If you’re like other small business owners, you’ve probably spent an increasing amount time in online meetings in recent years. But there are tricky situations involved in these types of meetings, versus the old school meeting held around a conference table or in a client’s office, you may want to remember. To ensure that you’re courteous to all other meeting participants, here are 50 tips for online business meeting etiquette.
Online Business Meeting Etiquette Tips
Only Schedule Necessary Meetings
The first rule of meetings, even online ones, is that they should serve a specific purpose. If it’s something you can just send in a quick email or solve in another, less time consuming way, don’t make your team spend their time sitting through an entire meeting.
Invite Essential People
Similarly, your meeting should only include those who are actually essential to the conversation. If you invite someone who the information isn’t really relevant to, then you’ll just waste their time.
Don’t Invite Unannounced Guests
You should also make it clear to everyone attending who all is on the guest list. You don’t want anyone to be surprised when the meeting gets started.
Ask People About Scheduling
For online meetings, it can also be a good idea to ask essential participants about times that work for them instead of just scheduling it and then inviting people.
Send an Official Invite
Once you’ve chosen a time and date, you can send an official invite on a program like Google Calendar so that people have an easy way to reserve that specific time.
Confirm If Necessary
If you’ve scheduled a meeting well ahead of time, you can also just quickly confirm with the people you’re meeting with about a day ahead of time just to make sure.
Send Out a Specific Agenda
Before the meeting, at least a few days to a week before if possible, send out an agenda to all participants detailing what the meeting will cover.
Offer a Set Timetable
You should also include times on your agenda so attendees will have the ability to plan out the rest of their day.
Let People Know What to Expect
If you need people to have any documents or other materials accessible during the meeting the meeting, whether it’s an important document or some client contact information, make that clear beforehand.
Make Sure Everyone Can Access Online Conference Rooms
If you are holding a virtual meeting, it’s a good idea to check in with everyone beforehand to make sure they have access to the program you intend to use. Let them know with plenty of time in case they need to download an app in order to attend your meeting.
Have a Test Beforehand
It’s also a good idea for you to test your own meeting app or program beforehand just to make sure the meeting will go smoothly.
Have an Appropriate User Name and Photo
If you’re using a program like Skype for meetings, make sure your username and photo are appropriate for professional meetings.
Confirm Time Zones
With virtual meetings, you also need to be clear about the time zone when you’re scheduling. Don’t just assume new contacts are in your time zone.
Show Up on Time
Whether you’re running the meeting or just attending as a guest, you need to show up on time. Realistically, you should be a little bit early just to be safe.
Call If You Have a Conflict
If you do have an emergency or conflict that will make you miss a meeting or be late, you need to let the host or attendees know as soon as possible. If your conflict arises the day of the meeting, that probably means you need to call the person so you can be sure they get the message.
Wait for Everyone to Arrive
Once you’ve dialed in or entered your online conference room, welcome people as they show up, but wait for everyone you know is attending before really diving in.
Choose a Quiet Location
Even though you can have online meetings from basically anywhere, it’s best to choose somewhere quiet where there won’t be a lot of distractions or noise.
Establish Volumes Right Away
When everyone shows up in an online conference, have everyone say hello to test the volume so you can make adjustments right away if necessary.
If you’re partaking in a video conference, you do need to consider your appearance. It might not be as important as it is for in-person meetings. But you still need to look professional.
If you’ve invited people who might not know each other to an online meeting, make sure you introduce them personally or give them the opportunity to introduce themselves at the start of the meeting.
Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or the seventh time, remembering names and actually using them when greeting people can go a long way.
Stay on Topic
During the meeting, you might go off on side conversations from time to time. But make sure you always lead the conversation back to the main purpose and keep an eye on the clock so you can be courteous of everyone’s time.
When you’re speaking during a meeting, be sure to enunciate and speak loudly enough for everyone to hear you.
Don’t Interrupt Others
And when others are talking, always let them finish before offering a thought of your own.
Avoid Speaking Right Away
When a question is posed to the whole group, you can avoid awkward interruptions by waiting a second to speak up. If others do so right away, then wait your turn. If no one speaks up, you’re good to go.
