Online meeting etiquette: Mind your manners

Author(s): Ann Lambert, DNP, MSN, CRNP, PPCNP-BC

As nurses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many are attending meetings, whether in the hospital or from the home setting, via video conferencing software such as Zoom and GoToMeeting. Online meetings with friends and family are informal and casual, but those with work colleagues are not. Formal meetings have no place for pets, children, and munching on snacks; you need to portray a professional image and help ensure the meeting is productive. Here are some tips to help meet those goals.

Carefully choose your location

For the best appearance online, choose a well-lit, clean, and quiet environment. Your primary light source should be in front of your head, not the back, which will make is difficult for participants to see you. If toys, a messy kitchen, or exercise equipment could be in view, check if the platform being used has a virtual background feature, which allows you to use a provided image to hide what is behind you. A professional virtual background helps others see you as a professional and an expert in your field.

Use the right equipment

If possible, use a headset with a microphone, which provides the best audio quality for participants. If you do not have a headset, at least use headphones so you can hear better. Try to connect to your online meeting via ethernet (preferred) or Wi-fi. Test your settings and connections a few minutes before the meeting start time, so you can troubleshoot any problems. If you’ll be sharing content during the meeting, be sure the file and links are ready to go. You want to be sure you are prepared to begin the call by the scheduled start time. Most online meeting platforms provide a free system check that you can run to verify that your equipment, browser, and internet connection will work well for the meeting. This step can help detect problems before the meeting begins.

Minimize distractions

You will need to define your workspace to others. Let your roommate and/or family know when you’re online and ask to not be disturbed. If you have a door, let others know that whenever it’s closed, you aren’t to be disturbed.

Silence your smartphone and computer notifications. Close all unnecessary computer applications, particularly before screen sharing. Turn off the TV and music and move your pets to another room. All these preparations will help your attendees feel respected and valued.

It may be tempting to multitask during an online meeting, but “be present”. You’ll remember the discussion better if you refrain from texting or replying to emails during the meeting. Stay on task and be focused to ensure a productive meeting.

Manage the mute option

When entering a meeting, immediately mute your audio if the host hasn’t done so. Keep your microphone muted during the meeting when you are not speaking so extraneous noises like coughing, sneezing, sirens, and barking dogs aren’t heard. Something as simple as shuffling papers can create background noise that may be distracting to other meeting attendees. Become familiar with how to mute and unmute yourself. If you’re having difficulty with video, audio, or other challenges during a meeting use the “chat” feature to request assistance.

Look your best

Position your camera properly, at eye level, and in a stable position. Look into the camera to help you keep engaged and to give the appearance of eye contact with those in the meeting.

Check your appearance in the mirror before the meeting. Since you’ll be visible to other participants, dress appropriately. Your clothing should be the same as if attending the meeting in person, not too casual or informal. Dressing professionally also puts you in the right mindset for the meeting and makes you feel more like you are in your normal workspace.

Some platforms may have options to enhance how you look. For example, Zoom has a Touch Up My Appearance feature that smoothes skin tones, helping you project a more polished look and boosting your confidence. Most platforms also allow you to preview your camera so you can see how you’ll appear to other participants.

Remember that you’re on camera, so be still and stay attentive during the meeting. Think about what you’re doing—everyone can see you yawning, stretching, or eating.

Be a good host

If you are the host, distribute the meeting link only to attendees. Sharing it on social media or other public platforms enables others to join the meeting. You also may want to set up a password for the meeting and share it privately with attendees.

As with any meeting, include only participants who need to attend. The more participants, the more likely you’ll have connectivity, audio, or video problems. Perhaps some people can receive the information by email instead of attending the meeting.

Start the meeting by introducing people who have not previously met to set a welcoming tone. Close the meeting with a thank you and be the last one to leave.

Be courteous

Practicing online meeting etiquette, including using manners and common courtesy will ensure your meetings are efficient and productive. Whether you’re a staff nurse, nurse manger, nurse educator, or nursing administrator, these guidelines will enhance your career as a professional nurse.

Ann Lambert is an associate clinical professor at Auburn University School of Nursing in Alabama.

References

BBC Worklife. The Zoom social etiquette guide. April 28, 2020. Bbc.com/worklife/article/20200428-the-zoom-social-etiquette-guide

Linked in. The 10 proven tips to setup a temporary work from home office successfully. March 3, 2020. Linkedin.com/pulse/top-10-proven-tips-setup-temporary-work-from-home-office-henery-kayser

University of Pittsburgh. Information Technology. Zoom Meetings: Etiquette and Best Practices. n.d. technology.pitt.edu/blog/zoom-tips

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