Telecommuting comes with a lot of advantages and freedoms. For example, you can work from the comfort of your own home (or even bedroom), you can wear whatever you want to work, and there’s no bothersome commute. That said, when you interact with other professionals, standard rules of engagement apply, whether you’re conscious of it or not.
Being oblivious to business decorum as a telecommuter can result in some hair-raising mistakes. If you’re not careful, you can look unprofessional or even downright impolite. For those who want to put their best foot forward, this list of handy guidelines can help you keep from committing a serious faux pas during a virtual meeting.
Prepare for the Meeting
Like anything else in the professional world, confidence starts with preparation. It goes without saying that you should have everything ready and on hand that you need, like a normal meeting. What may not be so intuitive is that you should be physically prepared for the meeting, as well.
First and foremost, you should be fully awake. Don’t plan on waking just before the meeting starts and joining the meeting without giving yourself a chance to reclaim your mental coherence. Drowsiness can hamper your ability to focus, and leave you looking disinterested and inattentive.
The same goes for your voice. Whether the meeting is a video conference or a joint phone call, you’ll be using your voice, so it needs to be warmed up.. We’re not saying you need to do vocal exercises like an actor or singer might, but morning dry mouth can do a number on your voice. At the very least, rinse your mouth out and get a drink before you commit to an hour of talking.
Lastly, if it’s a video call, you’ll want to be visually presentable for the other meeting participants. At the very least, wear clean, appropriate attire and groom yourself sufficiently. Erratic hair or a severe five o’clock shadow can be almost as disconcerting as appearing in your pajamas. Dressing and grooming yourself can also help signal to your brain to finish waking up, leaving you more alert than you were before.
What’s around you both visually and audibly will affect those on the other end of the connection. For video calls, you need to be mindful of what your camera can see around and behind you. No one wants to see your pile of laundry, your unmade bed, or a window full of blinding sunlight. Also, be wary of intruders and interlopers, be they pets, children, or other adults. Do what you can to keep them out, including locking the door to the room you’re using if needed.
In addition to visual distractions, you’ll need to avoid auditory ones as well. Avoid annoying sounds, ambient noises, and other distractions that can make it hard to hear others speaking, including:
• Oscillating fans
• Nearby traffic
• Blaring TVs
• Open windows that let in outside noise
• Typing on the keyboard (if you’re using an built-in laptop mic)
Mitigate what noise you can (by turning things off or choosing the right location to connect from), and deal with any remaining annoyances by using a headset.
Put Snacks on Hold
In any meeting, virtual or in-person, eating classifies as both an annoying sound and a visual distraction. Everyone can hear the chewing, the crinkling, the slurping, and the silverware (if you’re using any). And if you’re video calling, they can’t as easily look away, since they have to face the camera.
Even worse, it demonstrates that you’re not fully attentive to the meeting. If your hands are occupied, you’re not able to take notes. If you’re eating a noisy food, such as something crunchy, no one can hear anyone else talk, and unlike face-to-face meetings, that sound is amplified thanks to speakers and microphones.
Even on mute, eating is distracting and a little rude to the other participants. Our advice is to avoid it altogether.
Be Quick with the Mute
Many of the above problems can be handled simply by muting the mic when you’re not speaking. While it’s a bit tedious to need to continually mute and unmute the mic, it’s a courtesy that can make the meeting go a lot smoother. Muting the mic can even mitigate loud ambient noises, such as coffee house chatter.
If you need to talk to someone in person on your end, muting the mic minimizes the disturbance. Muting the mic allows you to type with impunity, if you need to. Muting the mic also helps minimize issues like echo and feedback, which (depending on your setup and the quality of your equipment) can be real problems. In short, any time you think there’s going to be a distracting noise on your end, hit the mute button.
Put Your Voice to Good Use
Your most effective tool in a virtual meeting is your voice, so put it to good use. For audio-only meetings, announce yourself when you join the call so other participants know you’re there. During the meeting, speak clearly and loud enough to be heard, but not so loud that your voice becomes a nuisance.
While you don’t want to dominate the conversation, you do want to offer your ideas and input where applicable to showcase your expertise and your competence. Additionally, chiming in regularly reminds participants that you’re still paying attention, which may not be evident otherwise during an audio-only conference call.
Use proper verbal etiquette when you speak. Avoid obscenities, use polite, professional language, and don’t use off-color humor. Act professionally, and you’ll be more likely to leave a positive impression on those you meet with.
You’re in a Meeting—Act Like It
Because video calls keep the camera trained on you, it’s harder to hide things that normally slip by in a face-to-face meeting. That’s why it’s very important that you make it look like you’re committed to the meeting. Otherwise, you’ll quickly prove yourself disinterested, impolite, and unprofessional.
First, unless you have a very good reason, stay seated for the entire meeting. Second, don’t slouch—attentive body language is important to communicate your interest in the meeting. Third, just as you shouldn’t pull out your phone during an in-person meeting, you shouldn’t use your phone or start opening up new tabs during a virtual meeting. They may not be able to see what you’re doing, but they can hear your clicking and likely notice your lack of input.
Failing to show proper meeting etiquette demonstrates that you do not value the time of the other participants, and most will take it as an insult, so do your best to show some decorum.
Every meeting is an opportunity to prove your professionalism, whether to your boss, to clients, to partners, or to future employers. It may not be what you signed up for by working from home, but it’s important to show those you meet with that you value their time as much as your own during virtual meetings. The advice above will help you do just that.
In the event you need a professional location to connect from, or want to hold a conference in person, contact Davinci; we can provide you with everything you’ll need to have a successful meeting.