With the boom of remote work came more online meetings than ever before — and that brought challenges. We’ve all had video meetings interrupted with little ones, pets, and fuzzy connections.
Just like most face-to-face meetings generally start with a few ground rules, thoughtful guidelines can help make remote meetings a more pleasant and engaging experience for all meeting participants. You don’t want to be the one who’s clearly texting on-camera or creating noisy distractions from an unmuted microphone.
Whether meeting on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or any other video conference software, the virtual meeting etiquette is pretty much the same. Follow our meeting etiquette tips to avoid embarrassment and show professionalism and courtesy for your fellow team members.
12 virtual meeting etiquette tips for your next team meeting
Even if you're not the meeting facilitator, everyone on a remote team should remember some simple online meeting etiquette. Here are a few suggestions that can apply to almost any video conferencing scenario and make your virtual meetings more effective:
1. Dress for a business meeting
We all love a fleece dinosaur onesie, but there's a time and a place (and it usually isn’t a conference call). Instead, plan to wear business casual outfits to your remote meetings. It puts you in the right frame of mind to focus and signals to your brain that it’s time to work. Plus, you can remain comfortable while looking smart by jazzing up a casual blouse with a pop of color or accessorizing with items that show up on-camera like a scarf, glasses, or earrings.
2. Create an appropriate workspace
Not everyone will have a room in their house to dedicate to a home office, and that's understandable. When setting up a designated workspace and desk, make sure it’s a place where you can limit background noise and create optimal lighting when your webcam is on.
3. Be mindful of your note-taking habits
Even if you think you're typing quietly, chances are it's not nearly quiet enough.
The clickety clacking sound can be distracting to the other group members. To take notes, you can record the meeting (with everyone's permission) and use a transcribing app like Otter.ai. Those with paid accounts can also transcribe Zoom meetings using the support portal. Otherwise, write things down with a pen and paper or make sure you’re muted before you type your notes.
4. Mute your mic
We’ve all heard a co-worker’s rumbly tummy (more on this in the next point) or barking dogs during a meeting. Many embarrassing and distracting scenarios can be avoided with simply muting your microphone when you're not speaking.
It can be worth investing in a headset with a handy mute button available, but it can be just as easy to click Zoom’s microphone icon to mute and unmute yourself at appropriate times.
5. Eat something before the meeting starts
Much like you wouldn't bust out an egg-salad panini for an in-person meeting in the conference room, please don't snack on a video call.
This virtual meeting etiquette applies to all calls, even those that aren't work-related. Whether it's the sound of opening that bag of chips, your co-workers watching you chew, an inevitable spill that means you need to leave the call — it's better to avoid it altogether and have a small snack beforehand instead.
6. Test your internet connection
Strong internet may seem like an unrelated aspect of virtual meeting etiquette, but you can understand if you've ever been on a call where the person speaking is cutting in and out unknowingly.
These (totally avoidable) disruptions from weak signals can take up valuable meeting time and attention.
Instead, test your connection beforehand and close all unnecessary applications before the call. If you still aren’t having luck, try to create an ethernet connection, which will more likely offer a strong connection.
7. Make eye contact with the camera
Making eye contact by looking at the camera can be tricky since the natural reaction is to watch the monitor.
However, eye contact helps engage the other participants more than looking at their video stream or multitasking while speaking. While occasional breaks from eye contact are expected, try to give the meeting your full attention, especially when addressing the group.
8. Be mindful of your body language
Positive body language goes hand in hand with eye contact. It's easy to forget that you're still visible even when you aren’t speaking. Put your best posture on display by sitting up straight and avoiding making too many hand gestures when speaking.
If you want to speak during a larger meeting, the presenter may not see you raise your physical hand. The Raise Hand feature was built into Zoom to help with this. When you click Raise Hand in the software controls, it will prompt the host to call on you.
If the Raise Hand feature isn’t enabled for the meeting, jot down your question or comment until there's a clear opening to share. Most meeting softwares also include a chat window where you can ask questions without talking over the other participants.
9. Turn off notifications
Do yourself a favor and get in the habit of putting your phone and browser notifications on silent during meetings. Even if your ringtone is a fun throwback song, when it interrupts your boss' recap of the quarterly financials, you’ll want to curl up in a ball under your desk and hide.
Embarrassing ringtones aside, any noise can throw off the speaker and distract the rest of the group. Unless you're awaiting critical news, it's best to keep all devices silenced until after the meeting.
10. Limit side conversations with other remote employees
Typing to your colleagues on Slack during the meeting may seem innocent enough, but it's likely noticeable by the rest of the group. Maybe people will see chat notifications coming through while you’re screen sharing, or they’ll notice you and the other party giggling and typing. You can also get called on where you're not paying attention because you're distracted.
As a best practice, try not to click away from the meeting so you give it your full attention.
11. Log on before the meeting time
Create a bit of a buffer for yourself so that you're not scrambling to get on the call at the last minute. Join the call 2-3 minutes early, and leave your camera off and microphone muted while collecting any materials you need, checking that your background is clear, and alerting family members that you’ll be unavailable and that you need quiet in your workspace.
This easy habit can also help limit unnecessary interruptions during the call.
12. Say hello when joining the video call
It's considered standard virtual meeting etiquette to give everyone in the meeting room a heads up when you've joined the call. Greet the group with a big smile while your webcam is on as soon as you enter. It's much better than the alternative of silently lurking with your camera off while the group chats.
Virtual meeting etiquette is a sign of respect
According to the research from Polly's State of Virtual Meetings Report last year, 93% of respondents agreed that virtual meetings are a valuable use of time, with a whopping two-thirds confirming that these types of meetings are becoming more productive to boot!
That’s well and good as long as everyone is aware of the etiquette that helps keep things on track without distractions or prolonged disengagement. Knowing the basics listed above can help you to avoid embarrassing, distracting moments and show respect for your teammates’ time.
Meeting success is owed to a winning combination of a well-planned meeting agenda, effective meeting facilitation, and solid virtual meeting etiquette that gets the best from the team.
Check out the Polly blog for tips and tricks on facilitation methods, meeting tools, and other resources to help you unlock your team's true potential. You can also try Polly for free to discover how it seamlessly builds engagement among distributed teams.
Written by Briana Biancolin
As a nomadic freelance writer, story lover, and professional snacker from Toronto, Canada, Briana's love of writing (and entrepreneurship) started as a kid when she would take the proceeds from her lemonade stand to buy notebooks and pens. After 5 years in creative recruitment, she took the plunge into freelance life, moved to Europe, and began writing full-time on topics like start-ups, wellness, design, travel, and tech.