The shift to remote workforces has put a spotlight on how people interact with one another over the Internet. While many professionals may be perfectly comfortable communicating face-to-face or over the phone, they might feel less confident when it comes to video conferencing and virtual meeting etiquette.
Virtual meetings may share some similarities with more traditional meetings, but there are vast differences as well — from the way information is exchanged to the kind of attire that is acceptable. In any case, to maintain a sense of professionalism going forward, it is important to understand virtual meeting etiquette and why it matters now more than ever.
Why Virtual Meeting Etiquette Matters
Going into 2022, virtual meetings are becoming the primary way that C-suite managers, employees, and even students and teachers communicate.
Consequently, an ever-increasing number of people are concerned with Zoom etiquette and what is expected of them when speaking over the Internet using video conferencing software.
Virtual board meetings are particularly difficult to navigate because things like posture, eye contact, and even background distractions can all have an effect on the productivity and efficacy of your business meeting.
“Business meeting etiquette refers to the standard of behavior expected in the workplace during meetings. Meeting etiquette, like regular business etiquette, encourages attendees to behave professionally and respectfully. Business meeting etiquette includes behavior like being on time, listening without interrupting, not having your phone out, and being prepared. Business meeting etiquette can change somewhat depending on the situation.”  - Indeed Editorial Team
Virtual meeting etiquette matters because professionals are increasingly engaged in remote team meetings. Whether you run a small startup with people from all over the world or you manage multiple teams in different time zones, you need to understand the ground rules for conducting and participating in a virtual meeting. Moreover, it’s best to set a standard and example through which your team(s) can improve and enhance meetings going forward. This way, you make yourself and everyone around you looks and works better.
Ground Rules for Virtual Team Meetings
Like any type of meeting, virtual meetings are conducted with certain preconceived expectations in mind. Whether you are the host, presenter, a team member, or an invitee, there are a few basic ground rules with which you should make yourself familiar:
- Know your hardware & software - Going into a meeting with little to no understanding of how to execute basic virtual meeting tasks is a recipe for disaster. This means that, before any virtual conference or meeting, you will need to familiarize yourself with your equipment. Understand how to use your computer, tablet, or smartphone, as well as any built-in audio or video recording devices. More importantly, learn how to use common remote software apps or platforms like Zoom or Google Meet to join meetings, share files, invite attendees, record your meeting, mute and unmute your audio, transcribe video meeting notes, and generally ensure that everyone can hear and see you clearly (and vice versa).
- Plan ahead for each meeting - In addition to getting to know your communication tools, you will also need to prepare for the content of each and every meeting. This is particularly important if you’re conducting the meeting, but even if you’re just an attendee, you should prepare yourself with potential questions and topics of discussion. In order to be an active participant in any virtual meeting, you will need to do some prep work in advance and understand the overall goals of the event.
- Dress the part - Most businesses and professional meeting environments have certain rules (official or unofficial) regarding the proper staff dress code. For the sake of virtual meeting etiquette, business casual is the default. However, in some rare cases (like a highly formal interview or large group webinar), you may be expected to dress formally. Alternatively, informal business settings may have a more relaxed dress code. Either way, it’s always better to overdress than to show up looking unprofessional or disheveled.
- Prepare Your Environment - Oftentimes, one of the first things people notice during a virtual meeting is your background environment. If you’re connecting from your home office and you have a tidy background, others will be more impressed and more willing to see you as a professional. However, if you connect from somewhere that looks messy or inappropriate for a business environment, it could completely derail the meeting.
10 Do’s and Don’ts of Online Meetings
Now that you know some of the essential ground rules, it’s time to look at more specific virtual meeting etiquette do's and don'ts.
Do: Make eye contact
“Eye contact during a conversation is vital. It shows attentiveness and interest in what is being said. Eye contact is similar to a conversation; it goes back and forth between those individuals who are engaged in a discussion, dialogue, or chat.”  - Jodi Schulz, Michigan State University
Many people struggle with eye contact during virtual meetings. It’s only natural to look at someone’s face during a conversation, but in order to actually make eye contact, you need to look directly into your device’s camera. This way, others can look at their screens while you speak to see your eyes or look at their cameras to afford you the same courtesy.
Don’t: Frequently look around your environment
Looking away from your computer, glancing at your cellphone, or appearing to focus on anything in your environment other than the meeting is both rude and unprofessional. While you may have distractions going on around you, do your best to ignore them and keep 100% of your focus on the meeting. Additionally, make sure that any distractions in your environment don’t draw other people’s attention away from the meeting, either.
