Better Meetings

Virtual meeting etiquette: 10 rules to build a better culture

The do-s and don-ts of virtual meeting etiquette-featured image

If you work remotely and have meetings regularly, you’re familiar with team members saying things like: Hello, can you all hear me? / Please, mute your mic! / Is it okay if I record this? 

This is the new normal for remote teams since the pandemic. But just because virtual meetings come with a bit more freedom than office meetings doesn’t mean there’s no etiquette for participants to observe. Wondering what that might be?

That’s what we’ll cover in this guide.

What is virtual meeting etiquette?

Virtual meeting etiquette is a set of principles or behaviors that hybrid or remote workers should follow during meetings. In other words, they’re the manners that team members who work remotely should display. 

Online meeting etiquette examines questions like:

  • How you communicate when you're not all in the same room

  • What attire is appropriate for a virtual meeting

  • If it’s okay to eat your lunch during a meeting 

  • …and so on

The importance of virtual meeting etiquette

According to a study by Upwork, 73% of organizational departments will have team members working remotely by 2028. That means remote work is here to stay and with it, virtual meetings. 

Since that’s the case, it’d benefit you and your team members to set ground rules, aka etiquette, guiding the way you run meetings. This etiquette will ensure meetings are well-run, professional, fun, and productive. It’ll also promote communication and meaningful relationships in the workplace.

10 virtual meeting etiquette rules for participants to follow

Let’s go through some meeting etiquette tips you need to be familiar with to have more productive meetings. 

1. Prepare

Everyone jumping on a virtual call needs to come ready — and not have to wonder what’s expected of them. 

This means you should: 

  • Add the meeting to your calendar and set reminders

  • Check your internet connection 

  • Test the meeting software if you’re not familiar with it, especially if screen sharing will be involved

  • Get all the documents you need ready ahead of time

Another good way to prepare is to ask the organizer for an agenda. If you’re the team lead, it falls on you to create an agenda so everyone knows the purpose of the meeting and what part they have to play. 

If you're using Vowel as a meeting tool, you can set meeting agendas without a separate doc.

Share meeting agendas in Vowel

Using Vowel to schedule meetings allows you to include the goal of the meeting and mention contributing teammates so they come prepared. 

2. Check your background

Your face is the only thing people see in a virtual meeting so nothing else matters, right?

Wrong!

The other thing everyone sees is your background, so it’s almost as important as your face. Check your environment to ensure that it’s clean and there’s nothing in the background that can cause distractions. 

Technology has even made this easier as most video conferencing software (like Vowel, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams) comes with a feature that allows you to blur the background or use an image. 

If your software doesn’t have an easy “change background” option and a home office isn’t an option, find a space with a plain background and good lighting for the meeting. Then, turn on the camera to see what others will see when the meeting starts. If any distracting items are in view, adjust them accordingly. 

3. Dress appropriately

There will always be the temptation to throw on some sweats when working from home but, depending on your company and industry, “dressing down” might not leave a good impression on other meeting participants.

You don’t want them to think the meeting isn’t important to you. So dress professionally, as though it’s a face-to-face business meeting with stakeholders. 

Not sure what to wear?

Follow the dress code for your office (if there is one) and make sure whatever you wear is clean, un-wrinkled, and doesn’t have any potentially offensive words or images. 

4. Be on time

Punctuality is a big deal, whether you’re attending a virtual or in-person meeting. It shows courtesy to other attendees and a high level of professionalism on your part.

When you come in late, you interrupt the meeting flow and miss important information that’s already been shared. 

Coming late as a contributor or the host is probably even worse as you’ll have kept people waiting unnecessarily and caused the meeting to last longer than it should have. 

If there’s an emergency or some other reason why you’ll be running late, notify your team lead and apologize to everyone when you eventually join in. 

Normalize arriving on time for meetings and it’ll eventually become part of a meeting culture other team members want to adopt.

5. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking

Hearing funny noises in the background or from other participants’ microphones can be frustrating, especially if they’re not the ones talking. Do everyone a favor by making sure your microphone is muted when you join a meeting. 

If you have something to contribute while someone else is talking, you can use Vowel’s comment feature to ask questions or leave comments while on mute. You can also react to the conversation using your favorite emojis, or leave questions/discussion items in the shared notes.

Leaving a comment in a video meeting

This way, you won’t have to disrupt the meeting’s flow or forget what you wanted to contribute. 

