Surely, we are all still getting used to virtual work interactions. That said, be prepared for your next virtual meeting by following the virtual meeting etiquette tips below.
Virtual meetings can be productive, time-efficient, and fun. Or they can be a source of endless frustration and watercooler memes. If you’re in charge of your monthly or weekly virtual meetings, knowing the difference between good and bad meetings is critical. A big part of that difference is simple etiquette.
Be sure to follow these virtual meeting etiquette tips to avoid unnecessary time loss and turn the bane of everyone’s day into an important and effective cornerstone of your remote operation.
1. Dress Right from Top to Bottom
It’s very tempting to ignore basic dress rules and focus on what’s visible most of the time. But even a fraction of a second spent looking at a coworker’s PJs or underwear is a fraction of a second too long.
You don’t have to “show up to work” in your home office dressed in a full suit and tie, but keep things at least business casual, from the toes to the hairline.
2. Keep the Background Simple and Professional
A chaotic or unseemly background can be massively distracting, whether real or virtual. You might feel tempted to start playing around with (or without) green screens and meeting backdrops for a little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. While it’s certainly an effective icebreaker, there’s a time and place for it.
Be sure to have a clean and professional background ready when it’s time to drop the green screen or joke background. Avoid clutter, eye-catching artwork, or too many personal items – such as family pictures, children’s toys, collectibles, and figurines. A bookshelf, a plant, a simple picture or drawing, or even a blank wall will do.
The same goes for noise. We’re all limited by what we have available, and there will always have to be a little leeway but avoid holding a meeting in the basement even if it’s where you have the best connectivity. Consider purchasing a long ethernet cable, powerline adapter, or WiFi extender to retain quality connectivity in a separate room.
If you have no way of hosting or joining a meeting at home and can’t reasonably get to the office (due to distance or social distancing measures), consider a nearby coworking space instead. Coworking spaces make for excellent satellite offices and can serve as an ideal in-between for those unable to return to the office, yet unable to concentrate or work efficiently from home.
3. Beware of Your Lighting and Eye Level
You don’t want too many shadows on your face, or to have the camera facing directly at a source of light (especially when that light is behind you). Make the most of your natural light by facing a window during your call or utilize a lamp to illuminate yourself and your surroundings properly.
Furthermore, consider the angle of your face to the camera, and adjust it to be around or at about eye level. Too far above or below can make things particularly awkward, affecting how you and your communication are received, especially when interacting with clients.
4. Run a Pre-call Tech Test
The last thing you should do is wait until the very last second to run a test call. You don’t want to have to spend the first ten minutes of a meeting fiddling with your setup, troubleshooting your mic, or trying to reinstall the right drivers for your camera.
Be sure to run a quick test of your mic, headphones, camera, and connectivity, to make sure everything is working properly, and to save yourself the trouble.
5. Consider Push-To-Talk or Keep the Mute Button Handy
Knowing where the mute button is isn’t just handy for when you’ve got to sneeze or talk to someone outside of the call but can also help you greatly reduce background noise and buzz. While we’ve come a long way with microphone technology, it’s still extremely difficult to filter out simple background noises (including interference, air conditioning units, or fans) during a live call.
Simply hitting the mute button when you aren’t talking can make it much easier for everyone else to hear each other, especially when you have half a dozen people or more on the call.
6. Don’t Split Your Attention
It’s not only rude to check your email or start messaging someone else in the middle of a virtual meeting – it’s also a sign that you’re likely not being efficient with your time. Meetings should be goal-oriented and quick, and not a time or place for multitasking.
7. Please Don’t Snack
This should go without saying, but it’s still a rule that is sometimes ignored or not considered: stop eating during a meeting. Even if you mute your mic, the sight of someone eating during an important call can be distracting or unprofessional, especially when it isn’t a lunch meeting or explicitly some form of culinary get-together. This rule is obviously flexible when the meeting is designed to take place during lunch or act as a sort of company meal.
8. Keep a Consistent and Clear Audio Level
No one likes a mumbler, and no one likes a screamer. Most video conferencing tools and VOIP software give you basic audio levels for your microphone, so you know at what volume you begin peaking. Run a test call with a friend to figure out how loud you should be speaking and project your voice consistently.
Consider speaking slowly as well and be prepared to repeat yourself. Virtual meetings will be hindered by whoever has the weakest connection, and chances are that you may be asked to repeat yourself more than once if at least one of the people in the call is struggling with connectivity issues. Don’t get louder or become annoyed – just repeat what you said calmly, and slowly. Sometimes it is what it is.
9. Be Patient
There will be issues, grievances, and problems. Be prepared to deal with them calmly. A lot of the problems and hang-ups with virtual meetings can be solved via proper etiquette and preparation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect. You will have to prepare yourself for some frustrating moments.