Professionalism in post pandemic era: etiquette for online meeting or webinar

The COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown has resulted into we attending a lot of our meetings online. While friendly facetime existed, professional meetings through digital mode picked up only in the pandemic time. This is a new arena for most people. Many struggled with the basic etiquette of an online meeting and due to a lack of any soft skills training in this domain, many still continue to struggle. With virtual meetings now seemingly a new normal in our life, it is necessary to understand how to present yourself professionally in these meetings.

Below are few guidelines on etiquettes for online meeting or webinar:
Learn to be on time as an etiquette

Getting late for meeting is never a right sign. Getting late for online meeting is not anything better. You may not need to knock the door, smile apologetically, face the boss – but the impact is equally damaging for your image. People hate waiting for others, especially in a pre-decided professional meeting.

For meetings with external clients, you end up giving out a wrong impression about your dedication straightway. If the client has senior members attending the meeting, the message that goes out is that you do not value their time. This may end up to be potentially harmful to your company’s business.

For webinars, the embarrassment of logging in may be much lesser. However, you may miss out on important instructions if you log in late. Unlike physical events, webinars do not spend much time in introductions and the discussion point starts immediately. Signing up late for a webinar may result into you missing out on important information about the topic.

That said, sometimes delay is beyond our control. A power failure or an internet failure or some unforeseen situation at home may result in a situation where you fail to log in to the meeting at the right time. In that case, be courteous enough to call up the key meeting attendees or organizer and inform them about your delay. Depending on the severity of the situation, request to reschedule the time of the meeting. But, be very sure to not do this with personal excuse.

Learn the meeting tool well as an etiquette

Online meetings and webinars is not only about signing in to the platform like an email. It is important to know the controls. Start by ensuring that you have downloaded the required App well in advance – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or any other that is being suggested for the meeting. Also, ensure that you have created an account on the same. Last minute downloading of the App and trying to create an account will lead to unnecessary delays.

The second thing that you need to be careful about is controls – especially the basic controls like microphone and camera. It is not only about learning how to turn the controls on and off but also to be proficient enough to do that whenever required during the meeting. We have seen a lot of embarrassing mishaps happen around the world when senior professionals including ministers forgot to turn off their cameras or mics in middle of meetings. Also, be sensitive to keep your mic turned off when you are not speaking. This will prevent any disturbance caused due to any background noise that may seep in from your side while someone else is speaking. This also means that you should be able to turn on your mic immediately when it is your turn to speak. Struggling to find the mic button at that time again reflects negatively.

The third is being prepared for a presentation if it is your turn. Learn how to share screen, present. Not all platforms work the same way. Also, you cannot be logging in from your mobile and then realise that your presentation copy is on your laptop. To avoid these, once again it is necessary that you download the meeting tool well in advance and check out all the basic controls in it.

Wait for your turn as an etiquette

Unlike physical meetings where you can at times side-talk with your colleague or speak out of turn by signalling to your colleague, in an online meeting it is a complete no go. For online meetings, your listening skills are put to test because speaking out of turn results into chaos and disturbance for other users.

Most meeting tools has a ‘Raise Hand’ feature to indicate that you want to make a point. Use that. Else, just simply wait for the speaker to complete his speech before you raise your question. In case of a webinar, the moderator will often allocate some time for the attendees to clear their doubts. There are often rules set in individual webinars on how and when questions should be asked. Follow them.

Be extra careful with your words as an etiquette

One of the biggest problem in digital world is it lacks emotions and non-verbal communication aspect. What you say is what you say. The words reflect exactly how they are put because the listener cannot see your physical or facial expression at that point of time. So ensure that you limit the jokes, personal comments etc to the minimum. They may not always land right in a digital communication. Also, because others do not get to see of understand the recipient’s reaction, they may feel offended by the situation overall.

Prepare your environment right

You may not require to wear a suit but you still need to look and dress presentable. Even if you plan not to turn on your camera, dress proper. It builds a seriousness about the meeting in you. It also ensures that in case of a sudden request to turn the camera on, you will not have to make an excuse or embarrass yourself.

Also, ensure that you are set against a neutral background. Many meeting Apps allow you to change or modify or add virtual backgrounds. If you intend to choose them, choose something neutral. Do not choose something fancy, colourful to show off and impress others. This is not a skillset to show off. The plain wall is much better and allows other attendees to focus on what you are saying rather than get distracted by the background you have chosen.

Ensure that you are seated in a room that is calm and quite. Do not be over-confident and decide to attend your meeting from the loo. Do not set yourself up in a big hall like the library. Do not sit in a park bench to attend meeting. Outdoor settings even if they look empty has noises of winds, trees, birds etc which may prove to be distraction and make your voice difficult to hear. Big halls or empty rooms tend to add echo to your voice. Be mindful about that.

Ensure that you place your camera right. Too low is a look into your nostrils, too high is a sneak peek into your receding hairline. Set your camera at a straight line from your face and look straight into the camera while speaking.

Apart from the above tips, the basic rules of sincerity, politeness and empathy also applies in a digital meeting. Just because, you have the option of attending the meeting from the comfort of your home – do not allow it to make you lose the basic human touch.