Have you ever had a nightmare meeting? Have you seen your co-worker scrolling constantly through social media, munching on the conference speaker, or whispering; or perhaps have you ever felt distracted by side calls and buzzing cell phones at the participants’ side? Guess we all have been there.
You may find distractions during online meetings to be annoying and bothersome to a reasonable degree. And rightfully so- for no one likes to spend weeks preparing and putting together a big presentation, of great importance, only to feel belittled by their co-worker’s frivolous behavior.
Or it could be worse finding out that the meeting has been postponed to next week because a participant didn’t show up or showed up late or unprepared. Which is all far too common in online meetings.
Fortunately for you, a bad meeting can be turned into a great meeting with the proper meeting etiquette; wherewith one can maintain a sense of professionalism well into the environment.
For this, we have compiled the nitty-gritty of meeting etiquette in this article: from the manner, in which the information is shared to the type of attire that is acceptable we’ve covered it all.
What is Meeting Etiquette?
Meeting etiquette refers to the set of conventional or rather customary rules that delineates how one ought to conduct themselves at a business conference or a meeting.
Meeting etiquette is a set of rules or guidelines, we must follow in order to respect ourselves and others, and make the people in the room feel as comfortable and dignified as possible. Proper meeting protocols create an environment of professionalism where people treat each other respectfully.
Although, meeting rules can vary by situation, organization, and environment; it may not be wrong to say that there are a few universal rules that you can take with you everywhere.
Perhaps, the most fundamental meeting etiquettes are:
- Be on time.
- Pay close attention.
- Listen attentively; do not digress.
- Stay informed; do not come clueless.
- Know what you are talking about; come prepared.
Why is Meeting Etiquette Important?
Indeed, why is meeting etiquette so important? Well, for one, it helps to establish respect among the meeting participants; thereby creating a respectful and well-behaved environment.
It helps to foster an atmosphere of cooperation, helps to create a positive and professional working environment, improves communication, and productivity, and ensures that people get their work done properly on time – among many other things.
More pragmatically from a business perspective, meeting protocol helps to make the most out of your money and time, for it is true that a lot of money and time goes into these meetings.
Take these examples: When you visit a car service, you probably expect a greeting. You expect a blinker if someone tries to overtake you or drive in front of you on the highway. And you expect people to cover their mouths when they sneeze, in case you are standing next to them.
So too, when you’re in an environment having people from different walks of life, you need to follow a naturally more acceptable behavior for a healthy co-existence. Coming to business meetings again, indeed, no one likes spending hours preparing for a presentation and feeling like no one cares about them. That’s why having proper business meeting norms is important.
Sensing its importance, we have curated a list of basic etiquette rules for a successful meeting.
Pre-meeting Etiquette Rules
1. Dress Appropriately
One ought to follow the dress code stipulated for the business environment by the organization or group.
This can vary from organization to organization, or be different for different occasions, so discuss the special dress requirements with your team or manager and abide by them.
When in doubt, dress according to the occasion.
2. Log In Before Time
Value other people's time and your own. This old adage is handy in all relevant aspects of life – especially meetings.
Showing up on time is generally considered mandatory in the workplace, so you might want to log in a bit early if you tend to arrive later than usual in arrangements.
You may think it’s not that big of a deal if you log in 5 mins later, but this kind of thinking can have a negative impact on the rest of the team members and affect the overall productivity of the team.
Thus it’s safer to log in at least 10 minutes before the meeting starts.
In case, you are late for the meeting (for any reason) you don’t need to create a fuss about it, a simple apology to the organizer and/or other attendees will do.
Showing up on time has many advantages too. Not only does it give you a breather before an important meeting. So, always arrive a little early for business appointments to stay on course without distractions.
3. Create an Agenda
An Agenda is an ordered list of meeting activities, beginning with a list of things to consider or do. You need a plan before setting up a meeting. As it keeps you on track and gets the work done on time.
If you are invited to a meeting with no agenda, it is good to back down and email the meeting organizer and ask for a brief of the meeting's purpose or agenda items.
Having a meeting agenda is important as it keeps you on track with the topic and the time of participants.
Etiquette Rules During the Meeting
1. Speak Loud and Clear
This is huge! You have the power to control the flow of the conversation.
The most typical complaint about online meetings is that the person simply couldn’t hear or understand the interlocutor only due to interruptions in speech. Thus it becomes a bit of a concern, to speak clearly and confidently so that everyone in the conference room or meeting can hear you.
If you don’t speak loudly and clearly, it annoys participants. It adds to the problem for both the speaker and the participants if they have to repeat themselves. So much time is wasted due to unclear speech.
Speaking loudly also reflects confidence and lets others know that the ideas being expressed are in good shape and well thought-out.
Also, you need to be careful with non-native speakers. In some meetings, people from different places and backgrounds join together. So, you must be considerate of them. Many of them rely on reading the lips to get the full context or the facial cues, so you can place extra emphasis on the beginning and end of each word and speak slowly.
2. Introduce New Meeting Participants
It is of great importance to make everyone attending the meeting feel welcome. Any of the attendees should not end up feeling uninvited, thus, introduce everyone.
