It’s been nearly two years now since virtual meetings became the norm. Initially, it was a novelty, but then it became a necessity because people were so desperate to connect during the various lockdown periods. Now there’s an element of fatigue — the Zoom gloom — and it’s seen many of us lose our grip on basic meeting etiquette.
Videos off. Videos on but openly ignoring the meeting underway. Turning up late. Leaving abruptly.
It’s time to brush up on modern meeting manners!
1. What manner of meeting?
If you are the host of a meeting, it’s up to you to decide on its format and make that known. Will this be a video call or will it require audio only? Send out an agenda so people know if it’s one they need to be at their desks for, or if they can be walking their dog to school to pick up little Jimmy and take him to his jiu-jitsu lesson.
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Stick to the agenda. Small talk is out of control during virtual meetings now. It’s up to the host to keep things on track and productive, and it’s up to the participants to keep the purpose of the meeting in mind and avoid getting side-tracked.
If pre-reading a document will help with this process, make sure it’s sent out well in advance so that everyone is prepared.
2. Meeting that manner of meeting
If it is a video call, turn your camera on! You can’t turn your face off during a face-to-face meeting so why do people think it’s okay to present a blank screen? It may be that the nature of the meeting means you keep videos on to introduce yourself and then turn them off, but try to start with it on.
3. Presentation and poise
Your host may not be as familiar as you with the basic rules of meeting etiquette, or you may not know what type of meeting it is until you are on the call, so be prepared. You should always be ready to turn that camera on. You don’t need to be in a collared shirt but you need to be clean and have your hair brushed. Get that Vegemite off your face at the very least!
And think about your background. Everyone knows you’re working from home but that doesn’t mean they want a deep insight into your life to the point where it includes your bed or a pile of dirty laundry. Virtual backgrounds exist, so use them. And don’t sit in the dark. It’s really creepy.
If you have been invited to a meeting, that usually means your input is valued, so contribute!
Don’t sit there on mute for the whole call. Don’t only pipe up at the end with a throw away comment so at least you said something. A meeting in which you hardly said a word may not be the best use of your time.
Which brings me to my final point …
5. What is the point of the meeting?
Much has been written about the rise of the virtual meeting. Within months of the pandemic taking hold our calendars became chock full of more pointless meetings than ever before. And like the virus, one bad meeting seemed to spawn a dozen more.
So, let us reverse this terrible trend!
Consider whether the meeting needs to happen at all and whether everyone invited needs to be. Don’t just flick a couple of extra emails on the invite just in case. Consider the time of others too.
Imagine the difference that could be made by cutting out two meetings a day. Imagine the time and what you could do with it.
In 2022, I challenge you to end the Zoom gloom and embrace the polite, meaningful meeting. And make the extra time count.