# 9 - Virtual Meeting Etiquette
by Randi Brenowitz
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# 9 – Virtual Meeting Etiquette
The response to Issue
#8 - Working Virtually was overwhelming and made it clear
that virtual teams are a major concern of my readership.
I have decided to dedicate the next several issues to those topics
rather than to book reviews. The first in this series is
about Virtual Meeting Etiquette. If there are other topics
about virtual teams you'd like to see addressed in future issues,
please email me at email@example.com.
The first thing to understand when conducting a “virtual meeting”
is that it is not really a virtual meeting at all. The meeting
is real, the business conducted at it is real, and the importance
of the results is real. This is a real meeting that happens
to be taking place in a virtual environment.
Much of what is good practice for virtual meetings is simply
good meeting management practice – with the twist that without
regular face-to-face contact, every interaction and every infraction
is multiplied. It is helpful to consider the meeting in
three ways – pre-meeting, during the meeting, and post-meeting.
Before the meeting begins, there are certain decisions that will
facilitate its success. Ask yourself:
Once all of these questions have been asked, answered, and communicated,
you are ready to attend the meeting.
- What venue do we want to use (conference call, web-based
meeting, teleconference, etc.)?
- What technology do we need? Are we sure that everyone
has that available?
- Who are the appropriate participants and how should they
- What time will the meeting be held – and how do we define
time if participants are in multiple time zones?
- In what language will the meeting be conducted? Will
that make it difficult for some participants? Is there
something we can do to lessen the difficulty?
- How will questions be asked and answered during the meeting?
You cannot see someone's raised hand or quizzical facial expression
during a virtual meeting.
- Are there any materials the participants will need that should
be emailed, faxed, or express-mailed to them? Do not depend
solely on Internet connections. In many areas of the world,
these connections are not as reliable as they are in Silicon
Valley. Even the most reliable connection goes down occasionally,
and then the participant is left without the necessary information.
In a face-to-face meeting, attendees can share or quickly make
another copy. This is not as easy in a virtual environment.
During the Meeting
Try to call in or log on a few minutes early to ensure that the
technology is properly set up and working. Start the meeting with
a quick check-in so that everyone attending knows who else is
there and that the connections are adequate. Unless
this is a small meeting where all participants are well-acquainted,
ask participants to identify themselves every time they talk.
While keeping as close as possible to the published agenda:
Always keep in mind the fact that you will not have the benefit
of seeing the attendees. If there are questions or concerns
about an item, you will need to ask questions or create a process
that gets to them without relying on facial expressions or body
- be as precise as possible
- give examples
- verify your understanding
- recap and summarize often
- use "round robin" technique when appropriate and when you
need to ensure everyone's opinion is stated
- use electronic tools only as necessary and not because they
are fun to play with
- refer to slide number or page number if you are using a previously
- ask "What questions do you have?" instead of "Are there any
The meeting is not over as soon as participants hang up the phone
or log off. Sending notes out shortly after the meeting
helps ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what
happened and what will happen next. Well-documented decisions
and actions items with clear time frames help people know how
to proceed once they have disconnected from the meeting.
This will minimize mis-communication and the possibility that
someone will put in a lot of work on the wrong action item.
As I said in the opening, virtual people do not attend virtual
meetings – real people do. The more you can help these real
people be successful even when located many time zones away from
each other, the more willing and able they will be to attend future
meetings and take on additional responsibilities.
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Group Strategic Services, Inc. offers a unique blend of traditional
and on-line tools based on the concepts discussed in Winning
in Fast Time to create strategic action with virtual or co-located
teams. Contact them at 949-250-9060 or www.geogroup.net.
See issue # 7
– Winning in Fast Time.
runs a series of workshops and free virtual mini-camps related
to virtual environment.
Virtually: Managing People for Successful Virtual Teams and Organizations
by Trina Hoefling, (Stylus Publishing, 2001), see issue # 8
Cross-Functional/Cross-Cultural Collaborative Assets: Distance,
Time Zone, and Culture," a downloadable article by Susan Schwartz
available at www.riverbirchgroup.com/virtualassets.html.
has assembled a comprehensive list of links and articles on virtual
teams and virtual team management.
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