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Virtual meeting etiquette

March 5, 2021
Matt Southam

It has almost been a year since we were thrust into the world of virtual meetings. During this time we have got used to hearing “you’re on mute” and seeing people trying to hide their household mess by using a background of somewhere they want to go on holiday.

However, unlike face to face meetings, which we are all used to, etiquette for online meetings was never that clear. We were thrown into the proverbial deep end.

So many questions go flying around our heads. From “can you hear me” to should I have worn trousers in case I am asked to stand (ok, that may just be me)
But whatever your fears, I wanted to cover two main bits of Zoom etiquette, which I think we should all accept.

To mute, or not to mute, that is the question.

Prior to the pandemic, meetings were often held in dedicated meeting rooms or a quiet area of an office. Even if the meeting was in a coffee shop, the background noise for all participants would be the same. This is not the case with zoom. Many of us are working with added distractions that are separate from other participants.

So why is this a problem? Well, Zoom has a featured called suppressed audio, which, in theory, is excellent. But how does it work, and why isn’t it great? In short, it tries to make sure the person speaking can be heard by automatically muting and suppressing others noise. But this falls foul should someone cough or have a dog barking. As that person becomes the loudest it thinks they are the main speaker! Not ideal when you are trying to listen to the keynote speaker!

Because of this, we feel the rule should be

4 guest and under – Keep unmuted
It should be easy enough with a small group to understand who is speaking and how the conversation is flowing

5 guest or over – mute until it is your turn to talk.

Waving goodbye

This gesture can feel awkward to some, but it is hard to leave the Zoom without feeling rude if there is no clear sign off at the end of a meeting.
Back when we used to meet face-to-face, it was easy to finish the business discussion, perhaps have a bit of personal chat before shaking hands and leaving to go back to our respective office. This is different on zoom. We are generally in a meeting or not. Taking a few seconds to give a wave helps add a little human touch to a cold social interaction.
We know it’s not cool; we know we look silly, but in a somewhat awful year, a little fun and embarrassing waving it what we need.

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