Five years ago, face-to-face meetings were the norm for me, and what most clients expected. But over the past couple of years particularly it’s become more common for me to attend online meetings. The benefits speak for themselves, and that’s why so many businesses are opting to meet virtually. Gone are the days of two-hour commutes, hefty train fares, three hour meetings and the worry over what to wear! But for online meetings to be effective there are a few golden rules to follow.
Fundamentally, it’s important to acknowledge that online meetings are slightly different to face-to-face meetings, and so it’s vital to pay attention to how you’re conducting yourself. In some cases, it can be helpful to put in place a company code of conduct, which doesn’t need to be anything too formal or restrictive. Often it’s the simple gestures that can help to make online meetings the best they can be.
So whether you’re a regular to online meetings, or looking for tips on how to improve your company’s use of them, here are 10 online meeting etiquette tips you need to know.
- Arrive promptly
A huge benefit of online meetings is their convenience. You can join an online meeting from anywhere, without needing to travel or set off early. So in theory, online meetings should always begin on time. For this to happen, it’s important for participants to join the meeting early (by at least five minutes), allowing time for a sound check and to get acquainted with the interface. You can also preview how you’ll look on webcam so you can ensure that the lighting and webcam angle are at their best.
- Invest in a good quality, noise-cancelling headset
If you regularly attend online meetings, it can help to research and invest in the best USB headset for your needs.The quality goes a long way to preventing others from hearing your background noise such as traffic, the lawnmower next door, children or dogs!
- Properly introduce people
Be mindful of who is joining the meeting, and it should be the responsibility of the host to make sure everyone is properly introduced. It should be easy to see through the control panel who is in attendance, so that no one is missed. If a guest or ‘visitor’ is attending, take the time to explain their presence and thank them for their time.
- Look interested on webcam
If you’re using your webcam for the meeting, which we recommend, be sure to look interested and engaged. Body language may be more limited in a virtual scenario, but your expressions and eye contact with the camera are still important.
- Give the meeting your full attention
An online meeting is no excuse to be multitasking, getting distracted by work activities while other participants are speaking. It’s important to give it the same level of respect and attention you would give to a face-to-face meeting.
- If screen sharing is likely, shut down any unnecessary programs before the meeting
Online meeting providers such as GoToMeeting offer the functionality to share screens with other participants. If it seems likely that you’ll need to present or demonstrate something via your screen, it’s professional to shut down any unnecessary programs in advance of the call, to avoid the panic or embarrassment of sharing a private email or a sensitive document.
- Mute yourself when you’re not speaking
Open microphones can create a lot of unwanted background noise. It only takes one participant to be typing an email or blowing their nose, before background sounds become distracting. The best online meeting etiquette is to only unmute your microphone if you have something to add to the discussion.
- Ask questions via non-disruptive features
It can sometimes be tricky to find a suitable opportunity to ask a question during a virtual meeting, and if you do, you often run the risk interrupting or talking over someone. To avoid this, it can be a great idea to encourage all participants to ask questions via the chat panel, or messaging feature available within the interface. The host can then present these questions at an appropriate point in the meeting, or at the end. Alternatively, participants could raise a hand so that the host can see they have a question to ask.
- Encourage everyone to contribute
In an online meeting scenario, it can be easy to forget about some of the participants. It therefore falls to the host to ensure that everyone has been encouraged to share their thoughts, and particularly those who may prefer to slip into the shadows.
- Be mindful of time
Keep questions short and sweet. Get into the habit of finishing an online meeting as soon as all agenda points have been covered, so that discussion doesn’t digress into other areas. As host, it can often be a good idea to aim to finish five minutes ahead of schedule, and practice achieving this.