You can probably run much better, more productive virtual meetings at work. We’re not trying to insult you. But for most companies, that’s just a fact of the current working environment. In fact, we’re no exception here at JOIN.
We, too, used to be horrible at virtual meetings and Zoom etiquette. And we’re still far from perfect. But we’ve learned from our mistakes, adapted our internal guidelines, and improved them. It’s an ongoing process, outlined in this constantly evolving guide to Zoom and virtual meeting etiquette.
The pandemic physically forced most of us into virtual meetings. And it kind of ruined them for us. But virtual meetings are incredibly useful when done properly.
Especially when working in a hybrid or remote team, like us, your business needs video conferencing for the team to stay connected. But to make it work you should lay out some simple Zoom etiquette and best practices. Well, here are ours.
- When to use Zoom (and when not to)
- Zoom etiquette: 15 tips and best practices for your virtual meeting
When to use Zoom (and when not to)
The first question we asked our team members was simple. When should we use Zoom?
Before getting into the practical etiquette of virtual meetings we wanted to establish Zoom’s place within our company’s ecosystem. So we decided to ask the team. When do you (prefer to) use Zoom? And when do you not (want to) use Zoom?
After filtering out the somewhat unhelpful responses (“like never, ever, ever”) we consolidated it into the following points:
When to use Zoom
When not to use Zoom
For a deeper dive into when we use which communication channel at JOIN, have a look at our does it need to be a meeting guide.
Zoom etiquette: 15 tips and best practices for your virtual meeting
Once you’re certain that your meeting has to be a meeting, it’s time to get ready. Here are the Zoom etiquette best practices that work for us. We hope you find them useful, too!
1. It’s still a meeting
Much of the etiquette that applies to in-person meetings (e.g. don’t be late) still applies to virtual meetings.
So don’t forget to stick to any other rules on how to schedule meetings and additional meeting best practices.
2. Smile for the camera
Have your camera on for every meeting. This should be your default. And unless having the camera on hinders your meeting in any way (e.g. due to a slow internet connection), you should stick to this rule.
Wait, but doesn’t turning off your video every now and then help your employees with combatting Zoom fatigue?
You’re right. But if you’re going to turn your camera off anyway, then why use a video conferencing tool at all? Instead, consider discussing your meeting points in writing or calling via phone or Slack.
When you have a video meeting it’s because you need to have a certain type of face-to-face interaction that you can’t get via other channels of communication. Via video call, you can read each other’s facial expressions and body language (partly). It’s also a much more personal form of communication than something like email.
That’s why one of our most important virtual meeting rules is: Keep your camera on!
Oh, and always add a profile photo to your account. So if you HAVE to turn off your camera we can still see your lovely face.
3. Check your tech set-up before the call
“Karen, can you hear us? I think your headphones aren’t working…”
Always check that your tech set-up is working before you go on the call. Of course, unexpected technical issues can happen, but a lot can be prevented if you just test your video, microphone, and headphones beforehand.
Not only does it make the virtual meeting more awkward if you’re fighting with your device, but you’re using up everyones’ time. People spend too much time in (virtual) meetings as it is, so don’t make it longer than it has to be.
4. Blur your busy background
Your background doesn’t have to be a perfect oasis of serenity, but it shouldn’t be a cause of distraction either.
If you’re working from home and your flatmate is cleaning behind you it’s better to blur your background or use a custom image as your backdrop. To do this, in the Zoom app go to Settings > Background & Filters to blur your background, add one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, or add your own custom image.
5. Mute yourself when not talking
Mute yourself by default, unmute yourself to speak.
From barking pets at home to someone’s loud breathing in the microphone. Background noise is often unavoidable. But these sounds can distract people during the call, especially if the noises are coming from thirty participants all at once.
That’s why you should keep yourself muted at all times unless you’re actually saying something.
6. Raise your hand (physically or virtually)
Do you have a question or something to say during a presentation or when someone is speaking? That’s great, but please don’t just rudely interrupt them! Talking over someone else is a no-go. It doesn’t fit normal social etiquette and it sure doesn’t fit proper Zoom etiquette either.
Instead, use Zoom’s raise your hand feature or simply raise your hand in front of the camera to signal you have something to say. Alternatively, you can leave a message in the meeting’s chat. This is especially useful when in larger groups and for in-presentation questions as it doesn’t break the presenter’s flow.
7. Give everyone a chance to speak
Speaking up in a (busy) meeting can be difficult. Doing it virtually is often even harder. In real life, you can use certain body language to signal that you have something to say.
But in a virtual meeting, especially when your connection isn’t optimal, it can be difficult to join in. And if two team members are actively discussing something you might struggle to jump in to give your opinion.
That’s why it’s even more important with virtual meetings than with IRL meetings that everyone gets a chance to speak. If you’re leading the meeting, pay attention to whether people are trying to say something and actively ask participants to contribute to certain points.
