top of page
  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

Best Practices for Virtual Meetings + Tips for Making Them Successful

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

In today’s global and digital world, virtual meetings have become an essential tool for businesses to leverage their time and resources. Virtual meetings allow you to connect with people who are not co-located with you by using video conferencing technology.

Working virtually comes with its own set of challenges and can feel even more awkward than in-person sessions since you’re not as likely to pick up on nonverbal cues. Things like eye contact, hand gestures, and posture tend to be overlooked, but they’re all important ways of communicating your ideas and keeping the conversation moving in the right direction.

Working virtually also means that there are fewer opportunities for small talk or “break time” activities. Even little things like taking a moment to put on headphones before beginning your meeting or ending Skype or Zoom with a firm goodbye can make a big difference in terms of professionalism.

Working virtually can have its ups and downs, but with good communication and a few key guidelines, virtual meetings can be very beneficial for everyone involved. Read on for our top tips on how you can make the most out of your virtual meetings

First of all - do you need to meet?

You will receive undying love and respect from your team and your colleagues if you only call meetings when absolutely necessary.

It is amazing how many organisations will analyse and cut every minute cost yet still allow unproductive meetings to continue at a huge wage cost. It is incredibly expensive. Don't let a meeting run with no agenda or objective. Challenge existing conventions around meetings in your organisation - have fewer of them and make them ruthlessly efficient.

Please, please, please do not have update meetings or meetings just because it is a set regular meeting if it doesn't meet the criteria below...

Define the purpose of the meeting

Take time to clarify why you’re having it in the first place.

  • What is the meeting trying to accomplish?

  • What problem or opportunity is the meeting trying to solve?

  • How will it benefit participants?

By clearly stating the purpose of the meeting, you can make sure that every participant brings the appropriate level of attention and focus to the discussion and make the best use of everyone’s time. Clearly state the purpose or objective of the meeting at the start and what outcome you need to achieve to pinpoint everyone's focus on a common goal.

Invite the right people

More is not merrier. Generally any more than 12 participants makes a meeting inefficient, difficult to control, harder to gain everyone's input and of course, makes it go longer. Four to seven is an ideal number.

If you can't limit numbers consider holding multiple smaller meetings or form subgroups to discuss topics in advance and have each subgroup send a representative to the main meeting.

Failing that structure the agenda so that some participants join only at certain times or sections of the agenda.

The two-thirds rule of thumb should apply. Each participant should be directly concerned with two-thirds of the agenda items, otherwise, it risks being a waste of their time. Only invite people who:

  • Must attend due to organisational protocols

  • Can best contribute to the discussion

  • Are affected by the outcome of the meeting

  • You can count on to support you

  • Commitment you need

  • Have resources you need such as budget, influence, staff

Meeting preparations

The more prepared you are for your meeting, the more successful it will be.

Be regimented about meeting documentation

Ensure all meetings have a set of essential meeting documents - an agenda at a minimum that clearly outlines the key objectives as well as any supplementary information that people can digest prior. Saved in a shared drive you might also add a recording of the meeting and subsequent notes/minutes for the benefit of those that cannot attend. Remember 'no agenda - no meeting' and stick to it.

Decide on a virtual meeting platform

The virtual meeting platform you use can make a big difference in the success of your next virtual meeting.

It can be difficult to select the right platform that fits your needs and that participants are familiar with. Some organisations prohibit the use of certain platforms so make sure you address the platform very early on.

A standard online meeting platform, like Zoom is great for sharing screen content, whiteboards and taking polls. But if you have specific collaboration needs, like the need to store, organise and collaborate on project documents you will need a tool specifically designed for those tasks like Teams.

Whatever platform is decided on, make it your mission to become proficient on all of the major ones for maximum flexibility. At a minimum equip yourself with being able to log in, chat, mute, turn cameras on and off, react and share screens in Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout, and Skype.

Ensure you put the link or instructions on how to join the meeting in the meeting invitation, agenda and anywhere else highly visible and accessible to the participants for their convenience.

Familiarise yourself and others with the technology and make updates

When scheduling your virtual meeting, inform participants of the technology required. Will they need a webcam? What about headphones? What software is needed?

Also, ask participants to do a software update well prior to the meeting. For example, a Zoom update can take many minutes to do if your bandwidth is compromised and will delay the start of your meeting.

Assign roles

You possibly need to go full formal with a chair, secretary etc but there are some key roles that will facilitate a seamless experience including:

  • Leader - establishes the ground rules, ensures everyone is given an opportunity to contribute and keeps the meeting on track and moving along.

  • Note taker - the leader is usually too busy to also take notes. Allocate this role early when making meeting preparations rather than at the start of the meeting.

  • Reactions and comments monitor - for larger meetings it is beneficial to assign someone the responsibility of monitoring the chatbox for comments and questions. Periodically refer to them to be contributed to the meeting.

  • Tech - a great idea for important meetings is to have a tech person on hand throughout to manage the meeting technology and explain how to use the platform features and resolve any meeting participant issues.

Forewarn of the meeting guidelines

Now that you’ve set up your virtual meeting, make sure that everybody understands the guidelines for the meeting. Set some ground rules like mute unless speaking or asking questions in chat. Importantly if you want everyone to have their cameras on, forewarn of this in the meeting invitation so people can prepare themselves and the environment appropriately rather than taking them by surprise.

