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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

Virtual Meeting Etiquette - 10 Tips To Be Professional

In the wake of the pandemic, the world of work underwent a radical transformation, with remote work transitioning from a workplace benefit for a lucky few to a widespread reality leading to a profound shift in how we communicate and collaborate professionally.

Virtual meetings, once the exception, have become the rule, serving as a primary mode of connection and engagement within and across teams. As we navigate this new terrain, the importance of virtual meeting etiquette has come to the forefront. Just as we uphold certain standards of conduct in physical meeting spaces, we must do so in virtual ones.

This article will delve into the do's and don'ts of virtual meetings, offering etiquette guidance on how to maintain professionalism and facilitate effective, respectful communication.

1. Prepare your technology

Technically, ensuring your devices and internet connection are working optimally is crucial. Perform a technology check prior to the meeting - including testing your camera and microphone, ensuring your internet connection is stable, and confirming that any necessary software or applications are updated ahead of time and running smoothly. Also, acquaint yourself with the features of the meeting platform to be used, such as screen sharing, raising hands, or chat functions.

This level of preparation not only helps prevent technical glitches that could disrupt the flow of the meeting but also demonstrates your respect for others' time, and reflects positively on your professionalism.

2. Appear professional

Dressing appropriately demonstrates your commitment and respect for the meeting and its participants as well as the organisation you are representing. While working remotely might allow for a more relaxed dress code, it's important to dress professionally from at least the waist up, wearing attire suitable for a traditional office setting and maintaining good grooming. Ensure clothing is cleaned and ironed and avoid patterns like stripes or checks that can distort on screen.

Your background also plays a significant role in conveying professionalism. Opt for a clean, clutter-free space that presents a neutral and organised appearance, free from overly personal objects. If your surroundings are distracting, untidy or unprofessional, consider using a virtual background or investing in a backdrop.

3. Know the technology

The effective use of technology is instrumental in ensuring the smooth running of virtual meetings. Familiarising yourself with the features of popular meeting platforms like Zoom, Teams, or Google Meet can significantly enhance your ability to participate fully and effectively.

For instance, understanding how to mute and unmute yourself, share your screen, or use the chat function can prevent disruptions and maintain the flow of discussion. Additionally, many platforms offer features such as breakout rooms for smaller group discussions, annotations to contribute ideas and information, hand-raising to signal a desire to speak, and reactions to provide non-verbal feedback. By learning how to navigate these features, you can contribute more effectively and make your virtual interactions more like in-person meetings.

Good audio and video quality are also key for effective communication. Use a clear microphone and camera; consider using headphones with a built-in microphone for better sound quality than relying on your computer's inbuilt microphone and to minimise background noise.

4. Greetings & introductions

Introductions and greetings play a key role in setting the tone for virtual meetings. As the meeting begins, it's proper etiquette for the host to start by welcoming everyone, introducing themselves, and then giving the floor to others for introductions if necessary. If you're a participant, wait for your turn, and when it comes, introduce yourself clearly, stating your name and role and any other relevant details. If everyone in the meeting already knows each other, a simple greeting will do.

During introductions or greetings, ensure your video is on, as this helps to establish a more personal connection. If you join a meeting late, enter muted to avoid disturbing the ongoing conversation, and wait for a natural break in the discussion to quickly apologise for your tardiness and greet the others.

5. Know when to be silent

It's good practice to stay on mute when you're not speaking. This helps to eliminate background noise that can disrupt the meeting, such as typing sounds, a ringing phone, or other ambient noise. However, remember to unmute yourself promptly when it's your turn to speak to avoid awkward silences or delays. If you're about to make a long contribution, it may be helpful to indicate visually (for instance, by raising your hand) that you're about to unmute and speak.

6. Video on/off

The use of video during virtual meetings significantly impacts the dynamics of communication, and understanding when it's appropriate to have it on or off is key to effective virtual meeting etiquette.