8. Come prepared
Although this is always part of meeting etiquette, it’s especially important during video meetings. This further facilitates a fruitful discussion and encourages all participants to actively engage.
As the host, you should always share the agenda before the virtual meeting, as early as possible. The earlier you do, the more time participants have to prepare for the meeting, the better the in-meeting discussions will likely be.
When scheduling a Zoom meeting in your calendar you can attach the meeting agenda document or you can directly add it to the description of the meeting invitation.
9. Don’t multitask
You might think you’re using your time efficiently by answering emails during a meeting, but you’re not. Multitasking isn’t good for your productivity. In fact, multitasking is mostly a myth.
A study found that only 2.5% of people even have the ability to process multiple tasks at once. The rest of us don’t multitask, they just switch between tasks. Task switching makes you more prone to make mistakes and strongly reduces your productivity. But that’s just looking at the statistical impact of multitasking on your productivity at work.
When you’re doing other stuff during a Zoom meeting you’re just being incredibly rude. You’re not giving your team members the attention they deserve. And you are decreasing the meeting’s productivity and engagement. You are, quite frankly, the weakest link.
So focus on your virtual meeting, and on that meeting only. Your inbox can wait half an hour.
10. Try to eat outside of meetings
You should try to avoid eating during a meeting as it can distract others and yourself. After all, you’ll technically be task-switching.
Now if your day is filled with back-to-back meetings you sometimes just do have to eat something during a meeting. It happens. But try to avoid it whenever possible.
And if you do eat at a virtual meeting, we beg you, please, keep yourself muted at all times! Nobody wants to hear you slurping your noodle soup…
11. If you’re running late let people know
This is common courtesy.
Send a Slack message, update the meeting invite (if you’re the host), or email the meeting guests. Don’t just let people sit in front of the screen waiting for you to show up.
12. Stick to the scheduled time
You don’t want to get stuck in a meeting for longer than necessary. And equally, you shouldn’t schedule too much time for a meeting either.
When scheduling a Zoom meeting, try to block out the time that you will likely need (rather than blocking out an hour slot per default).
Once in the meeting, keep track of time to ensure you stick to the planned time slot. You can use Zoom’s Timer app to better manage your time during meetings.
13. Don’t record a meeting by default
Opinions are divided on this point, and we struggled to come to a satisfactory consensus.
Some companies swear by recording every meeting by default so there’s always a record of whatever has been discussed. It also means that if someone missed a meeting they can watch the recording at a later time.
But knowing that a meeting is recorded might also affect how candidly participants speak. And if your business has hundreds of virtual meetings every day, organising and keeping track of all those stored recordings in the cloud can be time-consuming.
So we decided against recording meetings by default. There’s simply no point in recording daily standups and weekly team meetings that nobody will ever watch again.
But we do hit that red record button if we think it’ll add value. For example, if it’s an important company update and some team members are off sick. Or if you’re explaining a new product feature so people can rewatch it later for reference.
Just note that when you do decide to record a virtual meeting you should let attendees know at the start. It’s the polite thing to do.
14. Use Zoom features to your benefit
You should try to make the most of the different features Zoom has to offer. Not all of these might add value to your business. But they can sometimes help to keep team members engaged. Some examples of popular Zoom features:
- Enabling breakout rooms to split participants up into separate sessions (if you’re the meeting host, select the Breakout Rooms button at the bottom)
- Using in-meeting polls to quickly resolve discussions and get input from meeting participants (if you’re the meeting host, select the Polls button at the bottom)
- Collaborate with annotation tools to allow participants to add notes or drawings when someone is sharing their screen (select View Option > Annotate).
- Meet differently with immersive view to give your virtual meeting an IRL feeling (select View > Immersive)
You probably won’t use these features during your daily stand-ups or other regular meetings. But they can be useful for certain settings and help increase your team’s productivity.
15. Leave the meeting if it doesn’t add value
Last but definitely not least. This is one of our most important rules of Zoom etiquette: if it doesn’t add value you shouldn’t be there.
And that goes both ways. Whether you think the meeting won’t give you value or you won’t be able to add value to the meeting. If it doesn’t add value, don’t go. Do you only notice this halfway through the meeting?
Then just leave. But do follow the right virtual meeting etiquette. Send a message in the Zoom chat shortly stating why you’re leaving and then leave quietly. This ensures that you cause minimal disruption to the meeting. After all, the meeting will be important for others and you don’t want to break their concentration.
This was one of the hardest points to implement because people feel rude for leaving mid-meeting or rejecting invitations. But why should you sit through a meeting that doesn’t add value, just out of some perceived politeness?
Not wasting anyone’s time is the real polite thing to do. Are you interested in more handy time-saving and meeting tips?
Then check out the next article in our series, the after meeting checklist.