By Dr Eugene Brink
Covid-19 has forced many of us to hold virtual meetings – quirks and all.
Whether you love or loathe it, virtual meetings are now something that many of us will have to live with in the foreseeable future and probably for the rest of our working lives.
This has led many people to assume that these meetings should be “business as usual” with all the sartorial and other trappings of normal meetings. For others, it has become an excuse for tardiness, laxness or just a more relaxed disposition.
This leads to the elephant in the virtual boardroom: Is there a right way to conduct online meetings? This might be subjective, but there are some broad beneficial guidelines that experts offer on conducting these meetings, not raising your coworkers’ ire and maintaining productivity and efficacy.
- Test technology beforehand
Nothing is more maddening and irksome than still struggling with sorting out technical difficulties, or waiting for it to be sorted out, after a meeting has officially begun.
“That’s why it’s important that everyone log in to the meeting 10 minutes before the start time. That way, you can check that you’re able to successfully join the online meeting and that your webcam, wi-fi, screen-sharing tools, and any other technologies you’re using are running properly by the time the meeting starts,” says Lindsey Perron, a sales and marketing specialist.
- Leave the keyboard alone and limit distractions
Lindsay Crafford, a content marketing manager, says the sound of your typing is distracting. “It’s not only distracting everyone else in the meeting (because your laptop’s internal microphone is inches away from your keyboard), it’s also preventing you from devoting your full attention to the meeting. Opt for a quality headset or pick up your notebook and pen to take meeting notes instead.”
Perron enumerates some other distractions you should avoid:
- Close the door to the room you are in.
- Turn of all music and TVs.
- Turn off your phone or silence it.
- Don’t eat.
- Dress the part
In general, says Crafford, it is not advisable for you to show your colleagues your PJs and bedhead. “Take a few minutes to throw on a clean shirt and brush your hair. The best part of actually getting ready while working remotely is that you’ll put yourself in the right headspace to be productive.”
- Stick to the schedule
Workplace blogger Jamie Davidson says if you’re running an online meeting, start promptly out of respect for attendees’ time. “When latecomers join, don’t repeat what you’ve already covered. Instead, catch them up later – after the call – rather than wasting the time of everyone who arrived on schedule. To avoid making participants late for other meetings or taking them away from other priorities, be conscious of your end time as well.”
- Mute when not speaking
Crafford argues that there is nothing more frustrating than hearing an echo noise from conflicting microphones. “Save everyone from the ear-splitting madness by joining the meeting while on mute! Unless you live alone, your house is probably pretty noisy these days. Muting your microphone when you’re not speaking gives other participants the ability to chime in and share their thoughts without distraction or frustration.”
- Stay seated and present
Crafford states that the temptation may arise to check your inbox or continue a side conversation during a dull moment in a meeting. “But don’t do it! You might miss out on key information or an opportunity to give input. If you’re using your webcam, use attentive body language: sit up straight, don’t make big extraneous movements, and don’t let your eyes wander too much.”
Lastly, speak as clearly as possible.
Jamie Davidson, 16 April 2020, “The how-tos of video conferencing etiquette”, https://www.conferencecalling.com/blog/online-meeting-etiquette.
Lindsay Crafford,20 March 2020, “The 7 rules of virtual meeting etiquette every professional should know”, https://blog.gotomeeting.com/7-rules-virtual-meeting-etiquette-every-professional-know/.
Lindsey Perron, 14 April 2020, “Virtual meeting etiquette: 7 tips for being professional during a remote meeting”, https://viralsolutions.net/virtual-meeting-etiquette/#.XwM4IUUzayJ.