With the technology we have today, ‘the office’ is no longer defined as a single place. Videoconferencing is becoming a common site of discussion and collaboration. This developing reality also means that companies have staff from all over the world, so without a common set of rules, communication can easily break down.
By now, people have learned not to wear pyjamas during videoconferences but there are still more things that people should consider. The rules of etiquette apply in virtual meetings just as they do in face-to-face meetings so here are some tips to keep in mind for your next online meeting:
Do: Choose the right technology
The most effective videoconferences are minimalist. Participants don’t want to have to spend too much time setting up cameras and microphones, downloading software or loading PowerPoint decks because it undermines the reason people prefer virtual meetings: they are less costly and more productive. Be sure to choose a system that is reliable and professional.
If you’re the meeting co-ordinator, test the microphone and video beforehand. All videoconferencing systems have a way to check so be sure to do this before the meeting begins. Send out presentations and agendas in advance so that participants can have them ready when the meeting begins.
For meeting participants, join the conference a few minutes early to ensure you’re all set to start on time.
Don’t: Leave all of your windows and programmes open
Shut down email and instant messengers before the virtual meeting starts. Not only can this have an effect on how quickly your computer runs and how good the sound quality is, it will also save you any embarrassment if you share screens with someone else. You don’t want your colleagues to know that your husband or wife wants to go for after-work drinks!
Only keep open what you need for the meeting – notes, documents or a presentation – whatever that might be .
Do: Define the goals of the meeting
Virtual meetings are meant to save time and increase productivity, so they shouldn’t just go on forever. Schedule a start and end time and make it as short as possible. Prepare an agenda, and let everyone attending the meeting know what its purpose is. This will help keep everyone engaged and focused, improving the results of the collaboration by allowing people to come prepared for productivity
Participants should be respectful of the meeting agenda and purpose. If something starts to go off-topic, suggest that the conversation be taken offline.
Don’t: Multitask and interrupt speakers
According to a survey by Raindance Communications, 70% of people do unrelated work, 50% read or send emails, and 36% mute the call to talk to someone else while on a video call. That doesn’t include the plethora of people who eat, surf the web and search for materials related to the conference.
These are all big no-nos. Minimise distractions and interruptions by videoconferencing from a quiet place. Even if your microphone is muted, your movement or talking to someone in the room with you could be interpreted as trying to speak to the conference which can distract the speaker.
Do: Speak clearly and concisely
Be sure to enunciate – muffled microphones and poor speakers can affect how well people understand. Keep your points succinct. Virtual meetings can be a bit less animated when you’re not all in the same room and people will quickly tire of listening to one person dominating the conversation. All participants should feel engaged and have the opportunity to speak.
Be sure to pause after questions and statements. Sometimes there is a time delay between participants so you want to give them time to hear the entire speech so they can respond appropriately. Start with their name and then wait to start explaining or asking your question. You can also raise a hand when using webcam or move over to the chat facility if there is one.
Videoconferences can be a great tool for collaboration, especially when companies are offering more flexible work options for employees. Organisations are still navigating the rules and etiquette of online business, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. When it comes to virtual meetings, you should behave just as you would during a face-to-face meeting: with professionalism.
About the author
Gemma Falconer is a Senior Campaign Specialist for GoToMeeting