Top 15 ground rules for your team’s virtual meetings

by Liam Martin
Ground Rules for Virtual Meetings

A virtual meeting is a great way to connect with your remote team, clients, and stakeholders. 

However, these meetings can often be difficult to execute due to the lack of in-person communication, software errors, and other technical glitches. 

To overcome such issues and conduct effective meetings in a virtual environment, you need to pay attention to the meeting etiquette. 

In this article, we’ll look into 15 key ground rules for virtual meetings that you should consider to carry out a great virtual meeting.

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15 key ground rules for virtual meetings

Meeting ground rules help teams communicate, collaborate, and create decisions effectively during a virtual meeting.

Here are a few ground rules that you should observe to conduct an effective virtual meeting:

1. Choose a suitable video conference software 

Consider your team’s requirements and pick a meeting tool accordingly. 

One of the most important features you need in a virtual meeting platform is compatibility with all OS (Operating Systems) and devices. 

Once you get a suitable virtual meeting tool, learn how to operate it and share what you learned with your co-workers. Ask your employees to go through basic functions like screen sharing, muting and unmuting, adding a person, etc. 

Here are a few popular video conferencing apps in the market:

2. Establish the meeting agenda 

Every meeting needs an agenda to avoid deviations and save everyone’s time.

For example, let’s say an attendee starts talking about paid leaves while the team is discussing targets. If you have a fixed agenda, it may be easier to redirect the discussion back to targets.

An agenda also gives you an idea about the meeting duration so you can ensure it doesn’t go on beyond a certain time limit.

Further, split the agenda into smaller discussion pointers. This way, you’re less likely to miss out on any topics and cover all the important points. 

For example, if your meeting agenda is to plan a get-together, you may list choosing a suitable date, picking a venue, and other activities as different discussion points, etc. You can assign time limits for each of these.

However, as a host, you need to share the agenda at least a day before the meeting. This way, the participants can prepare for the meeting.

3. Prepare for the meeting 

Once the agenda is out, meeting participants can read on the topic, write down doubts, and share their thoughts. They can also go through the meeting attachments (in case there are any) before the meeting and gain some insight into the topic. 

This is especially true when a meeting participant is giving a long speech or presentation. The other attendees may be able to follow the discussion better if you provide a short note before the virtual meeting.

This way, everyone will mostly have an idea about the topic and interact with the group more actively.

Finally, ensure that your hardware and software are running properly before the meeting. If necessary, conduct a test call with a few colleagues.

4. Move personal files from the desktop

Sometimes you may have to share your screen with team members in a virtual meeting. Your personal files popping up on the screens during work calls may look unprofessional. Moreover, it may disturb attendees and violate your privacy.

As a result, moving your personal files from your desktop is an important virtual meeting etiquette. Additionally, ensure that all non work related tabs are closed to protect your personal information and that your desktop wallpaper is simple and professional.

But making such changes can be time-consuming. An alternative is to share only the relevant screen instead of the entire window. This way, you can prevent an attendee from seeing any other window containing personal files or tabs.

5. Follow proper dress code 

A meeting in a virtual setting is as formal as one in a physical meeting. So wearing something casual could give other meeting participants the impression that you’re disinterested. 

For example, if your workplace culture necessitates employees to wear shirts, meeting participants may take an attendee in a shirt more seriously than one in a t-shirt.

Try to wear business casual attire or the predetermined dress code instead of pajamas. 

6. Clear your background

A messy video background can reflect poorly on your character, and online meeting attendees may consider you unprofessional for displaying an unkempt background.

Clearing your background is a crucial virtual meeting etiquette. This will also help you create the perfect workspace vibe.

For example, let’s say a meeting attendee has the poster of a popular actor in the background. This can sidetrack others, and the virtual meeting may steer away from the agenda to movies.

Additionally, the lighting in the room is also vital for participants to see your facial expressions as you speak clearly.

7. Join the meeting on time

Be it a virtual or an in person meeting, being on time reflects your professionalism

A meeting participant who joins the meeting late may seem undependable. Not to mention that the participant may miss the discussion on some topics on the agenda. They could also miss some opportunities to volunteer or prove themselves.

In some cases, team members may wait for an employee to join after the meeting’s starting time. This can disrupt the whole virtual meeting schedule and cause work delays for everyone. Additionally, employees who arrive early may feel unfairly treated.

8. Assign a person to take notes

Once the virtual meeting begins, it may be difficult for you to find a volunteer to take notes. That’s why you need to assign a note taking in charge before the meeting starts.

Taking meeting notes can inform those who missed the meeting and serve as a quick recap for attendees. Additionally, anyone can use meeting notes as a reference to prepare for upcoming meetings.

