Virtual Meeting Rules of Engagement

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many office workers to telework, it’s time to explain virtual meeting rules of engagement, along with a few helpful tips.

Be Punctual

Be on time. Even better, join early to ensure your device is working properly before the meeting starts. Technology can be our best friend but also our worst enemy when we rush into things without making sure the software is up to date and the settings are the way we need them (sometimes a device changes to the default settings automatically after a software update).

Pay Attention

If you were attending the meeting in person, you would not be watching YouTube videos or getting embroiled in a Twitterstorm while the meeting is in progress. At least, I hope you wouldn’t. Besides showing respect for others, it’s to your benefit to pay attention. Once I was asked a question during a virtual meeting when I was not paying attention until I heard my name had been called. My answer was: “Can you please repeat the question?” I was so embarrassed!

Don’t Read Emails

Even if you see yourself as a “master multitasker,” it behooves you to turn off emails during meetings. Multitasking is great for low-level tasks that don’t require much of your attention bandwidth, so you may be tempted to rummage through your inbox when there is a lull in the meeting. But rummaging can turn into ruminating in an instant.

Don’t Chat 

Turn off chat before the meeting starts. Chatting on your device is just as rude as chatting with the coworker seating next to you while someone else is speaking in an in-person meeting. If you can’t turn it off (some applications don’t have this option), don’t chat unless it is absolutely necessary. Also, be sure to chat only with those you intended. In some video conferences I’ve seen people chatting “to all” when they intended to have a private chat. Very distracting.

Mute & Unmute

Mute your line when not talking and unmute it when talking. Virtual meetings have been around for a while but these faux pas are still common. Over the years, I’ve heard many things that I did not need or want to hear. In one meeting I attended, a participant, unaware that he was not on mute, called his bank while we all listened. The leader wisely terminated the meeting before sensitive information was disclosed.

Be Careful What You Say

Don’t talk disparagingly about others. One time a former direct report was speaking negatively about other teams during a meeting. He knew I disapproved of this type of talk but he did not know I was on the teleconference until I said something and he heard my voice. He changed his tune immediately. He was so embarrassed, he apologized to me later. Keep in mind that, even if the boss is not at the meeting, any participant can easily record it and share it later.

Don’t Use Speakerphone

Not only can other people in your home hear what meeting participants say (which may be a violation of their privacy and/or your organization’s rules) but, also, the other meeting participants can hear practically every noise in your home (which may be a cause of embarrassment to you). If you choose to use speakerphone nonetheless, don’t use any other audio device, such as a laptop’s built-in mic, simultaneously with the speakerphone. The echo is very disruptive.

Respect Others

Finally and most importantly, show respect for the other meeting participants. As much as working from home may make you feel like you are an independent contributor, the truth is you still depend on the other meeting participants (and they depend on you) to get the mission accomplished. Also, keep in mind that you will see them in person again. Let’s not make it awkward when that time comes. (Smile.)

Do you have any other rules of engagement or helpful tips? Share them in the comments.

Michael Folkray is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is developing the next generation of world-changing leaders. After a decade in private industry, he chose to dedicate the rest of his career to public service. Michael’s major areas of responsibility in the Federal Government have included adjudications, quality assurance and customer service. Since 2003, he has served in various leadership positions in Dallas, TX, and Washington, DC. He is the founder and leader of a leadership book club for his office’s management team. Michael earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington and is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute. Follow him on LinkedInTwitter or Instagram.

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Profile Photo Amy DeWolf

I really like this post. So many good suggestions we should all be mindful of. This one “Don’t Read Emails” in particular stuck out at me. I get very distracted by my notifications and have to turn them off when on a virtual meeting (this is a problem in person too, LOL).