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Virtual Etiquette: Online Meeting Best Practices

Virtual Etiquette: Online Meeting Best Practices

Studies by Lifesize reveal that 78% of users use video communication at work for team meetings and 77% of users use video communication at work for large group meetings or company town halls. The popularity of virtual meetings has skyrocketed since 2020 and for good reason. Many remote workers find that when working from home and participating in virtual meetings rather than in-person ones they feel more productive, connected to their team, communicative, engaged, and collaborative.

While many employees benefit from working remotely and meeting virtually, there are inherent issues that can challenge the success of businesses and create obstacles for employees. Whether you are fairly new to virtual meetings or you or your team need a refresh, we’ve compiled some key information for you. We’ll discuss what the proper etiquette of virtual meetings looks like then tackle some common challenges and how we can solve or prevent them.

Virtual Meeting Etiquette

Some basic rules for virtual meetings in 2023 (which are of course subjective to individuals and organizations) are great standards to uphold if you or your team are in need of some guidance or a refresher on remote work etiquette.

  1. Keep the camera on (if possible and appropriate).
  2. Keep the mic off when not talking to avoid causing auditory disruptions.
  3. No food and minimal drink. Eating on camera and contributing to a meeting with a mouthful of food is an unprofessional look - try to keep snacking to breaks outside of meetings. Drinks are completely appropriate, yet be sure that you’re still able to talk and have conversations without a drink constantly in frame.
  4. Put any potential distractions away. This means silencing phones, silencing computer notifications, making sure no one will barge into your workspace, etc.
  5. Quiet setting with no background sounds. Music, television, coworkers, strangers, and notifications are all background noises that cannot be present during meetings. Even if you spend most of the meeting muted, background noise of any kind creeps in when you speak and makes your contributions less powerful as coworkers will be distracted. These sounds also distract you from fully focusing on the meeting. It is imperative that remote employees take calls in an environment that is conducive to learning, such as a home office, coworking space, or study room. Places like coffee shops and cars are usually not appropriate places to take video calls.
  6. Appropriate dress. Just because employees might get to take calls from the comfort of their own homes does not mean that office standards do not apply to remote workers. Some employees can fall into a routine of wearing simply comfortable clothing that does not appear as professional on camera - this makes the meeting fall flat. Therefore, it’s important to wear something you would wear into the office not only to look the part but to also help you feel and perform to the level your role requires.
  7. Good lighting and angles. If coworkers can’t properly see each other, it’s difficult for connections to flourish. Some professionals joining virtual calls in dim lighting and with poor camera angles will obstruct the team’s view and make it harder to connect. Be sure lots of natural light or bright light highlights your face during meetings. Your camera angle should catch the light and show your entire face at an angle similar to what face-to-face interactions would look like.
  8. Always on time, never tardy. Some folks do not allow an appropriate amount of time to join online meetings which means unexpected delays and issues can make team members late to meetings. Being on time is such an essential part of a professional work environment that consistently showing up late is not conducive to an effective meeting. It is important, therefore, for team members to learn and understand online meeting platforms and always join early with backup plans if technological issues arise.

Common Online Meeting Challenges

  • Interruptions. Interruptions can make meetings feel like they are dragging on and make meeting facilitators and participants feel less productive. Some common interruptions would be coworkers butting in and cutting each other off or noises in the background when folks are trying to listen.
  • Distractions. According to the research by Benefits Pro, during a virtual meeting, ¾ have texted a friend. Virtual meetings that are not engaging can deeply affect how employees act during meetings, so if you’re facilitating a meeting, it is important to keep elements fresh and engaging for employees.
  • Self-discipline and accountability. Benefits Pro also discovered that 22% have taken a nap during a virtual meeting and 30% have left the room to go for a walk! Some remote employees struggle with staying disciplined when working from home and being accountable for the work, presence, and participation necessary to fulfill their job requirements.
  • Engagement. Getting meeting members engaged and keeping them engaged throughout the entire meeting is usually the most challenging part of remote conferencing. 
  • Technology. Many folks including seasoned meeting facilitators can struggle with the technology required to hold a virtual meeting. When new technology is introduced, folks can also struggle to grasp it and fail to put in the time and practice to learn the new resource. In this case, employees never fully learn and use the resources provided to them that are meant to make their remote experience easier.
  • Togetherness/inclusion. While some folks feel better integrated with their team when they work remotely, many feel the opposite. Feeling camaraderie with team members can be challenging through a screen, therefore employees’ well-being and satisfaction at work can suffer.