For example, a human resource employee can refer to the meeting minutes conducted at the beginning of the month to decide whether to approve a particular leave.

9. Turn your camera on

Remote work can make employees feel disconnected from their team. This can impact team bonding and decrease engagement.

A virtual meeting is more likely to resemble a regular meeting if attendees keep their cameras on. Seeing each other can help attendees in a remote meeting bond with each other better. 

Also, by turning the webcam on, you may be able to convey matters better through facial expressions and body language. This way, other meeting attendees may be able to understand your ideas clearly.

10. Keep microphone on mute when inactive

Muting the microphone is a virtual meeting rule meant to prevent disturbances due to background noise. You need to follow this rule, especially when you’re just listening and not verbally contributing to the conversation.

In addition to muting the microphone, you need to mute all device notifications to avoid disturbances in the meeting room. If not, a ringing phone or message notification can stop attendees’ from paying full attention.

Most importantly, see to it that you inform your family members about the meeting. This way, they may not accidentally barge into your background or create any unnecessary commotion.

For example, you need to ask your family not to turn up the volume of the television beyond a limit.

And when you can’t eliminate the noise, use noise-canceling tools, like Krisp and NVIDIA Broadcast.

11. Steer clear of distractions

Some common distractions during meetings may include:

  • Fiddling with the phone.
  • Typing or doing other work during the call. 
  • Excessive physical movement, like walking. 
  • Moving the camera around. 
  • Unmuting without having anything to say. 

An inattentive team member engaging in such behavior can affect the concentration of all attendees. 

Additionally, the distracted employee may ask the speaker to repeat the information, wasting more time. Lead with example to avoid this and make sure all attendees know the proper way to behave on team calls. 

12. Take timely breaks

If you are a meeting host, maintain the meeting etiquette of taking regular breaks. Meeting participants would feel bored and worn out by a long conference without any breaks. A break can help them rejuvenate and increase productivity.

For example, you can conduct a 35-minute Zoom meeting, disperse for 10 minutes, and join again for a meeting time of 35 minutes. This will not only act as a break, but also make your Zoom meetings more productive.

Check out our guide on how to extend a Zoom meeting time limit.

13. Inform others before leaving during the call

Sometimes, you may have to leave in between an online meeting to attend to other urgent matters. A sudden departure can seem rude, especially since you’re the host. To prevent any awkward pauses, all you need to do is leave a message. 

Most conference meeting tools have a chat function that lets an attendee start a side conversation in the meeting channel. All meeting participants can view your message while the meeting is going on and won’t be surprised when you leave the meeting.

But before you exit, remember to make another attendee the host. If not, the meeting may end when you leave.

Here’s how you can make someone else a host on Zoom.

14. End your meeting professionally 

Meeting participants could have missed parts of the meeting or misunderstood a topic due to a low attention span. You can fix such issues by conducting a closing round – 30 seconds of closing remarks on the topics discussed – for each meeting.

This can give all attendees a chance to pick up some information they left out.

As a meeting host, you need to mention:

  • Action items or next steps.
  • Employees responsible for actionable items.
  • When the next meeting will occur.

Additionally, since the virtual meeting will end when the meeting host leaves, you need to stay until everyone has spoken and said their goodbyes.

15. Share meeting ground rules prior to the video call

Attendees require time to accommodate the meeting into their schedules and prepare according to the meeting rules. As a result, you need to decide the meeting etiquette and share it beforehand.

For example, without a meeting rule, a new attendee may not know the meeting dress code or agenda.

Additionally, make sure your virtual meeting etiquette is culturally appropriate. If you have a mixed-culture team, see to it that none of the rules offend anyone.

How can you ensure attendees follow meeting rules?

A few ways you can encourage attendees to stick to the meeting etiquette are:

  • Explain the importance of each rule: Attendees may see the logic in following the rule if you tell them how it benefits the virtual team during the meeting.
  • Get an opinion on every rule: Meeting participants who disagree with an etiquette can voice their opinion, and the team can decide whether to include the rule or not. 
  • Remind about the etiquette before the meeting: You need to read out the rules at the beginning of the meeting to remind the participants about the etiquette. 
  • Address inattentiveness: Politely ask the distracted participants to concentrate better and inquire about why they’re distracted.

Wrapping up

Virtual meetings are here to stay due to the increasing popularity of the remote work model. 

Fortunately, you can conduct a successful virtual meeting by following some ground rules, such as preparing well in advance, managing distractions, being punctual, etc. 

You can refer to the best practices mentioned in this article to create good virtual meeting etiquette guidelines suited to your work culture.

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