Virtual meetings are a great way to stay in touch with your team and collaborate on projects even when you can’t be in the same room together. With so many people working from home these days, virtual meetings are the new normal. But for many of us, this means trying to conduct regular business from the comfort of our homes while our kids, pets, and significant others go about their day in the background.
On top of that, it’s sometimes difficult to read people’s body language, tone, and intent over the internet, so it’s especially important to create a purposeful and respectful online environment. The ICOM team has been working on our virtual meeting etiquette over the past five years, and we’ve put some best practices in place. Give these nine tips for a successful virtual meeting a try the next time you get together with your team.
1. Arrive on Time
Just like in a face-to-face meeting, no one enjoys hanging on the line waiting for others to arrive. Be sure you’re online and ready to go when the meeting is scheduled to start. This means making sure you download the appropriate meeting software and any documents in advance so that you have everything in order for a successful live session. If anyone joins late, don’t worry about repeating anything that’s been discussed to that point. Simply let them know you’ll catch them up later, after the live session.
2. Set a Schedule
It’s a great idea to set a schedule and stick to it throughout the meeting. The meeting owner can outline the agenda and sent it to everyone in advance. This way, you can hit the ground running from the start of the meeting. Everyone knows the objectives and can work toward them together.
It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time. They may have other virtual meetings or high-priority tasks they need to tackle so starting and ending the session as planned is important. Consider assigning a facilitator at the start of the meeting who can help monitor the time and keep the meeting on track.
3. Allow for Free Time
Before getting down to business, give everyone a few minutes to mingle. With everyone working in separate spaces, most people probably haven’t had a chance to catch up with one another. A few minutes of water-cooler-style chit chat helps keep team members visible and build strong interpersonal connections even at a distance. Be sure to introduce any new members of the team upfront and get to know them a little bit. What expertise do they bring to the project? What are their roles and responsibilities?
4. Avoid Distractions
It can be tempting to check your email inbox or scan your smartphone during a virtual meeting, but try to resist the temptation. Set everything else aside and focus on the task at hand, just like you would during an in-person meeting. Besides, you don’t want to be busted if people can hear your fingers clicking on your keyboard or see your eyes wandering all over the screen.
People need eye contact to feel connected, so sit up straight, avoid making any big movements, and stay present. Another great way to keep everyone in-the-moment is to avoid sharing any documents or images until you really need to. People tend to read ahead rather than focus on the current topic.
5. Speak Up
There’s nothing worse than straining to hear someone on the other end of a virtual conversation. Be sure to speak loudly and clearly so everyone can hear you. Remember to mute your mic whenever you’re not speaking. It helps eliminate background noise and puts the focus on the person who is currently speaking. Delays in audio can make it hard to tell when someone is done speaking, but try to avoid interrupting or talking over others as best you can.
6. Look the Part
Working from home may seem like the perfect opportunity to leave your PJs on all day. But to make the best impression, it’s always best to dress for success. You don’t necessarily have to put on a suit and tie, but it’s a good idea to toss on a clean shirt and brush your hair so that everyone in the meeting knows you mean business and that you’re not just lying around watching Netflix all day. Looking the part also puts you in the right frame of mind to be more productive.
7. No Eating or Drinking
Does your meeting fall over your lunch hour? Is your tummy grumbling? Feel free to grab a snack before your meeting starts, but be sure to toss it aside once the camera fires up. No one likes listening to chewing sounds or looking at someone stuffing their mouth while they discuss important business matters. Not to mention, if you’re focusing on your food, you’re probably not putting 100 percent into your work.
8. Have the Right Setup
Cat batting at your headphone cables? Kids crying in another room? These are the realities of working from home. Try to find a comfortable and quiet space where you can tune out the rest of the world for as long as your meeting lasts. Make sure your computer is equipped with all the right tools before joining the meeting. Test your microphone and speakers or headphones to ensure they’re in good working order. When possible, try to sit facing a window to let in lots of natural light. Do your best to avoid having a bed, laundry piles, or other clutter in the background if you can.
9. Send Out a Summary
How many times have you been in a remote meeting and had the connection time out just as someone starts talking about an important issue? It’s a good idea to assign a person to take notes during the meeting in case of an unexpected interruption. Ask that person to summarize the notes and make a list of any action items or deliverables discussed during the meeting. Send the summary out to all attendees as well as anyone who may have missed the meeting. This helps ensure everyone is clear on the outcomes and objectives.
Virtual meetings take a bit of getting used to, and it’s not always easy to navigate the dos and don’ts of what’s appropriate in an online world. While web conferencing isn’t a new concept, the idea of using it as part of daily interactions is still fairly unique for many of us. Try following these nine tips for a successful virtual meeting to help create a positive, respectful, and productive environment.
Contact ICOM Productions to learn more.