As many people work from home, businesses are using videoconferencing tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype/Skype for Business, and Zoom (among many others) to conduct online meetings with staff, suppliers, and clients.
As you may have seen on Facebook, however, not everyone is completely familiar with videoconferencing etiquette; since the lockdown began, several funny – but awkward – video clips have done the rounds of people making rather large online meeting faux pas.
Undoubtedly the worst has been of a female participant taking her mobile device with her to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting… without blanking her screen out first or disconnecting entirely.
And yes, it was as bad as you’re picturing in your head right now. That poor woman.
Her scenario is by far the absolute worst, but there are other things people do in their online meetings that make the experience not so great for all involved as well. They might not be quite as bad as the above, but they’re enough to disrupt proceedings and cause annoyance, and are therefore to be avoided.
Online meeting etiquette pointers
That is where this article comes in. We’ve put together a list of “online meeting etiquette points” that should help all of us be better at online meetings, which in turn will make our daily video calls with our colleagues, managers, and clients just that much better, and hopefully more awesome too.
Bearing in mind that, for the most part, videoconferencing is still fairly new to all of us so we’re very forgiving. But as time goes on, we’ll start to be stricter and have certain expectations which is why you should already make sure that you’re practising good videoconferencing etiquette from the get-go.
Ensure your audio and video works beforehand
There are few things quite as galling as spending the first ten minutes of a scheduled meeting waiting for someone to get their audio or video working.
This tip is very simple: make sure your audio and video are properly set up before the meeting is scheduled to start. Every virtual meeting app will have ways to test your equipment, usually somewhere in “Settings”, that can help with this.
Check your background
For some of us, this writer included, finding a spot at home that doesn’t let other meeting participants see “house things” in the background can be a challenge. Nobody wants or needs to see your messy home, in other words.
The solution is to set a background, so all people see is you superimposed on said background. Most videoconferencing apps offer that functionality, and all you need to do is find it within their Settings, choose your background and click OK.
Teams is particularly good at this, as it’s able to blur out everything behind you. You’ll find the option under More Actions if your webcam supports it, and all you need to do is click it to enjoy distraction-free virtual meetings.
Do virtual meetings in quiet spaces
Background noises are just as distracting, if not more so, as messy backgrounds, which is why it’s so important to conduct your virtual meetings in quiet spaces.
While it is probably completely useless at this point to recommend purchasing noise-cancelling headphones as we’re in the middle of a national lockdown, this situation is where noise-cancelling headphones really shine – they use sophisticated audio tech to block out any noise that isn’t your voice.
Mute yourself when you’re not speaking
This isn’t the most obvious tip, but it’s highly advisable that you mute yourself while others speak for optimal meeting etiquette. This way any noise on your end won’t disrupt the meeting, which is respectful of the other participants.
All videoconferencing apps will have a mute button within easy view; simply click on it when you’re not talking, and click on it again when you have something to say.
Know when a videocall could be an IM or an email
By now we all know that joke that some meetings really could have been an email; by the same token not every issue needs to be a video call.
The tip here is to use your discretion and use tools like instant messaging and email to initiate discussions with your colleagues, instead of jumping into a voice call every few minutes.
Try not to talk over other people
While we’re all adults, some of us haven’t learned yet that talking over others is not the best way to get a point across and is in fact considered to be quite rude. This is especially important to keep in mind in a videoconferencing situation.
If you absolutely must say something while someone else is talking, you can always use the Chat option – this shows all participants what you type in a text window, and you can ask questions here or raise additional points without talking over whoever happens to be speaking.
Also be aware of things like lag introduced by poor internet connections, which can lead to audio not always being in sync; as a result, interrupting someone could lead to a significant portion of what they were trying to say being lost. In this situation, contributing via text chat is much better.
Don’t do other things while in video meetings – it’s obvious
Be aware that in video meetings, you are visible to all participants all the time, and if your attention wanders or you decide that you should send an email while others talk, it will be immediately noticeable.
If you absolutely must do something else, either blank out your video feed or excuse yourself in the text chat, do what you need to, and then reactivate your video.
When it comes to virtual business meetings it’s always better to be dressed for the occasion. Even if you only dress up from the waist up.
Please don’t eat
And lastly, for the love of all things good and holy, please don’t eat during a video call. Ever. Not even once.
Listening to other people slurp and chew, amplified over microphones, is just wrong on so many levels and should never be done under any circumstances.
Awesome meetings await
If you follow these online video meeting etiquette tips, you are very likely to enjoy them more and get done what you need to, without much fuss or drama.
And if you haven’t yet signed up for Microsoft Teams, you’re more than welcome to email Tarsus On Demand about it on this address, and talk to them about arranging a free six-month trial of the full version of the software which Microsoft made available recently.
Happy videoconferencing! And if for whatever reason the meeting etiquette of your peers doesn’t improve naturally, you are welcome refer them to this article.