Virtual meetings are having a moment. It’s not that they weren’t commonly used before the COVID-19 pandemic, but video meetings are now the rule and not the exception.
In particular, the increased use of platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have put a new focus on the importance of virtual meeting etiquette. Indeed, there are a lot more opportunities to commit faux pas that could lead colleagues, clients or the boss to question your professionalism.
Here are 14 video conference etiquette tips to help you steer clear of trouble:
1. Make sure everything works
Conduct a test of your technology – computer, applications, camera and microphone – to ensure it’s all functioning before the 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 virtual 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 are working from home in dining rooms and spare bedrooms. For the sake of productivity and focus, try to limit your agenda items and send them out to participants beforehand.
3. Be screen ready
One of the best things about working from home is being able to dress more casually. But video meetings put a limit on this to some degree. No, there’s probably not a need for a suit, 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 can help put you in a productive mindset. Warning: 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 actually see you.
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 conversation between participants. Off-screen, you might have a partner or kids at home walking around. 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 not just as business colleagues, especially during challenging times like these. 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 privacy for your video meeting, opt for an area of your home where others are less likely to be. Explain to roommates, spouses, 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? Most videoconferencing services allow you to enter meetings on mute. During the meeting, 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 video meeting, minimize the number of windows and tabs you have open so it’s easy for participants 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.
11. Filter with finesse
Did you see the viral image of the manager who accidentally made herself look like a potato using a Microsoft Teams filter? It’s an amusing but cautionary tale about video meetings. Spend some time getting familiar with any filters at your disposal before you join a video conference. That disco avocado filter that charmed your friends during a personal video chat won’t likely translate to a client call. The bottom line with filters: Know how to use them and know your audience.
12. Message carefully
Beware of sending messages to 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 ends up in a transcript, you could damage relationships as well as your reputation.
13. Don’t multitask
Good virtual meeting etiquette means resisting the temptation to check the news, social media or your email inbox. It’s quite clear when a participant isn’t paying attention during a video meeting. And 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 be disorienting to others. Place your device on something stationary, if at all possible, and try not to fidget (even if you’re overly caffeinated).
A last word of advice on video conference 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 virtual meetings. Offering some technical assistance or reassurance, as necessary, will help everyone feel like they’re supported and part of the team, even when you’re not in the same place.