Virtual Meeting Rules Business

Netiquette – Rule Templates for Virtual Meetings


Despite being tiring for various reasons (Zoom Fatigue), online meetings are an invaluable connecting tool, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic. From prospects and clients to coworkers and remote team members around the world. Virtual meetings allow to carry out everything from sales calls to status updates with worldwide participants. 

As there are undeniable and essential differences between face-to-face  and virtual meetings, netiquette helps in these circumstances to reduce the strain. The internet is full of rules and tips, emphasising various facets of virtual communication. Unfortunately there is no all-in-one solution suitable for every purpose. Teams are different, as are the reasons to turn to virtual communication. While agreeing upon a set of netiquette rules is necessary, every set should be adapted and and agreed upon. Find down below template elements for your own team’s set of rules. None of them are any rocket science, neither are most of them really new, but did apply to successful meetings long since.

#1 Scheduling Your Virtual Meeting

Only Schedule Necessary Meetings

The first rule of meetings, even online ones, is that they should serve a specific purpose. If it’s something you can just send in a quick email or solve in another, less time consuming way, don’t make your team spend their time sitting through an entire meeting.

Invite Essential People

Similarly, your meeting should only include those who are actually essential to the conversation. If you invite someone who the information isn’t really relevant to, then you’ll just waste their time.

Don’t Invite Unannounced Guests

You should also make it clear to everyone attending who all is on the guest list. You don’t want anyone to be surprised when the meeting gets started.

Ask People About Scheduling

For online meetings, it can also be a good idea to ask essential participants about times that work for them instead of just scheduling it and then inviting people.

Send An Official Invite

Once you’ve chosen a time and date, you can send an official invite on a program like Google Calendar so that people have an easy way to reserve that specific time.

Confirm If Necessary

If you’ve scheduled a meeting well ahead of time, you can also just quickly confirm with the people you’re meeting with about a day ahead of time just to make sure. With virtual meetings, you also need to be clear about the time zone when you’re scheduling. Don’t just assume new contacts are in your time zone.

#2 Preparing for Your Virtual Meeting

Send Out A Specific Agenda

Before the meeting, send a meeting request with an attached agenda to all attendees describing the purpose of the call, who will be attending, and any expectations for what needs to be achieved during the session. There is a variety of meeting agenda templates for you to choose from.

Offer A Set Timetable

You should also include times on your agenda so attendees will have the ability to plan out the rest of their day.

Provide Essential Documents

If you reference any important documents during your meeting, send those items to meeting participants before or during so they can have them for reference.

Be Prepared With Presentation Materials

And if you need any equipment to make a presentation, make sure everything is in good working order beforehand so you don’t waste time trying to get it to work.

Let People Know What To Expect

If you need people to have any documents or other materials accessible during the meeting the meeting, whether it’s an important document or some client contact information, make that clear beforehand.

Let attendees know ahead of time if you need decisions to be made during the call. This way they so that they can prepare.

Know Your Audience

When preparing your presentation or other agenda items, it’s also important that you consider your audience and cater your messaging specifically to them. Don’t waste people’s time with pitches that aren’t relevant. And don’t use a tone or topic that isn’t likely to appeal to the exact people you’re meeting with.

Have A Test Beforehand

It’s also a good idea for you to test your own meeting app or program beforehand just to make sure the meeting will go smoothly.

Have An Appropriate User Name And Photo

If you’re using a program like Skype for meetings, make sure your username and photo are appropriate for professional meetings.

Choose A Quiet Location

Even though you can have online meetings from basically anywhere, it’s best to choose somewhere quiet where there won’t be a lot of distractions or noise.

Dress Appropriately

If you’re partaking in a video conference, you do need to consider your appearance. It might not be as important as it is for in-person meetings. But you still need to look professional. 

 

#3 Holding Your Virtual Meeting

Make Sure Everyone Can Access Online Conference Rooms

If you are holding a virtual meeting, it’s a good idea to check in with everyone beforehand to make sure they have access to the program you intend to use. Let them know with plenty of time in case they need to download an app in order to attend your meeting.

