Your essential guide to effective virtual meeting etiquette

Cassy Aite
October 14, 2021
Your essential guide to effective virtual meeting etiquette | Hoppier

Showing up to your morning meeting in last night’s pajamas might sound comfortable, but it’s likely to make the rest of the group feel anything but. Dress codes aside, there’s a lot to navigate when it comes to virtual meeting etiquette that isn’t always obvious.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the basics of good virtual meeting etiquette. We’ll share the ground rules that apply for most virtual meetings, and some advice on how to craft your own virtual meeting etiquette guide.

14 basic rules of virtual meeting etiquette

Virtual meeting etiquette: Two team members point at each other on colorful backdrops

Hosting or showing up to an online meeting can feel really different to an in-person one. Here are some of our best virtual meeting etiquette tips to help you navigate it like a true pro.

1. Check that your technology works

We’ve all had that awkward moment where you log in to a video call and your webcam or headset doesn’t work. It’s no fun to feel the pressure to get it working, and it can be disruptive to the video conferencing call, too.

To avoid these issues, check that your technology, software, and peripherals are all in proper order before the call takes place. Make sure your webcam, mic, mouse, keyboard, and headset are all working properly. Check that your Zoom or Skype setup is correct, and that any content or visuals or virtual presentations are ready to go. You’ll end up feeling more confident and prepared.

2. Read through your papers

You can always tell when someone hasn’t done their work before the meeting. They look flustered as they desperately try to read something on their screen, or shuffle through papers on their desk. Don’t be that person — read through any pre-meeting materials in advance.

Download your meeting agenda and make sure you’re clear on what’s being discussed. If you’re not, now’s your opportunity to ask questions. Check out any papers, reports, data, and research that you need ahead of time, so you can prepare your talking points and actively take part in the meeting.

3. Show up on time

Sometimes things can’t be helped, but try to always be someone that shows up early to a meeting — or at the very least, on time. Even though there’s no awkward dash to a chair or a noisy door to contend with, turning up to your virtual meeting late can be disruptive.

Confirm the start time of your meeting, and make sure that you’re free for 10-15 minutes beforehand. That should give you time to get prepared, grab a drink, and be ready to join the meeting call just before the start time.

4. Make an introduction

It’s easier to sneak into a virtual meeting, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you should try and do. When you arrive, make a warm and friendly introduction to everyone else that’s already in the room.

For smaller virtual meetings and casual team catch ups, you can probably jump in with a wave and a “hi!”. For larger, all-staff meetings, a quick wave and smile to the camera might be more appropriate. We’ll leave it to you to decide how to make an entrance, but make friendliness your go-to instead of lurking.

5. Wear something appropriate

We all have different clothing styles in daily life, but if you’re showing up to a meeting, you should be dressed appropriately. For an online meeting, that probably means being fully-clothed and in something that’s clean and sharp (no pajamas).

You can relax these rules a little for close-knit teams or special events like a virtual holiday party, but business casual is usually a happy medium. A tidy t-shirt, blouse, or dress works great, and chances are you can get away with PJ bottoms if you want to feel cozy. It’s likely that a shirt, tie, and suit is overkill — unless your virtual meeting is with a VIP client or a big investor and you want to impress.

6. Engage instead of taking notes

If your memory isn’t great or it’s your job to record what happens at the meeting, it’s tempting to spend most of the time typing out notes on your keyboard. Avoid this if you can — not only is it super noisy if you don’t mute your mic, but it means you can’t fully engage in the conversation.

Instead of taking notes, let technology pick up the slack for you. Try a tool like Otter.ai to transcribe a recorded video or voice call. Some virtual meeting tools and plans also have a transcription option built into the service. The transcript may need some refining at the end, but it means you can focus on maintaining eye contact and taking part in the meeting.

7. Mute your mic when you’re not talking

Being in a noisy meeting room with everyone talking over each other is no fun, and the same thing can happen in a virtual meeting too. Be a thoughtful meeting participant and mute your mic if you’re not talking.

Leaving your mic unmuted can add a whole lot of unwanted background noise to the call, and make it harder for people to hear the speaker. Get into the habit of leaving your mic on mute, and unmuting it when you have something to contribute. Encourage the rest of your team to do this too, or make it a global setting if you’re hosting the meeting, and your meetings will be much easier to follow.

8. Speak clearly and confidently

When it is your turn to speak, bear in mind that your voice can carry differently across an internet connection. Talk clearly and confidently, and be mindful not to speak too fast, so that people can fully understand what you’re saying.

Take into account that with remote team participants in various countries, your video meetings could encounter some lag. If that’s the case, slow your speech down and be ready to repeat things without frustration.

9. Remove distractions

They say a clear desk equals a clear mind, so if you find that you’re often distracted in virtual meetings, this might be the approach for you. Keep your desk and virtual workspace clear and free from distractions, so it’s easier for you to pay attention in your virtual meeting.

Tidy your desk and remove any unnecessary clutter. Keep only what you need for your meeting. Close any browser tabs you don’t need, and make sure there’s no video or audio playing elsewhere. Turn off notifications on your phone, and put it on silent for the duration of the meeting. You can always keep it close by in case of emergencies, but this removes most of the distractions.

10. Let people around you know you’re busy

If you’re working from a home office or even in a shared workspace with people around you, it can be helpful to let them know your schedule. That way, they can avoid popping in if you’re in the middle of a video call.

Sometimes it’s easiest to just tell your partner, housemate, or coworker that you’ll be on call for the next hour. Other times, you might want to share your calendar with them so they can work around it. Some people also hang a sign on their office door so you know when they can be disturbed or if they’re busy. See what works best for you and the people you live or work alongside.

