Bad Manners in Virtual Meetings – Are You Guilty?

Twenty minutes into a one hour web conference I found myself starting to multi-task. I was still listening (sure!) while I checked my email. Five minutes later I was still listening (kind of) while working on a spreadsheet. When the facilitator asked a question of the group I waited for someone else to answer so I could figure out what I had missed. Does this sound familiar?

As a virtual meeting facilitator I know better, but this is a common occurence in many virtual meetings, webinars and teleconferences. I did a mini-intervention on myself by writing out ten ground rules for being an effective virtual meeting participant. I pinned them up next to my computer and saved a copy to send out with my next virtual meeting agenda.

Here are my top ten ground rules. They’re simple but easy to ignore, to the detriment of the meeting. Too often we take shortcuts with virtual meetings that we wouldn’t dare do if we were sitting down with others face-to-face. I wonder what others have to add…

Ten Ground Rules for being an Effective Virtual Meeting Participant

  1. Only attend when I am willing and able to fully show up. Being a bystander is a waste of everyone’s time.
  2. Come prepared. Ask for an agenda and handouts ahead of time. Schedule 15 minutes to prepare for the meeting/webinar – if I don’t need it I can have the time back. Do the pre-work. Make notes and be ready with questions.
  3. Test the technology ahead of time. Log in the day before to ensure full access to whatever online technology is being used. Check my headset.
  4. Turn up early. Put the web address and teleconference details in my calendar. Set the reminder 15 minutes ahead of the call.
  5. Remove distractions. Schedule a quiet place to participate from. Clear my desk and computer desktop. Turn off email & instant messaging. Put my cell phone aside. Put a note on my office door.
  6. Take responsibility for my own participation. Don’t plan to do any “catch up” activities during the call. If I catch myself multi-tasking, close my eyes and listen. Avoid side conversations whether in the room with colleagues or in an online chat space.
  7. Be aware of air time. Fully participate while allowing others to do the same. Speak my name before making a comment.
  8. Be aware of who else is on the call. Make a note of those asking interesting questions or contributing provocative comments. Who do I want to connect with again after the call?
  9. Support the facilitator. Laugh at jokes, acknowledge questions, pay attention. Keep off mute when possible.
  10. Have high expectations. Do a mental evaluation at the end of the session. Send off a quick email to the facilitator – thank them for what worked well; make constructive requests for future events as needed.

posted by Julia Young


5 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. Love this checklist, Julia. I would like to refer all of my clients to it—diplomatically, of course!

    The only tip I’d like to add: Help the meeting facilitator by stating when you feel the conversation is off-track or off-topic. Sometimes the facilitator feels awkward or unsure as to whether other people share her/his opinion that the conversation has veered, and it’s often helpful to have a meeting participant surface the concern.


  2. lenny diamond #

    Thanks for emphasizing the importance of allocating time for preparation, committing to “being present” during the session and connecting w/the webinar leader/presenter/facilitator after the event is over. These behaviors tend to strengthen the quality of the webinar and leverage feedback for future sessions….

  3. vin #

    Great checklist.
    I’ll use it as a guide.
    vin ric


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