Do: Confirm attendance and availability
You should always confirm your availability and attendance to the host of the meeting so that they can count on your presence.
If you’re hosting a meeting, you should always set the time and date well in advance. Just as importantly, you need to check everyone’s availability to ensure that people can actually attend. If, on the other hand, you are simply attending a meeting, you should always confirm your availability and attendance to the host of the meeting so that they can count on your presence.
Don’t: Schedule meetings last minute
There will almost always be times when emergency situations come up, but you can’t assume that everyone will be able to attend an emergency meeting that you schedule 10 minutes in advance. So, remember to be understanding of people’s schedules and workloads when you schedule meetings. The farther in advance you can give notice of an upcoming meeting, the better.
Do: Keep records of your meetings
“Good meeting minutes help drive a plan of action for your leadership team and employees. They clarify how, when, why, and by whom decisions were made. They map out a plan for the action items (which helps get the work done) and they later provide valuable information to those team members who aren’t able to attend the meeting.”  - AllBusiness Editorial Staff
Whether you choose to record meetings or designate someone to take virtual meeting minutes, you should always keep records of business and team meetings. This way, you can go back and reference important information as needed. As an added bonus, you can share virtual meeting videos or notes with team members who were unable to attend.
Don’t: Spend all your time taking notes
Recordkeeping is important, but if you try to spend all your time writing or typing notes manually, you won’t be an active participant in the meeting. As a result, it could seem like you are either disinterested or disengaged from the meeting. For this reason, we recommend using Otter.ai’s live transcription services to create virtual meeting notes in real-time while still engaging in the conversation.
Do: Treat others with respect
When you show people respect, regardless of the environment, you greatly increase the chances that they will reciprocate.
It may sound like obvious advice, but many people are unaware of how they are perceived by others — particularly when certain nuances are lost over a long-distance video call. Consequently, it’s important to make an extra effort to be kind, respectful, and professional at all times during a virtual meeting. When you show people respect, regardless of the environment, you greatly increase the chances that they will reciprocate.
Don’t: Talk over others
Even if you practice perfect virtual meeting etiquette insofar as you treat other people with respect, you could inadvertently disrupt the conversation and the progression of the meeting by talking over others.
In most video meetings, there is a short delay between the moment someone speaks and the time it reaches all of the other attendees’ ears. Therefore, you should always wait a few seconds after someone has finished speaking before responding. This way, you don’t risk accidentally speaking over other people.
Do: Ask relevant questions
“[Asking questions] helps you uncover the challenges you're facing and generate better solutions to solve those problems. We're all spending too much time and energy solving the first iteration of a challenge with the first idea we have. That's both limiting and counterproductive.” -  Joan Cheverie, Educause
When you’re having an in-person meeting, it is much easier to tell whether or not you are being understood. Poor Internet connections and sound delays make miscommunications far more commonplace in virtual meetings.
As a result, it’s extremely important to show that you are an active participant and that you want to both understand and be understood. Asking relevant questions can help ensure that everyone stays on the same page. Additionally, it is one of the best ways to exchange important information and reach enhanced solutions to issues that you or your business are facing.
Don’t: Stray off-topic
Everyone’s time has value, which is why you should always try to stay focused on the topic at hand. Creating a meeting agenda and sticking to it can help ensure that you don’t go off in a different direction and waste people’s time. However, while virtual meetings should have structure and purpose, there is nothing wrong with opening a meeting with friendly chats or introductions, especially if you’re still waiting on some attendees to connect.
As you can see, many of the same rules that you would use in the “real” world also apply when you’re having a virtual video conference. These are tips, guidelines, and do’s and don’ts that every professional should know and follow, especially going into 2022. Virtual meetings have already begun to eclipse traditional office meetings, so understanding the tools and etiquette for navigating your professional life in the virtual world is essential — now more than ever.
Do you want to find out more about virtual meeting etiquette and how to get the most out of every conversation with Otter.ai? Would you like to learn all about the perks of Otter.ai live transcriptions and captions? If so, contact Otter.ai today for more information!
- Indeed Editorial Team, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/meeting-etiquette
- Jody Schulz, Michigan State University, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/eye_contact_an_introduction_to_its_role_in_communication
- AllBusiness Editorial Staff, https://www.allbusiness.com/five-reasons-why-meeting-minutes-are-important-4113272-1.html
- Joan Cheverie, Educause, https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2017/2/why-asking-good-questions-can-help-you-be-a-better-leader