11. Have a plan for interruptions

Even with the best plans in place, interruptions can still happen. Anyone that’s had their half-dressed, paint-covered child run into view on a video conference call knows exactly what we mean. You can’t avoid every situation, so have a plan in place for what you’ll do if something goes awry.

Usually the best course of action is to mute your mic and turn off your camera, send a message that says “be right back”, and deal with the interruption. If it’s a situation that demands your attention over and above the meeting, make your apologies and ask to re-join afterwards or catch up later in the day.

12. Keep your focus on the meeting

Sometimes, meetings can go on a little longer than expected or be pretty dull. Even so, try your best to give the meeting your full attention and avoid the temptation to resort to multitasking. It’s only polite.

We can’t all be fully engaged all the time, but it’s obvious when someone has checked out. Their body language changes, their eye contact drops, and you can tell that they’re watching or reading something else. Give as much of your energy and attention to the meeting as you can, avoid side conversations or other work messages unless they’re urgent, and see things through until the end.

13. Close the meeting on time

If you’re hosting the virtual meeting, this one’s for you. With so many demands on our time and our busy home lives to contend with, it’s more important than ever that your meeting ends on time.

Keep a close eye on your agenda and steer the conversation back if it’s heading off course. If you reach the end of your scheduled time and there’s something unresolved, table it for the next meeting or hop onto a follow-up call with only the people required. Ending your meetings on time means everyone’s schedule stays on track, and shows huge respect for your guests’ time.

14. Say goodbye

When it’s time to leave the meeting, don’t just skip out the back door without saying anything. In a big call it’s likely to go unnoticed, but in a smaller one it can definitely be obvious. Instead of closing the window, say a warm goodbye to the people on the video call with you.

Your goodbye doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Once the host ends the meeting, before you leave the call say “bye”, wave, and turn off your webcam. It’s simple, but one of those things that sometimes we forget about.

How to create your own virtual meeting etiquette policy

A man plans a virtual meeting etiquette policy

These meeting etiquette rules can form a great basis for your own policy. If you’re creating a meeting etiquette policy for the first time or updating your existing one, here’s how to make it fit the way you work.

Consider your wider company culture

Your approach to virtual meetings shouldn’t feel out of place with the way you operate as a company. The way you host team meetings, all staff briefings, and client calls should match your values and wider company culture.

Think about aspects like formality, dress code, and time-keeping, all of which can influence your virtual meeting etiquette rules. If you offer in-person perks like catered lunch, introduce Hoppier cards so your guests can order coffee or lunch to their home. Be guided by the rules and ways of working you already have in place when you build your virtual policies.

Take inspiration from your in-person meeting etiquette

For teams that normally host in-person meetings, take inspiration from how you run those to help you put together an etiquette guide for your virtual versions. Things shouldn’t feel too different, and it’s an easy way to create the foundations of your guide.

Think about everything that happens before, inside, and outside the conference room at your face-to-face meetings, and translate your usual rules and etiquette to the digital space. If you’re used to remote work by now, chances are your teams already have a good handle on how to take part in a virtual meeting — they might just need some extra tips.

Ask your team members for their thoughts

Policies work best if they’re built and forged by the people they apply to, so get your team members involved in the process. Ask them for their thoughts and contributions through a survey or informal chat.

Check in with your employees about their feelings and concerns regarding virtual meetings. They might raise some points you hadn’t thought of — like a suggestion for virtual event technology, or concerns about meeting duration. Incorporate these ideas and suggestions into your overall plan for a more effective etiquette guide.

Set a separate policy for internal vs. external meetings

Not every meeting is the same, and that’s especially true when you compare casual internal meetings with external client meetings. The two can run very differently — even if you take an informal approach to meetings in general.

For an important business meeting, you might want to dress more professional, or swap your cute Zoom background for your tastefully-styled office backdrop. You might also make a more formal introduction, and lead with an overview of the meeting or what’s happening in the project. Think about how you can take your internal etiquette guide and make adjustments for your external client meetings.

Hoppier: a fun way to level up your virtual meeting culture

Hands hold up coffee cups as a fun virtual meeting perk

It’s easy to cater for in-person meetings. All you need to do is make an order with your local supplier for a big client briefing, or offer to make coffee for a casual get-together. With virtual meetings, it can feel harder to make a positive impression with exciting catering options.

If you’re looking for a better way to do catering for your virtual or hybrid meetings and events, try Hoppier. Our virtual credit cards give your guests the freedom and choice to have their favorite drinks, snacks, or lunch delivered to their door, to enjoy during your meeting. It’s a simple, fun, and interactive way to handle your virtual meeting catering.

Virtual meeting etiquette: A virtual credit card that team members can use to order food or drinks for a virtual meeting

To get started, create an account and set up a program. Next, customize the look and feel of your virtual card with colors and your brand logo. Set a program spending balance that feels appropriate for the length and type of meeting, and decide whether to limit vendors or leave the options open.

Vendors that team members can purchase from using a virtual credit card

When you’re ready to send out your meeting agenda and papers, include a link to your participants’ Hoppier card, too. They can then make plans and order a specialty drink for your team coffee break, or a delicious lunch for your project briefing call. Using Hoppier for your meeting catering is a great way to let your company culture shine through — especially if you’re known for being forward thinking and really remote-friendly.

Perfect your virtual meeting etiquette for a more rewarding experience

Getting your virtual meeting etiquette guide just right can take time and refinement, but it’s well worth doing. Once you’ve got it sorted, your team members will feel more confident and comfortable in running and taking part in both internal and external meetings.

If you don’t want to just run successful virtual meetings but highly engaging ones too, you’ll want to check out our webinar on how to run memorable and engaging virtual events. It’s full of ideas and tips from experts on how to create the kind of virtual meeting and event experience that participants will love.

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