Even if you don’t work in a traditional office, you’re probably familiar with some of the basic rules of meeting etiquette. Don’t be late. Look professional. Stop chewing gum before you enter a conference room, to name a few. We’ve all grown up learning or hearing about the niceties and level of decorum one is expected to practice in a professional setting. (Well, a non-professional setting too, but that’s a whole other blog.)
With many of us now working from home as part of company COVID-19 prevention plans, Zoom and other virtual meetings are part of our new normal. But it’s easy for the lines between professional and unprofessional to become blurred while working remotely. As a rule of thumb, we believe in bringing the same etiquette to virtual meetings that you would to an in-person setting. These formalities are important to ensure that professionalism between colleagues is still maintained while working remotely, and especially when in the digital presence of clients. Here are a few to consider (and follow) for your virtual meetings moving forward.
- Be On Time: It’s a sign of respect for the other meeting participants and shows that you take your job seriously. Late starts mean late endings and often people have other plans, meetings scheduled or projects to complete. Your tardiness may affect their ability to meet those commitments, which then becomes a poor reflection and misrepresentation of who they are. If lateness can’t be avoided, let the meeting host know ahead time.
- Look Professional: Hair that hasn’t been combed or wearing a pair of polka dot pyjamas tells a client that you don’t take them seriously, while reflecting poorly on the company. Even if it’s an in-house meeting, avoid anything sheer, as well as yoga pants and nightgowns. Get dressed with the professional purpose of being productive. Last but not least, never be nude! We’ve all seen those unintentional peep shows from employees who forgot the camera was turned on and stood up. Scary stuff!
- Check Your Lighting: Lighting is very important for digital conferencing because it affects the clarity of your face on the other parties’ side. Avoid being backlit if possible. The same way you adjust the angle of your smartphone when taking a selfie, do the same with your laptop to achieve a clearer picture.
- Camera On (unless you have connectivity issues): Virtual meetings are meant to mimic face-to-face set-ups as much as possible. If cameras are turned off, it becomes a phone call. Keep your camera on at all times as it shows the other parties that they have your full attention and aren’t speaking into the abyss.
- Mute Your Mic When Not Speaking: There’s nothing more frustrating for meeting participants than hearing dogs barking, children screaming or car alarms going off in the background. Save everyone from the ear-splitting madness by joining the meeting while on mute and then turning your mic on and off according to when you speak.
- No Food or Drink: This should be self-explanatory. Chewing isn’t a pretty sight, especially if close up, with mouth wide open and in HD. Lunch breaks are given for a reason.
- Come Prepared: This is especially important if you’re a Meeting Host. Have a clear outline of what needs to be discussed, from intention to objective and everything in between. Winging it won’t work when everyone is there to follow your lead. It also reduces the chances of conversation deflecting to everything but the meeting purpose. Have a clearly defined agenda to ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Be Aware of Your Environment: Your face isn’t the only thing on camera. A background of dirty dishes, unmade beds, messy rooms or provocative artwork and movies are not a good reflection on you, with the latter potentially making people feel uncomfortable. We recommend a plain, blank wall or a room with a clean and inviting backdrop that won’t raise any eyebrows.
- Don’t Talk Over Each Other: Even if you mean well, interrupting is still rude. Allow the other person to finish their point before you share what you have to say.
- Never Answer Your Smartphone: Sometimes life happens. Emergencies come up and you want to be on top of them, so unless this is the reason, don’t answer personal calls, respond to texts or scroll on social media. Virtual meetings are scheduled so that the people present have your undivided attention. Someone is giving you information or gathering information from you, so it’s important to give them the courtesy of your full attention.