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For Virtual Meetings, Tech Etiquette Matters

Virtual meetings pose an especially difficult challenge when it comes to etiquette. Here are some guidelines.

Your virtual attendees no doubt will have their smartphones, laptops, and tablets at hand during your videoconference, making it incredibly difficult to hold their attention on the meeting’s purpose and goals. Here are a few rules of modern etiquette that should be observed when hosting videoconferences or other virtual meetings.

• Prepare as carefully for online meetings as you would for in-person meetings—the informal veneer of videoconferencing can be deceiving, but business exchanges must be handled with equal professionalism in both real and virtual life.

• Manners matter. Be cognizant and respectful of dialogue, tone, posture, eye contact, cultural norms, and other real-life concerns while virtually conversing.

• Test equipment ahead of going live. Equipment malfunctions may still happen, but they will be minimized if you do some testing ahead of the big meeting. Should technical malfunctions occur, greet them with poise and aplomb—others are watching. Maintaining grace under pressure is important, as is having a backup plan.

• Clean up the background that will be visible on camera. Be aware of any sensitive personal information that may unintentionally be revealed by objects that are visible in the frame, and make sure your surroundings are neat and professional.

• Speak clearly and distinctly. Try not to mumble. Note that computer microphones and speakers may distort your voice: It may be necessary to talk more loudly and enunciate more clearly than normal—however, it’s best to ask the other party how signals are coming through before doing so.

• Lag, or signal delays, may also impact conversations. Be sure to factor timing into exchanges so as not to talk over one another, miss important information, or cause unintentional gaffes.

• When attending online team meetings, assign specific team members to specific tasks—e.g., recording notes, updating master project documents, or jotting down action items—to minimize confusion and ensure that all team members are in sync.

• Formalize and adopt videoconferencing-specific policies so that employees know what to expect from sessions and how to comport themselves.

• When conducting virtual gatherings, keep your surroundings as similar as possible to those you’d encounter during real-world meetings. According to studies, doing so will help place professional participants at greater ease.

Scott Steinberg, a trend expert and futurist, is author of Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World and other business books. He’s also founder of travel and hospitality trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch.

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