All around the world, employees from small and large businesses, government agencies, non-profits, universities, and branches of the military are working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of National Business Etiquette Week, June 7-13, 2020, we’ve gathered the top 10 tips for hosting — and attending — virtual meetings and video conferences.
1. Be Professional. Remember that virtual meetings and video conferences – hosted on platforms like Zoom, Skype, Cisco Webex, GoToMeeting, or Microsoft Teams – are still official meetings. So be sure to dress professionally and be well groomed, just as you would for an in-person meeting at the office.
2. Location. Select a quiet place in your home or office. If you have children, try to sit in a separate room with the door closed and have another family member or caregiver watch over them. Tidy up any visible clutter or personal items. Make sure you have a plain or professional background, such as a bookcase, behind you. If it’s difficult to find an area of your home with an appropriate background, you can use a virtual background. Select a professional one instead of one that looks like you’re spending the day at the beach (as much as we want to join you).
3. Internet Connectivity. When available, connecting to the Internet using an ethernet cable – instead of using Wi-Fi – provides a stronger connection and will minimize issues with buffering.
4. Get Ready. If you're the host, log in first and test all equipment at least 15 minutes before the meeting begins. Once settled, make time to welcome everyone as they enter the virtual meeting, and confirm that all your attendees are present. The host should provide a short introduction that reminds attendees to mute all devices, ensure video cameras are on, and provide any specific guidance to achieve the meeting's objectives.
As a participant, you are expected to be on time. Be sure to allow a few extra minutes for the login process. A key to a successful online meeting is understanding the technology. Before the meeting begins, test the software you plan to use with a colleague or family member.
5. Introductions. If the participants don’t know each other, the host should introduce the guests. Ask your attendees to confirm that their names are displayed and spelled correctly. Most videoconferencing software allows you to make changes or corrections to your name.
6. Using the “mute” and "video” functions. Most video software has two important features. The first is the mute button, which should be turned off for all attendees until they speak. This reduces background noise and talking over each other. The second is the video “on” button. For a more engaging virtual meeting, having the video on helps you see and interact with the guests more easily.
7. Questions. Direct your guests ahead of time to raise their hand “virtually” if they have a question or want to make a statement. Depending on what software you use, there may be an option to type questions in a chat bar or for attendees to use a hand-shaped icon to raise their hand on screen. The idea is to avoid talking over each other and maintain “one voice at a time.”
8. Guest Management. The host or organizer should make sure each participant gets the chance to speak, and not let one participant dominate the meeting.
9. Interruptions. If you must leave the meeting quickly, turn off your device’s audio and video functions, but do not disconnect from the videoconference. This will avoid distracting the other participants. You can also send a message in the chat box stating you will return shortly. If you are unable to return to the meeting, you should inform the organizer or host as soon as possible.
10. Privacy. To preserve your own privacy, do not take your device with you when you step away from the virtual meeting or videoconference. When you return, do so discretely by turning your screen back on. Leave yourself muted until it is your turn to speak.
By following these 10 tips, you will show respect to the meeting’s host and guests, and demonstrate a professional, polished image during every online interaction.