Solutions to Online Meeting Challenges

As you begin the meeting, remind employees to minimize distractions such as cell phones or computer notifications and mute themselves when not speaking. Also, remind folks that if they have a comment or concern about what someone is speaking about to “raise their hand” using the meeting platform tools or start a discussion in the chat so that everyone has an equal chance to speak and be properly heard.

According to a survey of 2,000 Americans, 48% of people turn off the camera during meetings due to self-esteem. Therefore, the beginning of meetings is a great time to gently encourage everyone to have their cameras on and properly positioned so that their beautiful faces can be seen! Providing a few words of encouragement such as how everyone plays such a unique and vital role on the team or how grateful you are to see everyone and have everyone present for the meeting can go a long way in making team members feel more comfortable with leaving their cameras on.

Engagement is a key component to the success of meetings remote employees attend. Consider shortening meetings and pairing down the meeting agenda to better meet the attention spans of employees. It is also just as important that the material you have prepared is fresh, easily digestible, and keeps employees participating.

Need a ready-to-go meeting for your remote team? GettaMeeting has 12 comprehensive meeting modules, each including a video that’s ready to be plugged in and played, icebreakers and thought-provoking questions, takeaway item ideas, decor ideas and so much more.

If you notice some employees might be struggling with holding themselves accountable or staying disciplined when working remotely, consider scheduling a time to meet with them and discuss how you can better support them and what resources would help them stay on track. You can schedule weekly or monthly check-ins to make sure employees are improving and continue to show your support and willingness to help, even when not in the same physical environment.

If new technology is being used for meetings or if your team needs a refresh on tech tools, consider holding a lax meeting to quickly go through and demonstrate the different tools that can be utilized by remote employees to have a better meeting experience.

If your team seems distant and doesn’t have much time or many opportunities to collaborate, consider splitting the team up into breakout rooms during portions of the meeting to discuss, reflect, problem-solve or simply talk casually and get to know each other better.

Tools & Tips for Managers and Meeting Facilitators

For managers who are looking to create a better online meeting experience for employees or for meeting facilitators who want to streamline meetings and make them more efficient, consider the following.

Make scheduling easier. Tools such as Calendly, Doodle, SavvyCal, ScheduleOnce, and many others make scheduling and communicating meeting expectations much easier. Streamlining this meeting preparation can take time and pressure off of managers so that they can better focus on preparing the agenda and specifics of meetings.

Set a clear agenda. Before sending out those meeting invitations, create a thorough agenda and include a synopsis in the meeting invite. This helps your team prepare and join the meeting with clear expectations and responsibilities. It also helps the meeting move quicker and more efficiently when everyone is aware of what needs to be discussed and accomplished.

Allocate a respectful amount of time to virtual meetings. Most employees lose focus within the first ten minutes of online meetings. This is why it is imperative to optimize online meetings so that they are short, engaging, and efficient. If meetings longer than half an hour are required, schedule time for breaks, quick activities, and check-ins.

Start with an icebreaker or short game. By opening the meeting with a casual question or activity, the team becomes instantly engaged and the meeting starts off on a collaborative and light-hearted note.

Automate meeting notes. Taking diligent notes during meetings can be difficult and distracting. By automating note-taking, every member of the team can focus on the material without having to stress about remembering the details later. Tools such as Krisp, SuperNormal or Magical can be integrated into online meetings for accessible meeting notes.

Lead higher-quality video calls. If your meetings aren’t as successful because of little distractions or technical elements, consider minimizing background noise during calls by using tools such as Krisp.

Include interactive and visual elements. Consider incorporating elements such as polls, images, videos, and surveys throughout the meeting to keep team members engaged and to ensure the information is being retained.

Add personality and fun. Not every moment needs to be taken so seriously, so break out the funny gifs, stickers, and video filters. These added elements make the team feel more comfortable and find the funny among the serious and chaotic moments. Effective team bonding can come from consistent application of this.

Lastly, create opportunities for everyone to consistently participate. This can be done by using multiple methods of communication (writing, visual, voice) such as chats, polls, emoji reactions, etc. A way to combat bias and avoid a lot of participation from some employees and very little from others is asking everyone to participate simultaneously by using virtual post-it notes or flash cards. This way everyone can form their own ideas and share them at the same time.

Need material for your next online meeting? GettaMeeting has comprehensive presentation meeting modules equipped with an educational and engaging video instantly ready to stream with your virtual, in-person or hybrid team. Check out the many modules here.

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