Virtual Meetings Etiquette
As with any form of communication, there is a certain etiquette, or list of unspoken rules/guidelines, that should be followed when giving or attending an online or virtual meeting. As the host of the meeting, you should not expect the attendees to instinctively know what is expected of them. Similarly, as the attendee of an online meeting, you should respect the wishes of the host and follow any instructions or guides that have been given to you.
We have listed below our recommendations in 7 areas of online meetings for both the host and participant which we hope you will find useful.
As the host of the virtual meeting or online event, generally you get to decide which virtual platform to use – unless you are limited by your organisation or IT dept!
So, which do you use? There are plenty to choose from now – from Zoom, Teams to Google Meet and others – so make sure you use one that caters for all your needs. For example, do you need to have access to breakout rooms? Do you want attendees to be able to participate with annotation, whiteboard and polls?
Whichever you decide to use, make sure you have the most up to date version of it and familiarise yourself with all the tools and options available, before the meeting.
Also think about the participants and if they will know how to join the meeting etc. At this stage, most people are familiar with all platforms. However, if you are dealing with a group who you feel may not be familiar with your platform, consider sending them some helpful information. For example, send them a link to a “how-to” video. Let them know how they can test their audio/mic/camera before they join the meeting or event.
As the participant, if the shoe is on the other foot and it is a platform you are unfamiliar with, do some preparation to help your meeting go as smoothly as possible. Perhaps take the time to read through or watch any tutorial videos beforehand. Make sure you know how to join the meeting, and how to set or change any of your audio & camera settings in advance.
As the host, send out invites to all participants with attachments if needed. Let them know the agenda of the meeting, why they need to attend and any expectations you have. Also perhaps encourage them to join a few minutes before the meeting start time, so they can get settled & engage in “water cooler chat” to begin with.
As with the software point above, make sure you are using the most current version and have tested your audio/mic etc before the actual meeting.
As the participant, read any materials the host has sent so you know the expectations of the meeting. Prepare your actual ‘work’ space so you have no clutter behind where you will be taking the call. Again, make sure to test out your camera, audio & mic before the meeting starts.
As the host, make sure you are on the call before the attendees join, to give yourself time to set yourself up and ensure there’s no last-minute technical issues! If the software you are using allows, then set up a waiting room. Here at On Your Feet, we use Zoom. On our virtual programmes we have customised our waiting room message with a warm welcome. Maybe you can do the same and create a good first impression, before attendees have even joined your meeting.
Remember, as with any meeting, it’s also important to end on time! Keep a close eye on time as you progress through the meeting. This might be the most important event on your calendar that day – but those attending are likely to have other commitments immediately after.
As the participant, make sure to log in at the given time set by the meeting host. You could give other attendees a poor first impression if you turn up late.
There is the usual joke around people who are working from home only wearing smart clothes on the upper part of the body and wearing pyjama bottoms. Nobody gets to see the bottom half, right? Hmm – beware, this may not always be the case. The host could call on all participants to stand and stretch for a couple of minutes, or you may need to get up and grab something during the meeting. On our virtual programmes we sometimes have exercises which require attendees to stand. In our defence, we do flag this in advance.
Another tip to remember for both the host and participants is jewellery! Try not to wear anything that jingles or clinks when you move (for example, bracelets, bangles etc) as this could interrupt the quality of your audio, and distract others in the meeting.
If you are hosting or joining the meeting from home, even if you don’t have a home office, try to find a quiet space where you can sit (or stand) without being disturbed. Look behind where you will be positioned and make sure the background is plain and uncluttered.
The same applies if you are in an office at work, find a space where your colleagues won’t be distracting you. If you are in a meeting room that looks out into the office, close the blinds if possible, to help minimise distractions – for both you and other participants of the meeting.
The lighting is especially important, don’t position yourself with a window behind you as you will just be a silhouette. If there is no natural light then make sure the room is sufficiently lit so you don’t appear in shadow on screen. We go into this in more detail here.
As the host, be mindful of any software on your own PC that could pop up notifications during your meeting – for example, Dropbox, and pause all notifications if they’re not needed.
If you are sharing your screen during the meeting, close down anything else that’s not needed in your browser beforehand.
As the participant, try to minimise as many distractions as you can – have your phone muted, pause any other notifications, close any unnecessary windows or tabs on your computer e.g., emails, social media platforms etc., and give your focus to the meeting in hand.
As the host, it is up to you to decide whether you want participants cameras to be on or off. Whichever you decide, it is good practice to let everyone know well in advance. If you set out the expectation in advance, then you will find participants more amenable when it comes to turning on their camera.
As the participant, if the host has set their expectations beforehand and requested that cameras be turned on, then please respect the hosts wishes. If for any reason you aren’t able to have your camera on, then try to let the host know before the meeting – or tell them in the Chat at the beginning of the meeting if you can.
We hope the above tips provide some insight into virtual meeting etiquette. Although they are not set in stone, it is always best practice to communicate clearly your expectations before any meeting.