As the numbers related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise, virtual meetings have become an invaluable tool and critical strategy for businesses to remain relevant and connected with clients or prospects, and for teams to maintain productivity and a sense of normalcy.
So, what exactly is a virtual meeting? Virtual meetings can be best described as real-time, Internet-based collaboration using integrated audio, video, chat, and application sharing tools regardless of personal location. In essence, virtual meetings provide the ability for individuals to meet in real-time to effectively share information, no matter where persons are located. You may have heard of collaborative tools such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, or WebEx to name a few. When virtual meetings are conducted utilizing these videoconferencing platforms, attendees can feel as if they are almost in the same room.
While team members are likely accustomed to observing meeting etiquette in person, virtual meetings have become the new norm and it is important to understand and practice Virtual Meeting Etiquette.
Virtual Meeting Etiquette – “The customs and techniques practiced by virtual meeting organizers and attendees which allow participants to demonstrate professional courtesy and contribute to a productive and effective meeting.” – Salita E. McGowan
To help maintain meeting productivity and professionalism for organizers and attendees, let’s have a look at Five Simple Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips:
- Preparation – Send/review meeting information in advance.
- Testing – Test your camera, microphone, and technology prior to the meeting.
- Surroundings – Set up a quiet, organized area for your computer.
- Participation – Mute your microphone until speaking; avoid distractors.
- Closure – End the meeting on schedule. Summarize and identify actions.
Prior to meeting the organizer should send the meeting invitation, which should include the meeting purpose and objectives, as well as the agenda. Meeting attendees should review the meeting information and agenda to ensure they are prepared to contribute to accomplishing the meeting goals.
Meeting organizers and attendees should test equipment functionality, and familiarize themselves with the videoconferencing platform or technology. Ensure software updates have been applied to avoid meeting delays.
Dress appropriately for a virtual meeting as you would for any other business meeting. Don’t make the mistake of standing quickly during a virtual meeting only to be embarrassed by unprofessional attire from the waist down! While attendees may have the option of enabling video (or not), they should always be prepared to do so. Take the time to dress in business attire to get in the right mindset to lead or contribute to a productive meeting.
Remember to check your lighting and background. Turn on the camera to determine how viewers will see you. Ensure you have sufficient lighting and a background that is free of clutter or personal items such as an unmade bed or messy closet. Be sure that you have an organized, quiet location to set up your computer for your meeting.
When conducting the meeting, as with on-site meetings, it is proper etiquette to begin meetings on time, protect sensitive information, and stay on topic with the meeting agenda. Remember to speak clearly to ensure meeting attendees can hear, and if you solicit feedback from participants, mute your microphone until you are ready to speak again.
Meeting attendees should be sure to join the meeting on time and should also mute microphones unless actively speaking to avoid unnecessary technical feedback or issues. Attendees should limit distractors as a professional courtesy to the speaker and other attendees by silencing phone ringers and minimizing background noise. Additional distractors to avoid include eating during the meeting (pro tip – have a snack beforehand!) and keyboarding/typing, which is distracting to other attendees and can communicate that full attention is not devoted to the speaker. Meeting attendees should remain seated and focused during the meeting; movement during virtual meetings is distracting to all involved and prevents you from being engaged with the content.
It is good meeting etiquette for the meeting leader to end the meeting on time, and to send a meeting summary with clear actions or next steps identified. Meeting attendees should review the summary and actions and respond as appropriate to assignments.
While these tips hopefully provide some insight to make the transition from on-site to virtual meetings successful, it is important to remember that we are operating in a new norm, learning new technologies, teaming techniques, and coping mechanisms. As important as it is to observe virtual meeting etiquette to demonstrate professional courtesy, it is also important to understand that we aren’t currently experiencing the luxury of in-person, face-to-face communication. Perhaps now is the time to be patient with each other as we grow and adopt new strategies to function in our new norm…together.
Join me here at Eighth & Etiquette for posts bi-monthly on the 8th and the 18th for additional tips and discussions. If you’d like to receive information regarding customized training or individual coaching, send a note or schedule a consultation to Discuss “Branding You” with SALITA today!
Until next time…Be Safe and Stay Healthy!
Salita E. McGowan is President & CEO of Ascension Management and Consulting Services, LLC