The Covid-19 pandemic forced companies around the world to adjust their business practices, including shifting to a work-from-home model. This change resulted in the emergence of the virtual meeting. And even as lockdown restrictions loosened, many businesses have allowed their staff to continue working from home.

Virtual meetings are becoming the norm, but it’s still a new experience for many – so it’s important to practice proper etiquette while everyone gets more comfortable with this new model. Below are a few tips to help you conduct a focused and efficient virtual meeting.

1. Introduce everyone when the meeting begins.

It would be inappropriate to start a conversation between two acquaintances who have never met before without first introducing them, just as you would not do in a real meeting or social function. The same procedure should be followed for a virtual meeting. Ensure that all attendees are introduced at the outset of the event. This will establish a welcome environment and inspire interaction among attendees.

2. Make sure you’re prepared.

When preparing for your meeting, review the objectives, familiarize yourself with the attendees, create a clear agenda, set a time limit, and make a list of notes to follow once it begins. When appropriate, invite attendees to contribute to the planning of the meeting. Preparing ahead of time is always good practice, and can often be the key factor in making a meeting successful.

3. Keep distractions to a minimum.

Before starting a virtual meeting, make sure that you silence your mobile phone and disable any applications on your computer that have the ability to push notifications to you. No one wants to  hear your phone ring, or hear your computer “bing” every time you receive an incoming email or chat. It’s also a good idea to close any web browser tabs that aren’t pertinent to your meeting, as they sometimes involve background processes that can slow down or even freeze up your computer.

4. Prepare a clean, business-appropriate setting.

If your meeting involves video, you want your participants’ attention to be focused on the meeting content rather than on your cluttered office or your impressive art collection. By creating a clean environment you can reduce the likelihood that participants will become distracted. You should also make every effort to attend the meeting from a calm location where there is little background noise or movement. Some platforms such as Zoom even offer a virtual background feature, which can be a valuable tool for reducing background distractions.

5. Other quick tips.

  • Look into the camera. Ensure that your camera is placed at eye level, and look directly into it during the meeting. Looking around your room can give the impression that you are distracted, bored, or disengaged.
  • Use the mute button wisely. You definitely want to close off your mic if it’s picking up on feedback or echoes, but many times your subtle sounds – such as an “mmhmm” or a giggle – can improve the fidelity of the dialogue.
  • Hosts should be the last to leave. As a general guideline, meeting hosts should wait until everyone else has left the room before ending the meeting, allowing attendees to leave at their own pace and to say anything additional they want before disconnecting. A host abandoning everyone else in the meeting is like leaving your own party without telling anyone.