Show Up On Time

Whether you’re running the meeting or just attending as a guest, you need to show up on time. Realistically, you should be a little bit early just to be safe.

Call If You Have A Conflict

If you do have an emergency or conflict that will make you miss a meeting or be late, you need to let the host or attendees know as soon as possible. If your conflict arises the day of the meeting, that probably means you need to call the person so you can be sure they get the message.

Tune Volumes Right Away

When everyone shows up in an online conference, have everyone say hello to test the volume so you can make adjustments right away if necessary.

Start the Call Right

Online meetings should always start with introductions. If you’re hosting the call, make sure everyone is properly announced so that all attendees are aware of who’s on the line. If people don’t know each other, a round of brief introductions that increases awareness of everyone’s roles and responsibilities can make the rest of the call go more smoothly.
Once introductions have been made, briefly remind participants why you’ve gathered. Include the reason for the call and any necessary objectives or outcomes. This is also a great time to go over any housekeeping items or ground rules for the call. This can include asking participants to shut down notifications, but it’s also a good idea to set expectations regarding questions. If you have a prepared presentation, for example, you may ask that attendees hold their questions until the end – rather than have a more informal discussion, where back-and-forth is appropriate.

Remember Names

Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or the seventh time, remembering names and actually using them when greeting people can go a long way.

Stay On Topic

During the meeting, you might go off on side conversations from time to time. But make sure you always lead the conversation back to the main purpose and keep an eye on the clock so you can be courteous of everyone’s time.

Speak Loudly

When you’re speaking during a meeting, be sure to enunciate and speak loudly enough for everyone to hear you.

Don’t Interrupt Others

And when others are talking, always let them finish before offering a thought of your own.

Avoid Speaking Right Away

When a question is posed to the whole group, you can avoid awkward interruptions by waiting a second to speak up. If others do so right away, then wait your turn. If no one speaks up, you’re good to go.

Ask Before Sharing Long Thoughts

If you have a long thought or idea to share, ask if it’s okay to do so beforehand, in case you’re running short on time. You can always round it up in an email later or share in another meeting.

Mute When You Are Not Speaking

To avoid background noises becoming a distraction for others, simply mute yourself when you’re not speaking for a fair amount of time.

Listen Carefully

Also while others are talking, make sure you actually listen. You don’t want to miss something and then bring it up in a question later.

Use Humor With Care

If you feel the need to use humor during meetings, just make sure that it’s appropriate for your audience. This is much easier when you’re just talking to close team members. But use more caution when meeting with clients or people you don’t know well.

Put Your Phone Away

You should also keep your phone silenced during meetings so that it doesn’t interrupt.

Don’t Eat During Meetings

You should also avoid eating during online meetings. So have a snack beforehand. And only sip water when it’s someone else’s turn to talk if necessary.

Have A Set Time for Questions

It’s also a good idea to have a set time for people to ask questions if you’re the one leading the meeting. And if you’re attending, make sure you locate that opportunity on the agenda so you know when to bring up any points.

Don’t Dominate the Questions Section

When that questions section does come around, you may ask one or two questions. But don’t dominate the conversation. Give others a chance too.

Discuss Personal Matters After the Meeting

If anything comes up during a group meeting that’s really only relevant to you and one other person, make time to discuss it later instead of taking up everyone else’s time.

Don’t Call People Out

You might also sometimes come across situations where a member of your team makes a mistake that negatively impacts your meeting. But don’t use meeting time to lecture them. Call a private meeting with that person afterward to discuss if necessary.

Keep Your Cool

And no matter who you’re dealing with, don’t lose your temper during a meeting.

Give Breaks For Lengthy Meetings

If you’re hosting a meeting that’s going to be a few hours or more, include scheduled breaks into your agenda so people can grab something to eat, check their phones and use the bathroom.

End On Time

Throughout the meeting, keep an eye on the clock so you can be sure to end the meeting when you said you would.

Give People The Opportunity To Leave

If, by chance, you didn’t get a chance to discuss everything you wanted to in the time allotted, you can ask people if they’d like to stay and finish the meeting. But give people the chance to leave on time if they have prior commitments.