Sometimes members may not know each other, since they might be meeting for the first time with your group during that particular meeting. So, always turn the room around so everyone can introduce themselves and mention their respective roles and get to know each other.
And if you dial into the meeting without video, or if you are merely talking to someone by calling, be sure to let them know who you want to talk to.
3. Don’t Eat During the Meeting
In most cases, it’s appropriate to bring water and coffee to the meeting. But one should ask the host to get certain, because some meetings may not allow it.
Normally, drinking water is acceptable as we all need to stay hydrated.
Some meetings are held during lunch break. In that case, eatables may be allowed. However, if you do bring food into the meeting, try to avoid the noisy wrappings as it can be perceived as unprofessional. It may serve as a distraction that can ruin the flow of the meeting.
4. Put Your Phone on Silent
Put your phone away, on mute, or on vibration. Disable all chat applications and notifications.
It’s considered unprofessional and disrespectful to fidget with your phone during the meeting, or take it out of your pocket and flip through messages or emails.
If possible, put your phone at the door even if you’re certain you are not going to look at your phone; it can get distracting if it starts making noises or flashing, which is taken very seriously and doesn’t leave a good impression.
5. Mute Yourself when You're Not Speaking
Make it a habit to mute yourself by default during video business meetings. If your Mic is not muted it can lead to a lot of distractions in the meeting as well as some pretty awkward moments.
A running fan in the background. Kids playing. Somebody shouting. All of these can be distracting to your co-workers. So, it is important that you consciously mute yourself as a precautionary measure when you are not speaking.
Most software/apps have a feature for muting, which is called "push to talk". The key combo or functionality for this could vary depending on the app or software. But in most apps holding down the spacebar while speaking will temporarily unmute you. This reduces your chances of you unknowingly unmuting yourself and prevents unnecessary background noises.
6. Be Mindful of Different Personalities
As was said before, in online meetings there are a lot of people from a lot of diverse backgrounds, with different ways, levels, and dispositions. From people who are more candid and love to have open discussions, to people who are briefer and reserved.
So, it’s important to be mindful and to see to it that everyone equally benefits from the meeting and feels included.
7. Listen to Others!
Since the environment is not very meeting-like during online meetings, you become more susceptible to losing focus.
Your unattentiveness can be very demotivating to the contributors in the meeting. And it can have a toll on the overall productivity of the meeting. Therefore, it is important to listen to your colleagues and show your participation.
Your alertness can make the meeting more lively and zesty and show everyone that you are valuing their output.
8. Don’t Talk Over Others
Even though virtual meetings may share some similarities with traditional meetings, it should be glaringly obvious to anyone who has attended these meetings, that in a virtual meeting it is slightly more difficult to know exactly who spoke first.
It is very common for people to end up talking over each other if they are not following the proper meeting etiquette with regard to virtual meetings.
So, be ready to let the other person speak ahead of you and in case you need to complete your statement or have something important to add, you can do it politely.
9. Have a Good Posture
Having a good posture represents self-confidence, and focus, and shows that you are paying attention.
Whereas, when you are lying down it negatively signals to everyone that you are not focused and motivated enough. It doesn’t give a good impression to others and makes you seem unprofessional and disinterested; which can be demotivating to other contributors in the meeting.
Therefore, it is important to maintain a good posture and be conscious of it at all times during the meeting. It also naturally increases your attention and brings more worthwhile points to your conversations.
10. Chat Section Conversations
Set the ground rules for whether it’s okay to use chat, and under what guidelines.
You might know how hard it is to keep up with the conversations in the chat section or stay focused and engage with people simultaneously.
Some common guidelines one could follow with regard to chat side conversations
- be respectful to the meeting host
- don’t make any disrespectful comments
- keep the questions for the end
Post-meeting Etiquette Rules
1. Ask the Question at Appropriate Time
If you think you have a valuable question to ask, then ask it at the end. A good question could prove to be valuable for you and others in the meeting. However, it's important to ask the question at an appropriate time.
Also, make sure that you are not asking an endless stream of questions since it can throw the meeting to the brink and be annoying. It may also seem unnecessary to ask a lot of questions, and it can easily turn a quick 10 minutes conversation into a 30-minutes tribulation.
Try your best to ask questions only to clarify. If you’ve got a question that may take a lot of time to get answered, consider asking it personally to the concerned person after the meeting.
Time is everyone’s precious commodity. Thus a good litmus test to check the importance of your question is to ask yourself, before raising your hand- "does everyone need this question to be answered?".
2. Thank the Attendees and Presenters
Meetings can be taxing, long, and a little demanding due to them being a little… dry. So, take off the time to thank everyone who attended and contributed to the meeting.
It makes a difference and doesn’t cost you anything. Moreover, doing this can make participants feel valued and do good work in the future, as they know that their efforts are recognized and valued.
Good video conference etiquette is essential for any professional who wants to conduct successful online meetings. By following the online meeting rules in this article, you can ensure that your video conference meetings are productive and polite.
For more tips on online meetings, be sure to like our blog.
Thanks for reading!