Whether you are hosting or attending, it’s important to treat a conference call like you would an in-person meeting. All the same rules of meetings apply–with a few additional ones that are specific to virtual meetings and video conferencing.
Here are the top virtual meeting etiquette tips to help facilitate your next VoIP conference with utmost professionalism.
1. Reach Out to All Relevant Parties
The first step for scheduling a virtual meeting is writing down a list of all the people who need to attend. With an official list of names, you can assess who’s missing, remove those who don’t really need to attend, and also avoid the nuisance of continually adding people after the invite is sent out.
2. Schedule a Time That Best Fits Everyone’s Schedule
Try your best to find a time that fits everyone’s schedule.
You can use apps that can be integrated with your business VoIP platform, like MS Outlook, Google Calendar, or third-party options like Calendly to make this easier.
We always recommend taking advantage of the meeting scheduling assistant feature that’s already built into your communications suite. This makes scheduling easier and keeps everything centralized.
Also, remember to double check that you have your time zone settings aligned in the calendar, especially if you have people dialing in from different parts of the country or world. Picking a time that works for everyone also shows individual meeting guests that their time is important to you and that their attendance is appreciated.
3. Keep the Meeting Invite Under Control
If you’ve ever received 20 email replies immediately after you send a meeting invite to a group, we feel your pain.
Although some meetings call for an RSVP from each individual, try to keep the notifications to a minimum. Multiple meeting updates and notifications can get annoying to meeting attendees and unnecessarily fill already-overflowing inboxes. If you’re in charge of the meeting invite, set it up so that each person’s response won’t get sent to everyone with multiple notifications.
Additionally, include a reminder asking people to hit “Reply” instead of “Reply All”.
4. Send Out an Agenda
Time is a valuable commodity, and when you’re on a conference call with multiple parties, it can be extremely easy to go off on tangents and lose track of time.
To make the best use out of everyone’s time, send an agenda via email the day before you meet. An advanced business VoIP service can sync your contacts with your platform of choice so you can easily send out multiple copies of the agenda to all concerned parties at once. List the important topics that you’d like to cover first with additional items that can be discussed if there is still enough time at the end.
5. Test Your Conference Line
Prior to a virtual meeting, test the conference line. The last thing you want to do is waste 10 minutes of any meeting trying to dial in to a broken conference line.
By making a test call to a designated conference phone line and checking the video capabilities (as well as screen sharing and presentation functions) if you’re video conferencing, you can avoid any mishaps that could derail a meeting and get it off to a bad start.
6. Put on Your Best Profile Picture
Many business phone meeting apps include a profile picture with your caller ID.
It’s a small detail. However, if you want to leave a good impression at every opportunity, maintaining a suitable profile picture is a must. If your company’s culture is not strictly professional, make sure your picture reflects how they would like others to see their business.
A suit and tie can look as out of line for a hip tech startup as a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops would for a law firm.
7. Designate and Prepare an Appropriate Place to Have the Virtual Meeting
Make sure the place you choose to take your call is quiet enough so that outside noises do not distract you or others during the meeting.
Also, if you’re taking the call as a group, choose a room that’s big enough to hold all the participants and has a business IP phone already set up in it. Put in place a way to “reserve” the space – be it on your calendar or a whiteboard outside the room – to ensure colleagues won’t be peeking in during the call.
8. Dress to Impress
Just because you’re on a virtual call doesn’t mean all business dress rules can be left at the door. Treat a virtual meeting as you would any in-person meeting – especially if it’s with clients or potential clients.
If you have video conferencing activated, the people you are meeting with can still see you. Dressing up appropriately is important to making a good first impression and maintaining that impression moving forward. Again, follow the tips from #6 and gauge the image that you would like to portray with your appearance.
9. Be on Time
This one goes without saying, but it’s still worth mentioning. When you’re late to a meeting, it can lead to people believing you don’t respect their time. This is especially true in a virtual meeting where they have no idea whether you forgot about the meeting, are just about to call in, or have other appointments scheduled, or have meetings that unexpectedly came up – they are just looking at an empty screen.
Call in early (which you should have already done if you followed #5) especially if you are the host of the meeting, so you are prepared and ready to contribute to the conversation.
