Let’s take a break from content strategy and talk a bit about virtual meeting etiquette. I’ve heard plenty of virtual meeting horror stories from friends and colleagues. There are tales of barking dogs, screaming children, loud ambient office noise, and yes, even the dreaded toilet flush (I have no words). But I haven’t heard of any cases quite like a recent one I experienced…
My virtual assistant—Siri—interrupted my meeting.
The majority of my meetings are virtual. Prior to a meeting, I turn off all notifications, set any messaging applications to Do Not Disturb, and silence my mobile phone.
Well into one recent meeting, Siri suddenly piped in, trying to be useful. LOUDLY.
My phone was on silent at the edge of my desk, but at some point someone must have said something that sounded like “Hey Siri”. I had completely forgotten about that feature (mainly because it never works when I try to use it).
I quickly fumbled for my phone, turned it off completely, and then proceeded to apologize to the other meeting attendees. While it certainly raised some chuckles, it was embarrassing and highly annoying. Fortunately the meeting continued with no further interruption.
No matter how much you prepare, something can always go wrong. Fortunately, the bizarre cases (I’m still not talking to you, Siri) are easily forgivable, though not always forgettable. The blatantly preventable interruptions and faux pas are neither forgivable nor forgettable.
Here are some guidelines for proper virtual meeting etiquette:
- Arrive early, especially for web meetings. You may need to download a meeting client or update. Even if your virtual meeting is a conference call, everyone arriving early ensures that the meeting starts on time.
- Turn off all audible notifications and silence all devices. We all use some combination of Skype, Slack, Messenger, email clients, phones, or other tools during our work day. Silencing them reduces interruptions and allows you to focus on the meeting at hand.
- Act like it’s a face to face meeting. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in a conference room with the attendees. If you must make noise, please mute yourself first.
- Use video appropriately. While video can help keep all attendees on their best behavior, it can cause bandwidth issues. Also, remote attendees in other time zones may no longer be in the office, and might appreciate some degree of privacy while in the meeting.
- Only invite those who absolutely must attend. Too often, virtual meetings include far more people than necessary. Any type of meeting takes time and attention away from other responsibilities. Be mindful of others’ schedules and only include those whose presence is critical.
- Plan your presentations well. Make sure everyone who is expected to present is given ample notice prior to the meeting. Conduct a dry run using the virtual meeting software to ensure that the presentation will display properly and that everyone running the presentation knows how to use the interface.
And yes, disable your virtual assistants!
Do you have other etiquette suggestions for virtual meetings? Have you experienced poor etiquette in a virtual meeting? Please share your stories and advice in the comments!