Virtual meeting etiquette is important. If you work in a traditional office, you are probably familiar with some basic rules of conference room meeting etiquette. Don’t show up late. Look professional. Don’t interrupt others when they are speaking. Don’t bring a meal or lots of snacks with you (unless you brought some for everyone else). We’ve all grown accustomed to these standard niceties and practice them regularly at our jobs. However, with the recent pivot to all things virtual, we have had to revise some of our previous behaviors and learn about virtual meeting etiquette. For example, no one will know if you’re actually wearing sweatpants with your blazer. But people will catch on if you always run over on your scheduled Zoom meetings and end up holding everyone an extra fifteen minutes. In this blog post, we will walk you through before, during, and after a virtual meeting: what to do, what not to do, and how to maintain virtual meeting etiquette (even while in sweats).
Before the Meeting
Meetings don’t begin when the participants click the “Join Now” button. Even the smallest, most often recurring meetings require some prior planning. Below are some tips to organize your virtual meeting like a pro.
Overbudget your meeting time
One of the biggest annoyances in today's virtual work environment is when a meeting that was scheduled for 30 minutes is ticking closer and closer to an hour. Now your entire day is affected by that extended meeting. When planning your virtual meeting, it is always better to overbudget than skimp on the allotted time. If you don't know whether you will be able to accomplish all your meeting goals in thirty minutes, schedule an hour on the calendar. That way, if you finish the meeting in 45 minutes, your attendees will be pleasantly surprised by an extra 15 minutes in their day.
Offer multiple ways to join
Just because the majority are working from home, don’t assume that everyone has access to a computer. There may be circumstances when a computer breaks or is not working properly, and your attendees must be able to join a meeting through their mobile device. Make sure that your virtual streaming provider offers multiple ways for attendees to access the meeting: through computer audio, a dial-in phone option, or headphones.
Send an agenda
An agenda is a must-have for any virtual meeting. It lets your attendees know beforehand what topics are to be discussed and, based on that, if they should invite any additional teammates to join the conversation. It will also be easier to keep your meeting on track if attendees are aware of what needs to be covered. Lastly, if it is difficult to create an agenda for your meeting, that may be a sign that you should evaluate if you really need a meeting in the first place. If you do not, simply solve the problem over email or another messaging tool. Don’t waste people’s time – this is virtual meeting etiquette rule number one.
During the Meeting
You’ve sent out a calendar reminder, you’ve created an agenda, and now it is time to begin the meeting. Make sure that all your attendees have the opportunity to participate as necessary and gain all the information communicated by following these etiquette guidelines.
Have a “leader”
Keeping the conversation on track is much easier if there is one designated leader in charge of the meeting. Have that person keep side conversations to a minimum and have them encourage the rest of your attendees to address only the points on the agenda.
Collaborative Meetings - Make sure that people get their turn to speak
A collaborative meeting is one where all attendees are encouraged to contribute equally to the conversation, almost like a brainstorming session. Some common examples of collaborative virtual meetings are team meetings and project planning sessions. During a collaborative meeting, make sure that attendees get the opportunity to voice their opinions. Discourage interruptions and side conversations, and if you notice that someone has not contributed, ask them directly to share their thoughts.
Presentations - Hold questions until the end
A presentation is a virtual meeting where only one or a few people are in charge of presenting a topic to a larger group. These can include virtual trainings or presentations of new products or concepts to your internal stakeholders. During a virtual presentation, it is important to keep the meeting on track by encouraging your attendees to hold their questions until the end of the presentation. Set aside at least 15 minutes for questions.
Have a “security guard”
Unfortunately, the increased use of virtual streaming services has led to an increased number of hackers trying to get into virtual meetings. Designate someone to be your meeting “security guard” and monitor the attendees who join your meeting. If you do not recognize a name or phone, kindly ask them to identify themselves. If they do not respond or are not someone you recognize, remove them from the meeting to prevent a security breach.
Designate a note-taker
If people are screensharing during a virtual meeting, it is difficult for them to take notes simultaneously. Show virtual meeting etiquette by having a designated note-taker scribe during the meeting so that all attendees have access to the information following the conversation.
After the Meeting
Congratulations, you hosted a successful virtual meeting! However, your job is not over. Complete the following steps to make sure that your meeting was as effective as possible, and to show your appreciation to your attendees for participating.
Send the recording to absent participants
Notes are a great summary of information for attendees who were present at the meeting, but for those who were unable to attend, a recording is the best way to make sure they get all the information that they missed. Make sure that your virtual streaming provider has recording capabilities, and that you record the meeting from the beginning.
Send any follow-up actions necessary
With all the craziness that’s going on in the world right now, it is very easy to forget a few items on your to-do list. Send a meeting follow-up email to your attendees that includes an action plan for each participant, as well as reminders and deadlines.
The New Normal
While we are all sick of the phrase “the new normal”, we can all agree that for the time being, our lives will more or less revolve around our computers. But just because we are physically apart does not mean that we can slack on the common courtesies of everyday life. Be sure to practice virtual meeting etiquette to show respect towards your coworkers, your organization, and yourself. When we are all together again, it will pay off.
For more tips on going virtual, check out the Virtual Meeting Guide: Tips on Going Remote.