Virtual Meeting Etiquette and Its Influence

The office etiquette that we all have to follow in everyday life has suddenly entered our digital space. Due to Covid-19, many people had to start working from home, and remote work has become the new normal — which caused some significant changes in our routine.

Regardless of where we work, the need to meet with co-workers and senior managers still exists. Companies have plenty of opportunities to organize work processes for their employees remotely. They constantly seek ways to manage the standard flow of things, which is why virtual meetings have become a reality for many people.

Because of that, many software developers have invested much effort into making online communication comfortable and suitable for everyone. However, people also need soft skills that no developer can offer. It is chaos when everybody does what they wish during live calls. But by following certain rules, problems can be reduced to a minimum. Read on to learn about virtual meeting etiquette!

What Is Virtual Meeting Etiquette?

When a team gathers in the conference room for brainstorming or meets with a client, it might get too noisy. In such a case, the leading manager will ask the loudest discussions to quiet down. Of course, they can do so discreetly via gestures and hints, but what if the meeting is virtual? Here, it is best to send a private message. This is where virtual etiquette comes in, which every employee must follow to avoid uncomfortable and confusing situations.

In its most general form, virtual etiquette is usually defined as the unspoken rules of communication in the online space. These rules are not strict, but they certainly can demonstrate to others what sort of a person you are. Etiquette is the most crucial point of conducting a client meeting. In the digital space, rules are often formed spontaneously. They mainly depend on the intellectual and cultural level of the participants in the online discussion.

That is why it is better to learn the rules before the meeting or to actively observe other attendees and see how they are behaving. In many cases, the person hosting the virtual meeting will explain some general ideas of how to participate in the discussion right at the beginning. Try to adhere to these guidelines—if etiquette isn’t followed, the meeting may become confusing or even be a waste of time.
Now, let’s examine the roots of virtual etiquette.

A Little Bit of History

Any space that brings together a large number of people will, over time, develop standard rules. For example, virtual etiquette began to form as more and more people started to use the internet. Initially, such data exchange was used between the military people, but with the development of education, it became more publically available.

Duke University created Uniset communication software in the 80s. It served students and teachers and became the first communication platform of that time. At the beginning of the school year, a large number of freshmen, unfamiliar with Usenet rules, joined the university ranks. It took them about a month to learn the rules under the guidance of their upperclassmen. During September, there were more incidents of unruly behavior on the web than at any other time of the year, but then things got better.

In the 90s, many non-students got access to Uniset, which produced more mess inside the system. The newcomers began to form their own rules. In order to avoid such a fiasco during virtual meetings, participants need to abide by particular requirements, which we’ll address shortly.

Why We Need Etiquette on Virtual Meetings

One of the necessities of integrating digital etiquette is that it helps us communicate more comfortably and reach agreements faster. However, more factors prove the need for etiquette even in digital matters:

  1. People of different ages have opposite approaches to many issues. Common rules help minimize the differences and avoid unnecessary arguing. The lack of regulation of digital etiquette is particularly acute for Gen Z, who grew up in a digital environment from birth and really did not know life without technology. Although the issues of interaction and life in the digital age are no less important for members of other generations, the issue of trust and relationships is the most acute for the older generation.
  2. The creation of unified norms makes it easier to regulate the process of communication. You cannot argue with the fact that it is irrelevant to raise your voice if you disagree with the opposite opinion or interrupt others while they speak. If someone does not follow these simple rules, the senior management can find a way to discipline this person. It would be a clear sign for others how not to behave.
  3. The simplicity of communication can be achieved via virtual etiquette because everyone will be heard. The organizer is empowered with special tools that allow for muting the person who’s yelling or behaving inappropriately. This way, the atmosphere is maintained even better than in offline meetings.

Virtual Meeting Etiquette for Successful Communication

Just like regular meetings, video conference calls require preparation. Designate in advance the time at which the meeting starts and how long it will last. Doing so will allow you to build a constructive conversation and not waste your time and the time of others. So, here are some common rules of how to behave during video calls:

  • Ask questions and hear the answers. The right questions help to structure the conversation, and listening helps to capture the essence;
  • Communicate the gist first, then the details. Since you are immediately indicating the topic of the conversation, your audience won’t be confused;
  • Remain calm. If the temperature rises during a conversation, and people are trying to convince each other of their own point of view, shift the focus. Remain neutral as a moderator and offer to come back to the topic at a later date or address the issues in a different format;
  • Summarize. Draw the bottom line and outline a timeline and a way forward;
  • Call back. If, for some reason, you had to interrupt the conversation and promised to come back to it, keep your promise;
  • Observe the dress code and have a non-distracting background. This rule of online etiquette is especially important in business communication. You must take care of your appearance if a video call is planned. All the rules regarding dress code, as well as makeup and hair, are like in real life: in a virtual business meeting, attendees should be dressed professionally. An important nuance: many people think that only a professional top is enough for video communication, but this is not true. At the most inopportune moment in the frame could show that you’re wearing colorful socks or slippers with kittens, shorts or sweatpants, poorly combined with a shirt and jacket. And in general, a carefully thought-out outfit disciplines you and makes you feel more collected.

More Rules of Virtual Etiquette for Online Meetings

It is possible to continue this long list of the most valuable and well-known rules. However, some of them may fit only a particular situation:

  1. Stay polite. Don’t argue publicly; air your grievances in private. The Internet remembers everything, and what you write in the heat of the moment can become a problem for all sides. If you must enter into a discussion in open correspondence, it is sufficient to state your position clearly and concisely, without insulting or accusing, ignoring trolls and personalities. And everything else is better solved through private correspondence or audio/video calls.
  2. Do not lose focus. It is hard to be attentive during the whole meeting. People can only receive information for another five or ten minutes. That is why it is vital to turn off your microphone if you are not speaking. If you have to continue working, switch off because the mouse and keyboard clicking can make other participants nervous. Instead, try to write down significant pieces of information or ask for a small break.
  3. Try to look at the camera when speaking. It means that you are looking into the eyes of your audience instead of having a wandering gaze.

By following the digital etiquette tips presented above, you will show appreciation and respect for your colleagues.