Ask Before Sharing Long Thoughts
If you have a long thought or idea to share, ask if it’s okay to do so beforehand, in case you’re running short on time. You can always round it up in an email later or share in another meeting.
Mute When You’re Not Speaking
To avoid background noises becoming a distraction for others, simply mute yourself when you’re not speaking for a fair amount of time.
Also while others are talking, make sure you actually listen. You don’t want to miss something and then bring it up in a question later.
Show That You’re Listening
You should also actually show people that you’re listening when they talk, if you’re on a video conference. Don’t just bury your head in your notes. Look at them and practice active listening.
Use Care With Humor
If you feel the need to use humor during meetings, just make sure that it’s appropriate for your audience. This is much easier when you’re just talking to close team members. But use more caution when meeting with clients or people you don’t know well.
Provide Copies of Essential Documents
If you reference any important documents during your meeting, send those items to meeting participants before or during so they can have them for reference.
Be Prepared With Presentation Materials
And if you need any equipment to make a presentation, make sure everything is in good working order beforehand so you don’t waste time trying to get it to work.
Know Your Audience
When preparing your presentation or other agenda items, it’s also important that you consider your audience and cater your messaging specifically to them. Don’t waste people’s time with pitches that aren’t relevant. And don’t use a tone or topic that isn’t likely to appeal to the exact people you’re meeting with.
Put Your Phone Away
You should also keep your phone silenced during meetings so that it doesn’t interrupt.
Avoid Nervous Habits
It’s natural in some cases for meeting participants to practice nervous habits like clicking pens or smacking gum. But make a conscious effort to avoid those during professional meetings.
Don’t Eat While Talking
You should also avoid eating during online meetings. So have a snack beforehand. And only sip water when it’s someone else’s turn to talk if necessary.
Have a Set Time for Questions
It’s also a good idea to have a set time for people to ask questions if you’re the one leading the meeting. And if you’re attending, make sure you locate that opportunity on the agenda so you know when to bring up any points.
Don’t Dominate the Questions Section
When that questions section does come around, you may ask one or two questions. But don’t dominate the conversation. Give others a chance too.
Offer Credit for Ideas
If you’re bringing up anything during a meeting that wasn’t your idea initially, make sure you give credit to the originator. If you don’t, people will just assume it was your idea.
Discuss Personal Matters After the Meeting
If anything comes up during a group meeting that’s really only relevant to you and one other person, make time to discuss it later instead of taking up everyone else’s time.
Don’t Call People Out
You might also sometimes come across situations where a member of your team makes a mistake that negatively impacts your meeting. But don’t use meeting time to lecture them. Call a private meeting with that person afterward to discuss if necessary.
Keep Your Cool
And no matter who you’re dealing with, don’t lose your temper during a meeting.
Give Breaks for Lengthy Meetings
If you’re hosting a meeting that’s going to be a few hours or more, include scheduled breaks into your agenda so people can grab something to eat, check their phones and use the bathroom.
End on Time
Throughout the meeting, keep an eye on the clock so you can be sure to end the meeting when you said you would.
Give People the Opportunity to Leave
If, by chance, you didn’t get a chance to discuss everything you wanted to in the time allotted, you can ask people if they’d like to stay and finish the meeting. But give people the chance to leave on time if they have prior commitments.
Thank Everyone for Attending
If you called the meeting, make sure you also say thank you to everyone who attended before they leave.
Be Cognizant of Other Languages and Cultures
In some cases, you might also find yourself meeting with people from different backgrounds and cultures. So be aware of their language and customs to the best of your ability before meeting.
Follow Up With Notes
After your meeting, it’s a good idea to share some notes or reminders with people via email. Or if you don’t have anything specific to follow up on, send a quick thank you note.
Avoid Sharing Meeting Information With Others
When it comes to meetings, the items discussed should stay within the group of attendees, unless you’ve clearly explained otherwise. So don’t share details with others who weren’t in attendance.
Complete Any Action Items
And if you volunteered to complete any tasks after your meeting, make sure you follow up on those items promptly.
Video Conference Photo via Shutterstock