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Dos and Don'ts for Online Meetings

Etiquette for Web Conferences

Especially now, when many have moved to the home office due to the COVID-19 corona virus, virtual meetings via the web are part of everyday business life. After all, even in these times the exchange with colleagues and the contact to customers is important.

But even before that, this form of conference was already considered flexible and efficient, as well as being environmentally friendly by eliminating business trips. However, a few basic rules must be observed to ensure that such online meetings really do increase productivity.

For experienced web conference participants, some of the following tips may seem banal, but experience shows that even the seemingly obvious is often forgotten.

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Technical Check

Before starting or participating in a web conference, make sure that you are really familiar with the technology. Nothing is more embarrassing if you are the host or moderator of an online meeting, constantly fiddling around, opening windows on the desktop at random, etc. It is similarly annoying to arrive late to a meeting because you don't know the technology.

But check your technology as well. Can they really get into the online meeting room? Is the Internet connection strong enough? Do software and possibly a video camera work without problems?

Preparation

In the same way that documents are compiled in advance in a classic meeting, the participants of a web conference should also save materials such as pictures, graphics, videos or texts in an easily retrievable form.

Eliminating Disruptive Factors

This is just as important as in personal meetings. Avoid interruptions or other disturbing factors. Inform third parties that you are in a telephone conference so as not to be disturbed.

Switch your phone to mute before the meeting. The ringing mobile phone is a real "meeting killer" during a videoconference and disturbs there as well as in "offline" meetings.

The basics of Presentation Design

Whether you use Powerpoint or Keynote, the basic rules of presentation are especially important in web conferences:

  • As little text as possible on a slide.
  • Clear fonts.
  • Clearly visualised structuring of the outline levels.
  • Numbered slides.
  • Quiet background.
  • No complex animations.
  • Resting mouse pointer. Curving around the slides is distracting.

Punctuality

Actually, it goes without saying that the most important requirement is punctuality, as everywhere else in everyday business life. Being unpunctual is considered a gross discourtesy, not only in Germany, because you steal something from someone that you cannot give back: Time. If the delay cannot be avoided, business partners should be notified in time. This way they can at least make effective use of the waiting time.

The Impression Counts - Even Virtually

During Telephone Conferences - Pay Attention to The Voice

Without a webcam, i.e. when you cannot see your conversation partner, there is no body language and facial expressions. Therefore, participants should think carefully about their wording so that they are not misunderstood. A clear and unambiguous pronunciation helps them to understand. Smiling helps, even on the phone - you can hear it.

Pay Attention to Clothing and Gestures During Video Conferences

If you can see your business partners, you should choose the business attire that is usual at work, at least in the body zones that are captured by the webcam. When speaking, avoid gestures that could be misunderstood by other cultures. In addition, the camera should be set so that you are looking directly into the lens. In this way, the other participants also feel personally addressed. It also makes sense to choose a suitable background and that the light is right.

Moderation Is Mandatory

Introduction of the participants

If not all participants of the conference are known, the moderator should start a web conference with a short introduction. This creates awareness, after all, you don't interact personally. All names are visible on the integrated participant list. This allows you to address individual participants personally.

Prevent Drifting

To avoid the drifting of a web conference, a moderator is mandatory. He should set a clear agenda and lead the participants back to the core topic again and again. By regularly asking participants for their opinions or suggestions, a moderator keeps them awake and ensures that they actively follow the conference.

Stop Monologues

The moderator has to take action when a participant wants to hold an endless monologue.

Who is Talking?

In online meetings without video transmission, you should mention your name every time you speak. After all, many participants won't be able to easily identify the voices.

Let Them Finish Their Sentence

In Germany, letting others finish their sentence is considered one of the most important rules of etiquette. However, endless monologues can be interrupted with interposed questions. The most polite way to interrupt someone is with a closed question on the topic. Important questions can also be discussed in parallel via the integrated chat panel. If there is no time left for question and answer, there is also the possibility to answer open questions in writing after the meeting.

No Multitasking

Avoid doing other things on the side during a video meeting, even if you are not actively participating. Your colleagues will notice if you check Facebook, finish an email or just look bored - and that can be annoying. By the way: Even if participants eat during a video conference, it distracts the others and lowers the quality of the meeting. So it's better to leave your lunchtime snack in your pocket until after the conference.

Clean up before desktop sharing

If you share your desktop with other participants in an online meeting, you should make sure that the virtual desktop is also clean and tidy. Messy, cluttered desktops do not belong in a professional meeting.

Different countries, different customs

Video conferencing helps to make decisions faster and to build trust between colleagues and partners. In international video meetings, however, participants should be aware of and take into account the cultural characteristics of different cultures. It is also easy to forget that the partners may work in different time zones.

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Silentium

Quiet Environment

A quiet environment is important for the success of a virtual conference. Nothing is more disturbing than background noise, the origin of which the participants cannot identify.

Avoid Disturbing Noises

Refreshments such as coffee or other beverages should be placed carefully on the conference table. Too close to a microphone, the clattering or clinking of coffee cups or glasses disturbs lastingly.

Use Mute of the Microphone

Every puff and huff is transmitted loudly, not only with headsets with a microphone directly in front of the mouth. Telephones also transmit such background noise. So press the mute button on the phone while others are presenting or reciting.

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

What applies to classic meetings should also be considered in virtual space: A conference should not exceed 90 minutes. After that the attention of the participants decreases drastically.

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