The Slice

Virtual Meeting Etiquette: The Rules and Guidelines (2022)

May 19, 2022

One of the best ways to ensure that your virtual meetings are productive, efficient, and, frankly, pleasant to attend is to follow remote meeting etiquette. Whether you are meeting with your team or a new client, these rules can help keep things professional (even when everyone is working out of their bedroom), help the meeting move along swiftly, and keep everyone on task and focused. When everyone has a sense of shared expectations in terms of the rules and guidelines, you can get a lot more work done and keep morale high at the same time.

There are some pretty dire statistics out there about the number of hours wasted as a result of unproductive meetings. In fact, more than one-third of employers report that pointless meetings are the highest cost to their company.

One of the best ways to ensure that your virtual meetings are productive, efficient, and, frankly, pleasant to attend is to follow remote meeting etiquette.

Whether you are meeting with your team or a new client, these rules can help keep things professional (even when everyone is working out of their bedroom), help the meeting move along swiftly, and keep everyone on task and focused.

Virtual meeting etiquette is equally important for meeting hosts and attendees. When everyone has a sense of shared expectations in terms of the rules and guidelines, you can get a lot more work done and keep morale high at the same time.

Always Give It a Test Run

Few things are more destructive to virtual meetings than tech problems. If you don't do a dry run of your software and equipment before a meeting, it can really put a damper on the whole thing. Not only are you wasting valuable time trying to troubleshoot the fact that no one can see your smiling face, but it distracts from the purpose of the meeting and frankly doesn't look very professional.

Mute Is Essential

Enabling a mute by default option for each attendee is vital for a well-run meeting. This gives everyone the chance to make sure there aren't unwanted sounds or visuals in the environment before going live. Encourage each team member to mute their microphone while they aren't speaking to avoid the disruption of barking dogs, spouses, children, and the sound of slurping coffee.

Resist the Urge to Multitask

Just because everyone is in the comfort of their own home doesn't mean the focus shouldn't be on the task at hand. This isn't the time to fold laundry, scroll through Instagram, or sneakily watch TV with closed captions. Remember, you're usually actually getting less done when you multitask.

Dress For the Occasion

Everyone loves the whole "pants optional" part of working from home, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't dress appropriately for virtual meetings. Whether it's a team meeting or a client meeting, wearing professional (or at least semi-professional) clothing can help everyone remember that you've got business to handle.

Show Up Early

This guideline goes hand in hand with our note about doing a dry run of your tech setup. Showing up early lets you encounter and solve any problems that could arise before the meeting officially starts.

Treat It Like an In-Person Meeting

If you feel unclear about proper etiquette for virtual meetings, your best bet is to behave just like you would in person. Would you show up to an important client meeting fresh from the gym in sweaty workout gear? Would you bring your kids to a meeting with potential investors?

No, we didn't think so. When in doubt, think about the etiquette you would follow in person and stick to that.

Keep Your Background Simple

It can be fun to mess around with silly virtual backgrounds from time to time, but, in general, keep it simple. Be considerate of your background and aim for a spot where the people listening to you won't be distracted by endless knickknacks or your truly impressive collection of Pez dispensers.

Find a Distraction-Free Location

We're all well aware that working from home comes along with the danger of constant distractions. During a meeting, though, it's essential to keep these to a minimum. Find a room where you can close and lock the door, and make sure you communicate to your family that you shouldn't be interrupted during a specific window of time.

Have a Set Agenda

It's easy to let things get casual when everyone is working from home. Having a set agenda can help things stay on track and remain professional. For everything you need to know about how to create a remote team meeting agenda, take a look at this article.

If You Need to Get Up, Turn Off Your Video

Inevitably, there will be times when you need to get up and deal with some unexpected occurrence in your workspace. Whether it's a crying child, a barking dog, or nature calling, it's best to turn off your video before standing up and walking away. When you return to your computer, get settled in before turning your camera back on.

Stay Focused and Be Present

Just as it's the meeting host's job to have an agenda and stick to it, it's the responsibility of the attendees to stay focused and be present. When everyone holds up their end of the bargain, more can get done in less time.

Keep Movement to a Minimum

We all know that you've been making real progress in your ecstatic dance practice, but a virtual meeting simply isn't the time to show off your moves. Web cameras are notoriously bad at capturing quick movements, meaning they can look choppy and blurry to the people on the other end. During your meeting, it's best to minimize sudden body movements and make eye contact with the camera.

Reduce Your Keyboard Use

Taking notes can be necessary during a meeting, but it's best not to spend the whole time typing away. Consider having a designated note-taker or record the meeting for people to refer to later. This way, everyone can stay present during the meeting.

Make Introductions

Whenever you hold a virtual meeting involving people who don't normally work together or individuals who haven't yet been introduced, it's best to start with introductions. That being said, keep this section short and sweet so it doesn't unnecessarily lengthen the meeting.