If you are, for any reason, unable to make it to the meeting, don’t forget to leave a message with the people you are meeting with—either give them a call, leave them a voicemail, or send them an email giving your reasons for not being able to show up.
10. Check on Volume and Video Quality
It’s also helpful to check that the audio and video for all parties are clear. If you’re hosting a video conference, try sharing your screen to see if the feature is working.
11. Set the Tone for the Meeting
When you finally have everyone in the virtual meeting on the line, be confident in your approach.
Remind everyone whether the meeting will be just audio or will include video. This ensures no one accidentally has their camera on for a voice-only meeting. Also, give a quick overview of the agenda before you start—it’ll help set the tone and pace of the meeting.
12. Introduce Meeting Attendees
Often, when you’re doing a business VoIP conference call, the people who call in from different locations may not know each other.
If you’re running the show, make introductions right away. Share each attendee’s full name and what they do. Depending on the amount of time you have, invite them to say a line or two about themselves or do the honors for them. It helps ease everyone into the conference call and get comfortable right off the bat.
Speak loud enough to ensure everyone can hear what you’re saying. At the same time, remember to enunciate your words clearly and avoid speaking too quickly so others can follow along without losing you.
14. Think Before You Speak
The collaborative nature of a conference call can raise energy levels. Sometimes people can get really excited and speak too soon or cut off others as soon as an idea pops into their minds. It can be difficult to interject on a virtual meeting because you can’t always see someone’s facial reactions.
To avoid cutting people off, think before you speak. When you’re ready, wait for a gap in the conversation and politely ask if you can add your two cents.
To help minimize other interruptions, ask attendees to write down their thoughts, and set a designated time at the end of the meeting for questions.
15. Mute When It’s Not Your Turn
Background and ambient noise are pretty common when there are multiple parties on a business VoIP conference line, and this can get distracting. Many might be calling in remotely from home or on-the-go in an area where they can’t control outside noises.
When you’re not speaking during the call, put your device on mute to avoid disrupting the discussion.
Remind attendees to do the same as well.
16. Take Notes
It can be hard to stay focused during a virtual meeting, especially if you’re not video conferencing and no one can see what you’re doing.
Try not to multitask and do other work while on the call. Taking notes can help you pay attention so you will not miss any crucial information and you’ll be ready to respond or contribute because you know exactly what’s going on.
17. Have Your Documents Ready
If you’re sharing documents, presentations or websites during the call, make sure they’re already open in their respective applications or tabs so you can access them quickly. Avoid wasting time uploading and downloading presentation materials while the meeting is ongoing. This shows that you’ve come fully prepared to run the meeting.
18. Get to Know the Attendees
If you’re being joined by people you haven’t met before, you should make the effort of figuring out who they are and what they do ahead of time. This can give you what you need to build relationships more easily during a call.
Look for topics and subjects that interest particular participants. You can use it to start small talk during lulls to keep the meeting atmosphere light.
19. Be Personable
Just because you’re using a business VoIP platform and calling from the office doesn’t mean those on the receiving end aren’t human. Converse with the other attendees as if they are in the same room and make them feel welcome. Insert jokes if it feels appropriate and have fun with the people you’re collaborating with.
20. Let People Drop Off the Call
Your call might cover a wide range of topics that involve different teams.
Try to set group talking points and, if you’ve moved to a section of the agenda that’s only relevant to certain parties, let others whose concerns had been addressed drop off from the call. This ensures that the meeting does not take more time from the attendees than it should.
21. Ask If There Are Any Questions
At the end of a VoIP business call, you always want to ask if there are any more questions or if anyone would like to add anything before you end the call. This gives people a chance to speak if they didn’t have a chance to yet, or if they’ve taken time to think over a topic and are ready to share their input.
22. Send Out a Recap
With so many voices and so many faces, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that goes on in a virtual meeting. Always have someone write down the minutes, which should include the agenda, the actions or tasks to be taken, the point person for each action, and the due dates. Send these to all the meeting participants.
When it comes to virtual meeting etiquette, these are some of the go-to best practices that you need to follow.
Try these out on your next audio or video conference call to run the most efficient, collaborative and professional meeting that moves your business objectives in the right direction.
Did we miss anything? Share your best virtual meeting etiquette tips below!