6. Minimize background noise 

When it’s your turn to speak, reduce background noise as much as possible. That can be difficult unless you live alone, but here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Switch your phone to silent mode

  • Turn off alarms

  • Switch off the TV or radio

  • Go in a quiet space, away from other family members 

  • Hire a dog walker or ask a friend or neighbor to watch your dog for you

  • Avoid using noisy appliances in the room you’re in, including fans, kettles, washing machines, or dishwashers

  • Close your windows if there’s noisy construction or traffic outside

7. Turn your video off if you need to

There will always be reasons you have to get up from meetings – such as when you need to use the restroom or answer the door. 

In these cases, it’s good practice to turn off your video before you stand up, so people don’t get distracted.

When it’s time to join the meeting again, ensure you’re ready and seated as you were before switching the video on again. 

8. Speak clearly and to the camera and other participants

If you’re in a face-to-face meeting, you want people's attention to be on you because that shows they’re listening. To do that, most people look straight at their audience and probably make hand gestures.

Follow the same approach when you’re using a virtual meeting tool. Think of the camera as the people you’re engaging with and make direct eye contact with it when speaking.

It’s also good practice to properly articulate your points and give listeners time to jot things down if necessary. 

9. Stay focused

Let’s be honest: meetings can be boring especially if you’re just a listener. With the prevalence of social media, you might even want to scroll for just a bit to avoid feeling bombed. 

While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on vital information, which isn’t so good. Try to remain focused during meetings so you can capture key moments that might be useful for work. Let your body language also show you’re following the meeting. 

Vowel’s shared agenda and notes panel can do that, as it guides you along the meeting topics (sometimes with timers) and allows you to share thoughts, ideas, and action items with other team members. 

Shared meeting notes in Vowel

Aside from note-taking, another way to stay focused is to use private notes (or a notebook) to jot down questions you want to ask.

10. Set a time limit and stick to it

Meetings are more productive when there’s a set time designated for them. 

If you’re the host or team lead, set a time limit to abide by so the meeting will start and end at the appropriate time. Ensure everyone attending the meeting has the agenda so every contributor knows how much time they have to speak.

Vowel’s agenda timers can help you stay on track with your meetings by assigning time to each discussion topic.

On the other hand, if you’re going to have lengthy meetings, make plans for breaks between sessions to spare participants from information overload.

4 things to avoid during an online meeting

Your online meetings will be even more focused if you follow these “don’ts.” 

❌ Eating with your camera on

Eating during meetings is distracting to other participants. You won’t be focused on what’s being said and there will be background noise if your mic is on. This means there’s a good chance that they’ll be paying less attention to the meeting. 

If you must eat (hey, sometimes it’s a really  long meeting) , turn off the camera and audio on your video conference app before taking a bite. 

❌ Talking over other participants

Unless you're a senator in a rowdy Congress meeting (in which case we’d expect nothing less), it’s good virtual meeting etiquette to always wait your turn or allow whoever is talking to finish before you speak. 

If you’re unable to hold it in before your time, you can use Vowel’s comments or collaborative notes to write your thoughts down. 

You can also raise your hand to notify the host that you have something to contribute. This way, the meeting can proceed in a civilized fashion. 

Also: avoid side conversations. They lead to cutting off a person who might be speaking and taking away from meeting focus. 

❌ Multitasking

Meetings deserve your full attention. It can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re behind on your deliverables — but avoid multitasking if you can (or excuse yourself from the meeting if you really don’t need to be there). 

Leave any other tasks until the meeting is done: you can channel your energy into other  workflows and whatever you have to do afterward.

Post-meeting view with transcript

If something urgent comes up and you can’t avoid multitasking mid-meeting (for example, quickly researching something that’s being discussed in the meeting), make sure you catch up on anything you missed in the process later on. 

This is easy if your organization uses a video conferencing tool with transcription capabilities (like Vowel), which means participants don’t lose track of what’s been said.

❌ Leaving without explanation

It’s not always a great idea to leave a meeting – virtual or physical. But there are times when you really don’t have a choice: maybe you have another meeting or appointment to get to, or someone in your house needs assistance. 

You can leave without saying a word, but it’s always good to be accountable. Vowel’s comment feature can help write a quick “I’ve got to run, catch up later” message without unmuting your microphone or disrupting the meeting. 

Elevate your meeting culture

Meetings are non-negotiable in most companies. And that’s why you need a good meeting culture, one that supports short meetings, clear goals (agendas), small invite lists, and shifting to more asynchronous communication. 

You can elevate your meeting culture by using a virtual meeting app like Vowel. It’ll transform your meetings and make them more productive, using useful features like talk-time tracking, transcription, bookmarking, agenda creation, and more. 

To make your meetings instantly more focused and useful after the fact, sign up to Vowel — it’s free!