It's usually expected to have your video on during meetings as it helps to establish a more personal connection and promotes active engagement. Video allows for non-verbal cues to be seen, such as facial expressions and body language, which contribute greatly to the quality of communication. It also shows that you are fully present and engaged in the discussion.

However, there are scenarios when it might be appropriate to turn your video off. If your internet connection is unstable, turning off your video can help to improve the quality of the audio. It might also be acceptable to turn your video off if there are distractions in your background that you can't control, or if you need to momentarily step away from the meeting.

In meetings with a large number of participants, such as webinars or presentations, attendees might be asked to keep their video off to optimise bandwidth and focus attention on the presenter.

Regardless of the situation, it's always polite to communicate to the meeting participants if you need to turn your video off for a prolonged period of time.

7. Mind your body language

In the context of virtual meetings, it can be more challenging to convey your message clearly and engage with others. One essential aspect of communication during virtual meetings is maintaining eye contact. To achieve this, look directly at the camera rather than at the screen or at your own video feed. This creates a sense of connection with your audience, as it simulates making eye contact in an in-person conversation. You might find it helpful to position your camera at eye level and minimise the distance between the camera and the video feed of the person you're speaking to. Some find it helpful to put a Post-it note beside the camera to remind you to look at it rather than the screen.

In addition to maintaining eye contact, using non-verbal cues effectively can greatly enhance the quality of communication during virtual meetings. Nodding in agreement, using hand gestures, and displaying facial expressions can help to convey your message more clearly and show that you're actively engaged. Be mindful of potential time lags and slightly exaggerate your non-verbal cues slightly to ensure they're noticed by others.

8. Chatting & reactions

The chat and reactions functions of your virtual meeting platform can enhance communication and engagement when used appropriately. The chat function is valuable for exchanging information, asking questions, or providing clarifications during the meeting. It can be particularly helpful when there are multiple participants and you want to contribute without interrupting the ongoing discussion. However, it's important to use the chat function wisely and considerately, as excessive or unrelated messages can be distracting to others and cause annoyance.

The reactions function, which typically includes options like thumbs up, applause, or raising a hand, can be utilised to provide quick feedback or show agreement without interrupting the flow of conversation. Using reactions sparingly and purposefully can add a layer of non-verbal communication and engagement. Remember, it's crucial to remain mindful of the primary mode of communication, which is usually verbal, and to avoid using chat or reactions in a way that disrupts or detracts from the main discussion.

9. Avoid multitasking

Multitasking may seem like a tempting way to maximise productivity. However, doing so during a virtual meeting is considered poor etiquette and can detract from the overall effectiveness of the discussion. When you're participating in a virtual meeting, it's essential to give your full attention to the conversation at hand.

Avoid distractions like checking emails, browsing the web, texting, or working on other tasks. These actions not only reduce your ability to contribute effectively to the meeting, but they can also be noticeable and disrespectful to others, especially if your attention is visibly divided.

Remember, your camera provides a window into your level of engagement. Just as you would in a face-to-face meeting, show respect for your colleagues by staying focused, actively listening, and participating in the discussion.

10. Closing the meeting

Closing a virtual meeting properly is an essential aspect of meeting etiquette. To ensure a smooth wrap-up, wait to exit the meeting until the host or facilitator has officially closed it. During the closing moments, if appropriate take the time to summarise key points discussed, outline any action items or next steps, and assign responsibilities to relevant team members. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of what is expected moving forward. Finally, express gratitude to the participants for their time and contributions, fostering a positive and respectful atmosphere.

Wrapping up

Following virtual meeting etiquette is crucial in the post-pandemic era of remote work. By preparing, appearing professional, knowing the technology, and practising effective communication, professionals can enhance collaboration. Greetings, muting appropriately, and utilising video, eye contact, and non-verbal cues foster engagement. The proper use of chat and reaction functions adds interaction without disruption. Avoiding distractions, multitasking, and closing with a summary and gratitude contribute to a respectful and productive meeting experience.

By embracing these virtual meeting etiquette guidelines, you can forge connections, maximise remote work opportunities, and project a professional image.

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