Virtual meetings have become increasingly popular in recent years–a trend which is only set to continue. Online meetings are cost-effective, easy to set up, and keep you connected to colleagues and business partners around the world. Whether you're at home or in a different office location, you never need to miss an important business meeting.
But when you connect to a virtual meeting, do you know the etiquette required for meetings online? Virtual meetings can be an etiquette minefield–read on to discover the unwritten rules of virtual conferencing.
1. Wear appropriate clothes
Just like you wouldn't show up to an office meeting with pj's on, you should dress appropriately for a virtual conference. Dress as you would in the office conference room. It'll help you stay focused and in "work" mode, even if you're miles away at home. It's still a work meeting and you should treat it that way. You can put the pj's back on when the camera stops rolling.
2. A professional setting is good etiquette
You don't need to be at your office desk to look professional, but your co-workers don't need to see your messy bedroom or kid's toys everywhere. Whether you're in a comfortable chair in the lounge, or sitting at a kitchen worktop, pick a location with plenty of light and a neutral background.
3. Limit meeting distractions
Just like there wouldn't be dogs barking or kids crying in a regular conference room, you should do your best to keep background noise to a minimum during an online meeting. You don't want your co-workers–or worse, potential business partners–struggling to follow what you're saying because they can't hear you over background noise. Make sure others around you know that you're working so they respect your space.
4. Learn how to mute your microphone
When you're not talking, it's best to mute your microphone. This is especially important if you're joining the call from somewhere with unavoidable background noise, such as a cafe or airport. Your co-workers don't need to hear you chewing or idly tapping on your keyboard–noises which fade into the background during a traditional meeting are amplified in a virtual setting. Even better, keep food until after the meeting so the other participants aren't watching you eat the whole time!
5. It's good etiquette to only invite who's necessary
Don't invite participants who won't be prepared for the meeting or who don't need to be there. It's only a waste of everyone's time, which defeats the purpose of virtual conferencing. Make sure everyone invited knows who else will be there–just like you wouldn't call on people to sit in during a traditional meeting, you shouldn't make surprise invitations during an online one.
6. Give a virtual meeting your full attention
Although it's tempting to check your emails or flick through papers when you're not speaking, there's a good chance you'll miss key information, not to mention it's disrespectful. Use attentive body language and communication and be present for the meeting. You'll get so much more out of the conference if you distance yourself from distractions that can wait until later.
7. Making sure everyone can access the online meeting is good etiquette
It sounds simple, but it's worth stating clearly–if you're inviting someone to an online meeting, it's critical that they have access to the right software or hardware to join in. If someone only has access to audio conferencing or doesn't have access to a program, you need to know this ahead of time to structure the meeting accordingly. Make sure you announce meetings with plenty of notice so participants can download or acquire what they need to participate.
8. Set effective goals and agendas
Just like a regular meeting, virtual conferences can get off-track if there's no clear structure or if there are too many issues to discuss in the time allocated. Aim to circulate an agenda before the meeting so that everyone's familiar with what you'll discuss. This gives everyone a chance to formulate their own ideas and contributions.
You should also circulate minutes, or a summary, following the meeting, so that participants have something to reflect on following the conference. This gives everyone a chance to ask any clarifying questions and prepare for any follow-up meetings.
9. Speak clearly and use good manners
There's nothing worse than someone talking over you during a regular meeting, and it's the same in the virtual world.
Announce yourself when you sign in to the meeting, but only during a pause when no one else is speaking.
When it's your turn to talk, speak clearly and slowly enough for everyone to follow what you're saying. Remember that sound quality is very important in this medium.
Although there may be unavoidable lags due to slower connections, try to ensure no one speaks over anyone else.
10. Be prepared for technical difficulties
It's impossible to prepare for every eventuality, but you should log on to the meeting in good time to make sure everything's working properly. Make sure the connection is stable and that you have a backup plan if necessary.
Just like in a regular meeting, ensure you have access to all of the resources you will need, such as financial data. If you're accessing documents on a Cloud platform, ensure everything is working beforehand.
There's a simple way to ensure your next virtual conference goes smoothly--with our scalable services and 24/7 Australian-based support, you can get up and running today with our easy-to-use software.