Thank Everyone For Attending

If you called the meeting, make sure you also say thank you to everyone who attended before they leave.

Be Cognizant Of Other Languages and Cultures

In some cases, you might also find yourself meeting with people from different backgrounds and cultures. So be aware of their language and customs to the best of your ability before meeting.

Follow Up With Notes

After your meeting, it’s a good idea to share some notes or reminders with people via email. Or if you don’t have anything specific to follow up on, send a quick thank you note. Trying to be both the leader and the note taker will slow down the conversation, as well as potentially cause you to miss important pieces of information. Instead, either assign someone else the responsibility of note taking or use a conference calling service that can record the meeting. You can then share the recording with participants or play it back later to transcribe meeting minutes.

Avoid Sharing Meeting Information With Others

When it comes to meetings, the items discussed should stay within the group of attendees, unless you’ve clearly explained otherwise. So do not share details with others who weren’t in attendance.

Complete Any Action Items

And if you volunteered to complete any tasks after your meeting, make sure you follow up on those items promptly.

Stick to a Schedule

No one enjoys sitting around on an empty conference line, listening to hold music and waiting for the host to show up. 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.

One of the best tools in your arsenal for staying on schedule is your agenda. Make sure you follow the timetable set out in advance. Your attendees are expecting this pace also. If they know the schedule you’re trying to stick to, they’ll be able to help you stay on track rather than wasting time figuring out what else to cover or interjecting with unrelated items.

Minimise Distractions

Distractions make a significant impact when you’re participating in an online meeting. It’s tempting to think that – just because you aren’t in the same room as your fellow attendees – they won’t notice that you’re scrolling through your phone or composing an email on another screen.
Distracted behavior in an online meeting hurts everyone, especially if distractions mean that the organizer has to go back and repeat information that’s already been shared. To reduce potential distractions and stay engaged:
If you’re calling in on your phone, do not work on other projects on your computer. Stay focused on the meeting.
If you’re using a web conferencing system to connect, close down all other apps and browser windows to eliminate notifications
Avoid rustling papers, eating noisy foods or making other distracting noises in the background.
Be careful not to interrupt others when they’re speaking. Though, this can admittedly be difficult if lags in audio responsiveness make it unclear when other participants start and stop speaking. This is a significant reason to invest in a conferencing solution with the highest quality HD audio.
Another great tip: mute your mic when you aren’t speaking. We’ve all heard conference call horror stories about people who assumed they were on mute only to share private or unsavory information to an unintended audience.
Meeting manners don’t go away just because you aren’t physically present with the other participants. Put the golden rule to work here: do unto other online meeting attendees, as you would have them do in your meetings.

Keep It Professional

Online meetings often feel less stressful than in-person meetings, which can make it feel tempting to relax, kick back and be more casual than you would around others in the same room. But even though participants can’t see you at home with your bare feet kicked up on your desk, your casual attitude will carry across in the sound and tone of your voice.

Whether you’re participating in an audio or video conference call, maintain a professional posture and appearance. Dress the way you would as if you were meeting participants in person – don’t assume that pants are optional on a video call. Fellow attendees may only be able to see you from the waist up until you unexpectedly need to stand up!

Plan an Effective Wrap-Up

At the end of the call, don’t just close the line. Instead, end with a quick recap providing decisions made and actions agreed on. In addition, let everyone know what to expect next such as:

  • That you’ll send out meeting minutes, send a link to the conference recording You’ll follow up with answers to questions that you weren’t able to provide during the meeting
  • You’ll follow up with answers to questions that you weren’t able to provide during the meeting
  • You’ll make arrangements for the next web meeting or follow-up with participants using different channels
  • And of course, thank everyone for their time. A successful online meeting requires active participation by every attendee. Show your appreciation for their efforts by saying thank you before closing down the line.

Online meetings and video conferences are an efficient means of communication and invaluable methods for bringing people together. But without preparation and processes intended to make them as effective possible, they risk wasting participants’ time without actually achieving anything of value.

 

Sources:

Annie Pilon: 50 Rules for Online Business Meeting Etiquette – Published: Jun 7, 2017 Last Updated: Sep 28, 2017 

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