What not to do in an online meeting

Business people meeting around a table


This post is sponsored by Citrix GoToMeeting. As always, VentureBeat is adamant about maintaining editorial objectivity.

More and more technology is driving business. Whether it’s the bring-your-own-device movement, cloud computing, or video conferencing, business is adapting and advancing as quickly as it can.

Video calling and teleconferencing are now so commonplace that actual travel for business is now just one of many options. However, much like social networking and using your smartphone, video conferencing comes with its own set of etiquette rules. Here are seven big Don’ts to avoid when dialing in.

DON’T be late

This is a central tenet for all meetings, really. However, online meetings have the added element of unpredictable technical problems that might pop up. You can compensate for any potential issues by logging in a few minutes ahead of time, which will also help keep the meeting starting and ending at its scheduled times.

DON’T be unprepared

Before you even get to the log-in point, some preparation is in order. Make sure you have any necessary directions for the meeting easily accessible to all participants. Likewise, any digital or physical documents should be ready at hand.

DON’T get off track

The best way to make sure that online meetings stay on track is to provide an agenda before the meeting begins, and to keep the agenda at hand in case the conversation starts to stray away from the planned topics. It’s also a great resource for anyone who arrives late to the meeting, or is accidentally disconnected.

DON’T multitask

Sure, it’s tempting to try to handle email or other tasks while the meeting is happening, but doing that means you’re not paying close attention to what’s actually happening in the meeting. That can lead to some awkward moments when you’re asked a question and have no idea what’s actually going on. Also, running multiple programs can cause your computer to run slowly or disconnect from the meeting. Additionally, and this should really go without saying, don’t eat during the meeting. No one wants to hear you munching away during a discussion of next quarter’s forecasts.

DON’T forget you’re in a professional meeting

Many online meetings are taken outside of a traditional meeting room, so participants often feel more casual about the process. However, make no mistake: This is a real meeting. It’s just taking place in a virtual environment. That means extending everyone in attendance the courtesies you would if you were meeting in person.

Mute your line when you’re not speaking so no ambient noise disrupts the call. Make sure your location is clean and presentable (if you’re video conferencing). And don’t interrupt others — aside from being plain rude, it also makes it difficult to understand what everyone is saying. It’s also a good practice to introduce all participants at the beginning of the meeting, and if there are a lot of attendees, to announce your name before you begin speaking.

DON’T reference unavailable materials

If some of the meeting’s participants are attending virtually and only have an audio connection, they may not be able to view the PowerPoint presentation you have up on the screen or the sales sheets you’re handing out. If you can’t make documentation available to everyone beforehand, make sure you’re explaining everything fully for those who may not have eyes on the situation. Don’t discuss documents or items they can’t see, unless related to the meeting, or hold side conversations about things that virtual attendees do not have access to.

DON’T forget to follow up

Once the meeting has adjourned, type up a quick follow-up document that covers what happened in the meeting, what will be happening next and who is responsible for what. Sending out notes from the session helps to minimize miscommunication and also provides actionable items (and time frames) so everyone who was in attendance understands what is expected of them.

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