Twenty-five years ago, the idea that I could open a small screen in Canada and have a meeting with a colleague in Indonesia was absolutely something out of a science fiction novel. Now, it’s something I do on a weekly basis — and I’ve noticed that virtual meetings are just as rife with etiquette faux pas as in-person meetings.
Live chat, screen shares, and video cams are an essential part of doing business today, but they have their own special rules and challenges. I’ve run hundreds of virtual meetings over the years and learned from my mistakes. Here are my top tips to help you leave the right impression and make the most of your screen time.
Find a quiet space. Obviously, noisy coffee shops are not ideal. If working from home, keep the barking dogs and kids in another room. In the office, close the office door or find a conference space.
Avoid distractions. Focus on the meeting and avoid temptation to scan the web or look at your phone.
For video calls on Skype or other platforms, dress in business casual and be well groomed. If working from home, test the camera angle to make sure a neutral background is all that is visible (not breakfast dishes and sweatpants).
If possible, invest in a good headset and mic that cancel out background noise.
Tips for Hosts
If attendees are scattered across multiple time zones, try a site like https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.htmlto pick the best option, especially for international meetings.
Keep track of RSVPs. If key attendees decline, you’ll need to reschedule. Make date and time changes at least 24 hours in advance.
Be prepared. Know the subject matter and have documents and information for screen shares ready to go.
Have an agenda and stick to it. It is a good idea to send the agenda with the invite so attendees can prep.
Launch the meeting five or 10 minutes early. Display the agenda.
Greet people as they arrive Be hospitable. Welcome everyone to the meeting, restate the purpose, and ask all the attendees to introduce themselves.
Be upbeat and enthusiastic! It will be evident in your voice and will set the tone for the call.
Encourage participation and provide time for questions and discussion. Remember, online meetings are meant to be as interactive as face-to-face meetings.
Keep notes or ask someone else to manage that task. Track any follow-up tasks or next steps.
End the meeting on time and thank everyone for attending. Send a meeting summary with any necessary follow-up notes.
Tips for Attendees
Plan ahead. Check the type of collaboration tool that will be used (for example, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Slack) in advance to make sure it works. Often, the organizer will include a link to install the collaboration tool on your own computer. If you aren’t sure, ask the organizer for advice ahead of time.
Log in a few minutes early to test screen shares and ensure audio works properly.
Announce yourself when you connect. If the meeting is already underway, don’t interrupt; instead, type a greeting in the chat window so the host knows you are there.
Do ask questions and interact!
What are your top tips for smooth virtual meetings? Please share them in the comments below.