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22 Online Meeting Etiquette Rules You Must Know

Avatar of Autonomous Autonomous | Apr 12, 2021
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Thanks to COVID-19, people have had to become assimilated into the culture of remote work. Much of that involves meeting and discussing with others in a virtual context. Online meeting etiquette is essential to ensure that meetings flow well and are as effective as they are designated to be. 

Though you may not want to admit it, this may become the new normal. If not permanently, things may be this way for quite some time. So, it is in your best interest to do things the right way to combat virtual meeting fatigue and sharpen your focus. 

If you manage a remote team, then that is another reason for you to become acquainted with proper virtual meeting etiquette. Not only are you required to be at your best all the time, but you must also ensure that those whom you lead are aware of how to behave.

Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, the 22 tips below are all you need to have productive and effective online sessions with online meeting etiquette.

1. Muting Is a Way of Life

Muting Is a Way of Life

There is a reason why virtual meeting software platforms mute people coming into meetings that are already running. When you are in an online meeting, the best course of action is to keep your mic muted unless you need to speak. 

First, you can eliminate a lot of unnecessary background noise for everyone else. Second, while no one is encouraging it, when you want to vent your frustration about the others who are in the meeting, you do not exactly want them hearing what you are saying. 

2. Focus on the Meeting

Since there is no one watching over you, it can be very easy to start paying attention to everything else except the meeting you are in. How nice your coworkers’ houses are or how unkempt someone's hair is may involuntarily take precedence over their financials that are being read.

Unwanted outcomes, such as zoom meeting fatigue, can often cause this. You need to realize what is happening and course-correct before things spill out of control, and you miss crucial information. 

3. Dress Well

Dress Well

If you need to be in front of the camera during the meeting, this one should be a no-brainer. Even if you think you do not need to be on camera, ensure that you are well dressed.

If nothing else, people have had their cameras accidentally turn on during virtual meetings. At least if that misfortune happens to you, it is not going to be such a big problem. 

4. Address Your Background

One of the biggest detractors from meetings is a messy or improper background. Remember that people use a lot of information to formulate their opinions of you. An untidy background does not give a good impression. 

Before joining a meeting, ensure that your background is tidy. Alternatively, you can opt for various green-screen effects that are built into your virtual meeting platform. The said effects can range from a simple blur to a bookcase filled with interesting reads. 

5. Get Technical Issues Sorted out Early

Get Technical Issues Sorted out Early

Technical issues can creep up on you unsuspectingly. However, some of them reveal themselves before the meeting even begins. Test out the program you are using and your office equipment before it is time to meet. That way, if something is out of the ordinary, you give yourself a bit more time to address it.

It looks very unprofessional and wastes a lot of time when people are ready to meet, and you are only just realizing you have a technical problem. 

6. Be Cognizant of People’s Time

Whether you are the meeting organizer or a participant, this one can apply to anyone who must speak or has the floor in any way during a virtual meeting. Remember that other meeting participants have various tasks that they need to get through for the day.

Be as concise as possible when it is your turn to have the meeting's focus, so things can wrap up within the expected time and people can go back to what they were doing before. 

7. Listen to Understand

Listen to Understand

Beyond the context of meetings and online meeting etiquette, this is a conversational skill that you need to master from the perspective of personal development. If you are listening to build a counterargument and looking for your moment to let loose, you are doing it wrong.

Instead, take the time to listen and gather what the person on the other side is trying to say. Use questions to seek clarification if you must, and then you can formulate a more informed response. 

8. Avoid Being an Interruption

Many different disruptions can create a virtual meeting challenge when people are trying to get through a preset objective. Whatever you do, try to avoid being the person that is detracting from the focus of the meeting.

It is not always about loud and unwanted sounds being in your background. it could be as simple as being the cause that a joke overstays its welcome and begins to seriously cut into meeting time. 

9. Silence Sounds That You Can Control

You are not going to be able to control every single sound that goes on in your background. Still, there are those that you can exercise some level of control over. Proper online meeting etiquette requires that you get rid of any possible audio detractor that could be present.

Silencing your mobile phone is a perfect example of a way in which you can go about pulling this off effectively. Once you see where some form of sound can be a disturbance or a distraction where your meeting is concerned, eliminate it if you can. 

10. Silence Your Thoughts

Silence Sounds That You Can Control

This one goes hand in hand with maintaining your focus on the meeting. Your thoughts can run amok when you are in such a comfortable context and listening to someone else speak. This one can even happen in a physical space, so what stops it from occurring in a virtual one?

The only thing you can do in this scenario is to actively focus on your thoughts and keep them centered around what is happening in the meeting. 