Silence Your Phone

One of the easiest ways to get distracted during a virtual meeting is the constant beeping and buzzing and chiming of your smartphone. Silence your phone while you're attending a meeting to ensure that there aren't any interruptions.

Avoid Interrupting Others

We've talked about not being interrupted during virtual meetings, but another important etiquette rule is not to interrupt others when they're speaking. Not only is this generally considered rude, but it can create mass confusion in a digital setting. There is typically some lag when you're all connecting over the internet, so making a point not to interrupt others can keep everything flowing smoothly.

Speak Slowly and Clearly

If you usually talk a mile a minute, you might want to skip that extra coffee before your virtual meeting. The technology for online meetings isn't perfect and simply doesn't allow for the same speed of communication that you can get away with in person.

When you're talking in a virtual meeting, slow it down and focus on speaking clearly. Take a moment in between sentences to allow your listeners to let you know if they were unable to hear something that you said.

Give It a Second

A tremendous amount of confusion can erupt if people are talking over one another in a virtual space. It's best to assume that not everyone has a lightning-fast internet connection and that some people might be experiencing some lag. When someone else finishes talking, and you have something you want to say, give it an extra second to make sure that someone else isn't going to start talking at the same time.

Allow Breaks During Long Meetings

Are you having a marathon meeting with your team? If so, you'll definitely want to schedule some breaks. There are varying opinions on how long we can focus on one thing before we need a little mental break. Some experts say that a short break is best every 45 minutes, while others say that we can't concentrate for more than 90 minutes before we need to walk away for 15.

Putting some breaks in the agenda ahead of time can also help each meeting attendee manage their needs during the meeting. If you're having a long meeting and you don't schedule breaks into the plan, you'll likely have people constantly getting up to go to the bathroom or grab a cup of water. By letting everyone know that there will be a ten-minute break every 45 minutes, they can consolidate their away-from-the-computer actions in a way that helps keep the meeting flowing smoothly.

Are you wondering what the ideal length of time is for a remote meeting? Check out our guide on the topic here.

Always Have Pizza

Ok, ok, eating on a webcam during an important client meeting probably isn't the best etiquette. But if you're having a late-night meeting with your design team when you're pushing toward a tight deadline, making sure everyone is well-equipped with pizza is never bad form.

Wrap Up the Meeting With a Summary

No matter how casual your meeting is, it's a good idea to summarize the meeting at the end. This is the time to make sure everyone has a clear sense of what was agreed to during the meeting and the next actionable steps.

Wrapping up a meeting in this way can also create a very useful sense of closure for everyone involved. Without a summary, it can feel like meetings kind of peter off and float away into the ether. Ending your meetings in this way is an example of high-level communication, organization, and professionalism that leaves everyone feeling like they know what's going on and they know what's expected of them.

Give Everyone a Job

Team engagement can take a nosedive south when people don't know what's expected of them during a meeting. To help combat this issue, provide each attendee with something to discuss or present during the meeting. This is also a great way to help you determine who really needs to be at the meeting because if you can't give someone a job, they probably don't need to be there.

That being said, some meetings are a bit more lecture-like where you have important information to share with your team. In these instances, consider sending out an agenda ahead of time with some questions for each team member to answer. This can help them feel engaged with what is going on and ensure that they show up with 100% of their focus and attention.

Avoid the Temptation to Go Over the Set Time

If you said the meeting was going to be an hour, then you really should fit the content of the meeting into an hour. It's easy to get off track and have lengthy discussions that are off-point during a virtual meeting, particularly when everyone is feeling a bit socially isolated and stricken with cabin fever. However, it's essential to stay on point and deal with the matters at hand.

If your team suffers from the issue of really liking each other (oh no!), you might consider holding the meeting at the end of the workday and having an optional social hour for your employees directly after the fact. This way, when the conversation strays from the task at hand, you can kindly mention that this fascinating but completely irrelevant bit of dialogue can pick up after the meeting.

Do you have no idea how to determine the best length for your meeting? Take your agenda and assign a time limit for each piece on the to-do list. To be safe, round up to allow for the unexpected and take it from there. 

Let People Go If They Aren't Needed

Sometimes, the whole team is only needed for the first part of a meeting before it's time to dive in with more detail. Show your employees that you respect their time by letting people go when the contents of the meeting no longer pertain to them. This way, they can have more time to work on actually productive things, and it can help the rest of the meeting be more laser-focused with only the most relevant participants.

Are Your Meeting Attendees Suffering From Pizza Deficiency?

When you don't have a shared understanding of virtual meeting etiquette among your team, it can lead to disorganized and unproductive meetings. For this reason, it can be worth setting some clear ground rules and suggestions to ensure that each meeting is like a well-oiled machine.

All that being said, we're a little worried about your meeting attendees. They look like they're missing something– something cheesy, delicious, and pizza-shaped. If your team is in need of a morale boost or is burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline, help us help you by ordering pizza today.

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