The increased use of videoconferencing in business communications has put a new focus on the importance of virtual meeting etiquette. Between technical gaffes, audio delays and other aspects of meeting with colleagues via platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, there are a lot of opportunities to commit faux pas. Some may be unavoidable, but others could lead colleagues, clients or the boss to question your technical savvy or even your professionalism.
As such, staying up to date with best practices around videoconference etiquette can be vital to your career. We have 14 tips to help you steer clear of trouble:
1. Make sure everything works beforehand
Dealing with technical difficulties is a common pet peeve with videoconferencing. To help avoid it as much as possible conduct a test of your technology — computer, applications, camera and microphone – to ensure everything’s functioning properly before the virtual meeting begins. You don’t want to delay the start of a gathering because no one can see or hear you.
2. Get organized
If you’re leading a videoconference meeting, stick to the agenda. It’s especially easy to veer off topic in an online meeting because they can seem more informal in nature, as people working remotely often call in from their dining room or living room. For the sake of productivity and focus, try to limit your agenda items and send them out to participants beforehand.
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3. Be screen ready
For those who work from home, either full time or a couple days a week, one of the best things about it is being able to dress more casually. But video meetings shouldn’t be taken too lightly. There’s probably not a need for a suit (unless you’re an executive, or meeting with one), but do put on professional, clean clothing and check your appearance in the mirror before your video meeting begins. You don’t want anything to draw attention away from what you’re saying. As a bonus, getting ready for the workday in the morning, just as you would for an in-office day, can help put you in a productive mindset. And videoconference etiquette calls for dressing professionally from top to bottom, but if you’re wearing a professional shirt with sweatpants, don’t forget to fully exit the meeting before standing up.
4. Check your background
The best background for video meetings is a relatively blank one that won’t be distracting. Check to make sure there isn’t a pile of dirty dishes or laundry in your background. Many virtual meeting platforms allow you to change or blur the background if needed. Also check to see that the lighting is adequate so people can see you clearly.
5. Speak clearly
Enunciate your words and speak slowly during online meetings. Home internet connection quality can vary, as does the reliability of devices. Keep in mind that there’s often a minor delay when someone talks, so pause after asking a question or listening to someone’s response. It’s all too easy to inadvertently interrupt other speakers.
6. Look at the camera
There’s a lot to see on your screen during virtual meetings: images of yourself and your colleagues, the main presentation or an ongoing transcript of the text-based chat between participants. Off-screen, you might have a partner or kids at home walking around. But don’t get distracted. Make “eye contact” with others in the meeting by looking at the camera when you’re talking and listening.
7. Try to connect on a personal level
It’s important to display empathy and to connect as human beings and not just as business colleagues. Managers leading virtual meetings might want to build in some time at the beginning (or the end) to check in to see how everyone is doing.
8. Find a quiet place (if you can)
Ideally, you’ll be in a low-traffic room where you can close the door. If you’re not able to get total privacy for your video meeting, opt for an area of your home where others are less likely to be. Explain to roommates, significant others or children that you’ll be participating in a work meeting and unable to talk to them during that time. If possible, put pets in a separate room. And remember to turn off notifications on your computer and personal devices.
9. Use the mute button
Can’t find that quiet place? Enter meetings on mute. And when you’re not speaking, mute the microphone so people can talk without hearing your dog bark every time a squirrel runs through the yard.
10. Pay attention when sharing your screen
If you’re sharing your screen during a virtual, minimize the number of windows and tabs you have open so it’s easy for participants to see what you’re talking about. Make sure you close documents you don’t want to share, and temporarily disable any incoming messaging notifications while you’re presenting. Some videoconference platforms allow you to share just a single window rather than everything on your screen, so use that option if you can.
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11. Limit the attendee list
Video call fatigue . If you’re setting up the meeting, invite only those who truly need to participate. Smaller groups are often more engaged and productive on video calls, anyway.
12. Message carefully
Be aware when sending messages to individual participants during online meetings. If you’re complaining about someone during the meeting (which you shouldn’t risk doing anyway) and your comment accidentally goes to the wrong person or the full group, you could damage relationships — as well as your professional reputation.
13. Don’t multitask
Good virtual meeting etiquette means resisting the temptation to check the news, social media, email, texts or anything else that’s not an emergency. It’s quite clear when a participant isn’t paying attention during a video meeting. Also, it’s a universal truth that nobody wants to see or hear you eating. Even if it’s lunchtime, save the sandwich or snacks for later.
14. Stay put
If you join the meeting on a mobile device, avoid walking around or shifting too much, which can make more sound than you realize and be disorienting to others. Place your device on something stationary, if at all possible, and try not to fidget.
A last word of advice on videoconference etiquette tips: Remember to be kind and patient with your colleagues during online meetings. People have different levels of comfort and expertise when it comes to being on video. Offering some technical assistance or reassurance, as necessary, can help everyone feel like they’re supported and part of the team, even when you’re not all in the same place.