11. Have a Roadmap

Why does the meeting exist in the first place? How can online meeting etiquette be? This tip applies to those who are meeting organizers and leaders more than it does anyone else. It is proper virtual meeting etiquette to lay out an agenda, which guides the meeting based on a predefined purpose.

Without one at the center, you are going to find that the progression of your meeting takes wild tangents for seemingly no reason. It helps increase productivity at work.

12. Stick to the Roadmap

Establishing the roadmap is one thing, but there is no point in doing so if you are not sticking to it. Things do not always flow as perfectly as you would like once the meeting is underway, and people are likely going to do and say things that would take the meeting in an unintended direction.

As the meeting organizer or leader, you must keep things centered around the roadmap that would have been established, based on the previous step. 

13. Implement Breaks for Longer Engagements

Silence Your Thoughts

You must remember that the human body and mind presents diminishing marginal returns where focus and productivity are concerned if it does not get the time to rest. While you may not be able to rest completely in a work context, taking effective breaktime to move around has never been out of the equation.

When meetings are going to be very long, it is best to set them in such a way that a break is present somewhere. If not, you are going to end up with a very underwhelming proceeding that misses the mark completely. 

14. Get Off the Keyboard

Here is yet another detractor that you need to be careful with, so you can avoid it completely. It may be because you have other projects working on while the meeting is going on. Alternatively, you may be trying to catch up on the latest gossip with your friends from work. 

None of these things make online meeting management easier, and they are certainly not demonstrations of proper online meeting etiquette. Try to get out of the keyboard and build a positive work culture.

15. Introduce Yourself

Introduce Yourself

This tip is a matter of politeness and online meeting management as it would be if you were to think of it from the context of regular conversation. When a meeting begins, there should always be an introductory segment where all of the members present are highlighted.

If you end up joining the meeting late, you can say hi and apologize for your tardiness, which, if nothing else, allows the rest of the meeting participants to properly acknowledge you. 

16. Do not Eat and Meet

If you were to find a book that teaches meeting unprofessionalism, one of the tips of online meeting management that would be front and center is to enjoy some food while you're in a virtual meeting. However, since this whole piece is about online meeting etiquette, what you want to do is the opposite of that.

It is highly unprofessional to be chewing away during the meeting, especially when it is your turn to speak. Not talking with food in your mouth is a childhood lesson that applies here. 

17. Create Boundaries in Your Surrounding

You need to set effective boundaries in your immediate surroundings to prevent embarrassing unwanted outcomes from occurring when the meeting is underway and improve your presence during virtual meetings. Doing this could come in a variety of forms of online meeting etiquette. For example, you could indicate to your significant other not to speak to you or touch you while the meeting is underway.

In most cases, setting boundaries revolves around other people who are present. So, think about any issues that they could cause, and lay down the law. 

18. Protect Confidential Information

Protect Confidential Information

If other people see information that is supposed to be confidential, it becomes a lot less confidential very quickly. Before sharing your screen or turning on your camera, ensure that there is nothing private that could pose a problem if others were to see it.

Not showing a blatant disregard for data protection could save you from a huge headache in the future. If you are the chief accountant, a browser tab with the company credit card number should never show up on your screen share. 

19. Allow a Grace Period for Entry

Proper online meeting etiquette does dictate that people are supposed to arrive early. However, the reality is that there is typically at least a single meeting entrant who is going to be late to the festivities. In setting your meeting time, allocate a grace period for entry.

That way, if people show up within the designated time span, they still get the full benefit of the meeting. 

20. Invite Necessary Participants

Invite Necessary Participants

One of the most unsettling feelings is one where it feels like you have no purpose within the context of a virtual meeting. As a meeting organizer, one must avoid this by inviting only those who are necessary. 

Note that this is not only from an active participation perspective. Some people may have more passive roles in the meeting. The idea here is to avoid inviting people who cannot contribute much of anything. 

21. Be Respectful to Others

It is essential to give respect to others if you want respect in return. It is a virtual part of online meeting etiquette. Self-awareness and restraint are important principles here, as you must acknowledge others as equals who have feelings and opinions that are just as valid as the ones you do.

When you look at things from this perspective, you can afford others the respect that they deserve. 

22. Make an Allowance for Technical Disruptions

While you may arrive super early to iron out whatever technical difficulties are present before the meeting, there is no guarantee that you are not going to have some problems as the meeting proceeds. Sometimes, people get very upset at other meeting invitees for having unprecedented technical issues as the proceeding is underway.

Remember that the technology being used is not perfect, so do not go off on anyone for having trouble that is beyond the scope of control.

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