Put everyone on an equal footing

In a hybrid world where some people are in the office and some connecting virtually, it is new good practice to set all on an equal setting by deciding that if even one person is connecting virtually then all shall. In other words, even if you have some in the same workplace, they should still connect separately from their office on Zoom or Teams so each person is in a 'virtual box'. This makes those who are connecting remotely feel on equal footing rather than on the reserve team if you see everyone else together in a meeting room.

Present yourself

Use a high-definition (HD) webcam

If you don't have a separate HD webcam, use your computer's built-in cam, which is preferable to the camera on your phone for a professional impression.

Don't turn your video on and off

Stay in place - don't get up and walk around, If you do need to turn the video off do this as infrequently as possible and for as short a possible time. People interpret your camera off as you being unengaged and distracted creating an unfavourable impression.

Look into the camera

Don't look off into a second monitor or down to your keyboard. Look directly into the camera giving the same non-verbal cues that you would in a face-to-face meeting such as nodding and smiling to indicate engagement.

Try sticking a pair of eyes or just a post-it note beside your camera to remind you to look into it. Position your camera to eye level or just above. If you are using a laptop it will likely be angled slightly up at you. If this is the case, add some height to your computer.

Get a high-quality microphone

Built-in computer microphones are usually not that great so invest in a quality mic or headset. Minimise ambient noise and in the selection of your mic look for a noise-cancelling one that picks up your voice only.

Check your tech beforehand

Check your mic, camera, software updates and any other settings you can think of well ahead of time.

Dial in if needed

If bandwidth or audio quality are issues, dial in on a phone instead of giving an explanation to participants why. Make sure you have a good signal or use a landline.

Turn off your notifications and mute your phone

Noises from notifications are one of the annoying and distracting obstacles to meetings so don't be one of 'those' people.

Mute typing noises

It’s OK to type and take notes during your calls. But when you do so, mute yourself or get a quiet keyboard. Loud typing noises are incredibly distracting and make participants think you aren't engaged.

Use mute wisely

If you do put yourself on mute, make sure to unmute yourself when it’s time to speak.

You want to avoid, “Sorry, I was on mute.”

Wait to communicate

In person, it's easy to find the correct time to start talking. Online, some of these cues can be lost in translation leading to more people interrupting each other. Sound delays can also lead to interruptions so pay attention to the flow of conversation and wait for a slightly longer pause to begin speaking.

Bring the light

The first and most basic way to enhance your appearance in a virtual meeting is by bringing light into the picture. Try and position yourself in front of a window. If there isn’t a window nearby, you can also use a light box to brighten your setup. A light box is a simple device that you can place on top of your screen to give it a source of illumination. If you have the option to use natural light to brighten your image, however, you will get a much more consistent and attractive glow throughout your video.

For more ways to touch up your appearance on Zoom specifically check this article out.


There are four main options:

The first is best, the others can be good too:

  • Prepared actual background settings that are neat, clean, bright, and professional. If you do this ensure you:

    • Carefully review your background for professionalism

    • Clean your bookshelf

    • Remove boxes and trash

    • Declutter the area

    • Don't show anything too personal

  • Green screen with a virtual background (avoid goofier-side backgrounds such as outer space).

  • Step and repeat banner style backgrounds often used at event as backdrops for photos.

  • Plain, preferably monotone wall with or without windows.

Real office settings are the best and most authentic.

With more office space freed up with the advent of WFH consider suggesting at your workplace some dedicated virtual meeting pods which are set up for employees to use for virtual meetings. This keeps meetings private, easy to 'plug in and play', free from distraction, ensures the best technology is in use and provides a more professional-looking backdrop to virtual meetings.

Check your head position

Be aware of where your head is when on camera. Don't be that person whose chin or forehead is cut off, Aim for your head to be in the top third of your screen or about 10-15% away from the top. Do this before your meeting so you are not making adjustments at the start in front of all other participants. Remain approximately 1.5 to 2 feet from the camera. Think “news presenter” on TV and adjust your distance accordingly.

Dress the part

Make sure your clothes contrast well against the background. Avoid green with green screens and avoid black with dark backgrounds (or your head will appear to float). Prepare your look and dress as if you were face to face. If you’re not sure, always dress up 1 level. Your look is a part of your brand. Clothes with busy patterns can look fuzzy on camera and big patterns can be distracting as can reflective accessories. Lean towards solid colours in jewel tones.

Wrap the meeting up

Now that the virtual meeting is over, make sure that your team members know how to log out and disconnect to prevent any inadvertent sharing :)

You can also use this time to collect feedback about the meeting, the tools you used, the meeting format, what worked well, and suggestions for how you can make the next meeting even better.

Make note of any interruptions or distractions that arose as well as technical issues. After all, virtual meetings make it easier than ever for teams to collaborate from all over the world, but only if you’ve put in the effort to prepare for it.

Final thoughts

Virtual meetings have many benefits. They can increase collaboration and save money but also come with their own set of challenges.

Treat virtual meetings with the same care, thought and gravity that you do with face-to-face meetings by setting agendas, inviting the right people and setting some ground rules. And remember the same rules of conduct and professionalism apply, no matter what the setting.

20 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page