noise due to pets, family and room-mates.
Keeping your microphone on mute when not speaking gives other participants the chance to speak and share their thoughts without distraction or frustration. Prevent an awkward situation from happening where someone else will mute you due to your background noise by doing it yourself and minimizing noise levels.
Don’t Interrupt Others
This may seem like an obvious rule but people sometimes get caught up in the moment during a heated discussion and speak without letting another person finish their train of thought.
Everyone in attendance at the meeting has a reason for being there, so make sure that everyone has a say and no one dominates the conversation, limiting the enthusiasm and creativity of others.
No Eating or Drinking
If you missed lunch, it may seem tempting to snack on something during your meeting. However, unless you are attending a dedicated lunch meeting, eating while participating in a meeting will likely be deemed unprofessional. Not only will it be distracting, but it will also make other members of the team hungry, thereby disrupting the flow of the meeting.
If the meeting is scheduled to be a long one, the organizer will likely arrange to have a break. Have a snack during the break but during the actual meeting, it is best to stick to water or coffee.
Resist the Urge to Multitask
At some point during the meeting you will feel the urge to check your emails, messages and perhaps catch up on some other work. Working on something else during a virtual meeting means that you will not focus on either and both will be affected negatively.
Avoid looking unprofessional by managing your time wisely and getting work done ahead of time when you know you have a meeting coming up. If you work during your lunch break or stay just 30 minutes later than usual the day before, you may complete some tasks without feeling too far behind when you have a meeting to attend.
If you truly have something more important that needs your attention, decline the meeting invitation and give that task your undivided attention.
Ask Questions at the Right Time
Don’t save all your questions for the end. If possible, come to the meeting with questions ready, and ask them as the related topics arise. By asking your question while a topic is still being discussed, you will make things more efficient. If you wait until the meeting is over, everyone’s mind will shift to other topics. This keeps the participants on track and allows the meeting to progress faster than re-discussing multiple topics at the end.
Additionally, this will be a sign that the host is about to change the subject and people can take this opportunity to speak.
Online Meeting Etiquette Rules for Hosts
It is the meeting host’s responsibility to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and productively, and therefore a different set of etiquette rules applies to them. Be the perfect host by following these rules.
Invite Relevant Parties Only
Meetings have a bad reputation for being time wasters. Don’t contribute to this and only invite people that truly have to be there. Unless someone plays an integral part to what is being discussed, there is no need to invite them – you can just include them in a follow up email after the meeting.
Prepare and Distribute an Agenda Beforehand
Time is money, and wasting time on unproductive virtual meetings is a waste of resources for everyone.
As a host, you want to make sure everyone comes prepared, knowing the purpose and plan of the meeting ahead of time. It is your responsibility to prepare and distribute a meeting agenda to all attendees in advance so that everyone knows what to expect from the meeting.
It would be prudent to send this out a few days in advance so that meeting attendees have time to look through it.
Sticking to an agenda during the call will ensure that participants stay on topic and will help the overall flow of the meeting.
Just as at an in person meeting, you wouldn’t initiate a conversation between two people who haven’t met before without introducing them first.
Do not assume that everyone knows all of the other participants. Especially in these times, with so many of us working remotely, some people may not have had a chance to meet one another before.
Be sure to introduce all parties to create a welcoming environment and inspire teamwork. Proper etiquette rules state that you should do this by starting with the person of the highest rank first.
Use a Note Taking Tool
Preparing concise and organized meeting notes is a real skill. It is difficult to listen, take notes, and participate in meetings at the same time. Usually a person would be assigned to take notes. However, with Notiv, this is a thing of the past!
Notiv uses AI technology to turn your conversations into meaningful outcomes by automatically sliding into your meetings to record, transcribe and summarize your meeting minutes with decisions, highlights and action points. You can also search for a specific word or phrase when looking for something, avoiding having to listen to the whole recording again when trying to remember a detail.
Be courteous and share your meeting notes with the other attendees so they can refer back to what was said at the meeting, word for word.
Leave Time for Questions
While some questions may be answered in the context of the conversation, leave extra time at the end of the meeting for any additional questions that people may have. As your virtual meeting nears the end, you should make sure that everyone’s had a chance to be heard, leaving no room for confusion or misunderstanding.
End on Time
Just like starting on time, ending on time shows that you respect other peoples’ time and resources and acknowledge that they have other tasks and meetings waiting for them.
There is a theory called Parkinson’s law that states “work will expand to fill the time available for its completion”. Depending on the time constraint you set for something to be done, that is how long it will take. This applies to meetings! If a group of people know they are not obligated to complete the meeting on time, they usually delay the meeting and eventually reach the same conclusion. If people know that the meeting will end on time, they are more likely to concentrate on making a decision.
Follow Up with Deliverables
A consistent follow up is key to the success of any project. Many great ideas were discussed at the meeting. Make sure nothing is lost due to lack of follow-up.
Email the attendees a summary of your meeting, including the meeting recording and transcript, as mentioned above. The best practice is to do so shortly after the meeting, while it is still fresh on everyone’s minds. Remind attendees of what the deliverables are, the desired outcome and who is responsible for what.
Share any relevant documents and let people know they can contact you with any follow up questions they may have.
A general rule of thumb for meeting hosts: Wait until everyone else has left the meeting before hanging up, so participants can leave at their own pace and finish their thoughts before disconnecting. If the original host exits first, Zoom will assign an alternate host, and this won’t look good.
Tips for Online Meetings
We’ve outlined netiquette rules, a lot of which go hand in hand with tips for meeting productivity. Here is a rundown of some additional online meeting tips that will help you Meet Better.
1) Break the Ice
We’ve covered the importance of introductions but that doesn’t automatically make people feel comfortable with one another. Engaging the attendees in an icebreaker game ensures that everyone has had the chance to speak and it is definitely going to make everyone feel more at ease.
2) Keep Your Video On
Non-verbal communication and body language speaks for itself. Of course, what you say is important, but how you say it is also valuable. Keeping your video on helps build rapport, puts a face to name and humanizes the people you’re working with.
3) Use Screen Annotation and Whiteboard
When sharing your screen, not everyone will be able to immediately understand where you are pointing and follow what you are saying. Enable on screen annotation or whiteboard to better present your ideas and thoughts.
Like most things, digitization has changed the face of meetings. The appropriate online meeting etiquette for participants is constantly evolving and changes every day. The virtual meeting etiquette exists to make the digital experience run smoothly so that everyone can get the most out of the meeting. Proper online meeting etiquette may not seem like it is important but it is what draws the line between impressing your team and damaging your professional reputation.
To learn more about mastering your note-taking skills in meetings, check out our previous blog.
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