Millions of people were forced to stay at home due to the rise of COVID-19, and companies had to look for an alternative to remain productive from home (1). As part of the digital transformation of the working world, a new phenomenon has emerged: virtual meetings.
According to the RAE, a virtual meeting is a meeting that takes place online, typically via the internet (2). Adjusting a meeting to the network has a number of difficulties and protocols. In this article, we will show you everything you need to know about virtual meetings and their protocols.
- Respecting the right to speak is crucial to smooth communication during a virtual meeting.
- Be attentive throughout the entire meeting, to what is being discussed and what is not. This way, when it is your time to participate, you will be able to do it efficiently, and you will be able to know if an important point is not addressed during the meeting.
- Ensuring active and fluid participation is vital.
What you should know about virtual meeting protocols
To understand the importance of protocol in a virtual meeting, you should imagine the virtual meeting as a clock. In order for it to work, all its gears must be perfectly defined in shape and size, and if these are perfectly polished, the clock will run smoothly.
The same goes for the protocol. The virtual meeting is the clock, and the protocol is each of the gears that make the clock work. That is why it is important to polish and detail each of the gears.
What to do and what not to do?
Knowing what to do and what not to do is important for getting the best out of virtual meetings. The do’s and don’ts are basically the protocol.
First of all, all participants should be invited and confirmed before the meeting starts. In addition, it is important to respect each participant’s turn to speak at the meeting. It is vital to take note of the most relevant aspects to be discussed and of any doubts, you may have so that you can ask them.
On the other hand, you should not constantly interrupt your colleagues, have conversations parallel to the main one and you should not be disrespectful to the participants.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a virtual meeting?
Like any tool used in the workplace, virtual meetings have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of their use. Moreover, there will always be both supporters and critics.
One of the biggest differences, and it can be considered an advantage, is that virtual meetings allow a multidisciplinary spirit among the members, eliminating the special and temporal boundaries between members. And this allows us to get to know different points of view (3).
- Easier integration of teams, working remotely
- Lower travel costs
- More flexibility in arranging the meeting, as you can attend the meeting from home
- More dynamic
- You are dependent on a technological device and an internet connection
- More difficult to be distracted, since you are not in a physical work environment
- Not all employees know how to use digital tools for a meeting
What is the protocol for a virtual meeting?
Having a well-defined protocol for a virtual meeting is extremely important for it to run as efficiently as possible. With a well-defined course of action, we avoid interruptions and disorganization. Otherwise, our meeting will be very frustrating and chaotic for those who participate in it.
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What to do before the virtual meeting?
The virtual meeting starts before the participants join it. It is vital that the pre-meeting aspects of your virtual meeting are well under control, meaning that if a problem occurs during the meeting, you already have a plan of action in place (4).
- Send the link with a reminder about the meeting at least one hour before it starts.
- Check that all participants have confirmed their attendance before the meeting starts.
- Log in 5 to 10 minutes before the meeting to check that everything is in order.
- Have all the files you are going to use located and organized before the virtual meeting starts.
- Have a pen and a blog or notebook nearby to take notes.
- Make sure all attendees have turned off their cell phones or have them on silent.
Test your equipment
Because the meeting takes place in a virtual space, our equipment is very important, without it our participation in the virtual meeting will be compromised. Therefore, we must make sure that the following equipment works perfectly (5).
- Camera: it must work during the virtual meeting. It is important that people see and recognize each other during the meeting, it will help the participants to feel more integrated in the meeting.
- Microphone: without a microphone, we will not have a voice in the meeting and our point of view will not be heard.
- Internet connection: without a connection, there will be no meeting. On the other hand, with a bad connection, we will not be able to participate efficiently in the meeting either.
Check the environment
All those elements that appear within the frame of your image and that appear on camera are elements that will distract any participant in the virtual meeting. That is why you must make sure that your background is tidy and without many distracting elements.
What to do during the virtual meeting?
Once you have made sure that everything is working correctly and that all the participants who have confirmed their attendance are in the virtual meeting, it is time to start. But, don’t think that just because everything is up and running you can relax, as it’s not right.
Introduce the attendees
Even if they are weekly meetings, if you dedicate 5 minutes at the beginning of the meeting to greet the participants, it will make the participant feel integrated with the virtual meeting. If there are any new participants, you should introduce them and give them a few minutes to introduce themselves.
In order for the virtual meeting to be as effective as possible, it is important to pay attention to what is being said. You should write down everything that is important for the issue you are working on. Also, prepare your doubts and ask them in the round of questions.
Another reason why you must be attentive is if you are asked questions in the middle of the meeting or in the round of questions. Thus, if you are attentive to what is important when it is our turn to participate, you will be able to make a valuable contribution to the virtual meeting.
Do not interrupt others
During the course of the virtual meeting, you will experience the need to speak or comment on something. This may be because we need to comment on what a colleague is presenting or because we have an idea that we think is very good. Don’t do it, respect the turn to speak.
If we do not respect the turn to speak and interrupt whenever we feel like it, the following can happen:
- Communication won’t be effective.
- Participants become frustrated.
- Slow down and lengthen the virtual meeting.
- Not all the points of the meeting are addressed.
What to do after the virtual meeting?
Once you have finished all the meeting agenda points, and even if you think that all the doubts have already been solved, it is important to ask a round of questions.
It is also important to make some guidelines once the meeting is over, if you are the meeting host. This is crucial for keeping a record of what has been discussed and what still needs to be discussed.
Ask for questions
At the end of the meeting, there should be a question and answer time. There is always some doubt about an issue that, although discussed, may not have been clear to some participants. Also, new issues may arise that turn out to be important.
Follow up after the meeting
Even if you are already tired, even if it has been an intense virtual meeting, the minutes of the meeting should be filled out as soon as the meeting is over.
How to achieve a successful virtual meeting?
The success or failure of a virtual meeting is determined by the participants and the points of the meeting itself. These two elements in the meeting itself go hand in hand. Without the active participation of all those attending the meeting, you will not be able to accomplish all the points of the meeting.
The active participation of the attendees involves a combination of a low level of frustration, feeling integrated into the meeting, and getting constant attention.
It guarantees the active participation of the attendees
To prevent increasing frustration among the participants, it is important to respect each participant’s turn to speak. As host, you should give equal speaking time to all speakers to prevent this feeling from growing among the participants. On the other hand, if you are an attendee, it is important not to interrupt the speaker.
This equal participation will give everyone a feeling of integration and attentiveness at all times, so that their attention will be 100% focused on the meeting and distractions will be avoided.
Establish a mute policy
To achieve this respectful attitude towards speech, the meeting host should set up a muting system which all participants agree to before the meeting begins. This will avoid unnecessary surprises by people who feel offended by being muted without warning.
On the other hand, being muted will mean that anyone who wants to speak will have to ask the host for the opportunity to do so and will not be able to suddenly interrupt the speaker.
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At present, remote work has become an increasingly common form of work in companies due to its various benefits (6). This leads to multiple weekly virtual meetings with different people, so it is important to know the protocol involved in a virtual meeting.
If there is no protocol, your virtual meetings will be chaotic and communication will be totally ineffective. So now you know what protocol should be followed in a virtual meeting. And now it’s time for you to organize a meeting or participate in one. If you follow these steps and tips, your virtual meetings will be more productive.
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4. Kitch B. Virtual meeting etiquette: 7 tips for attendees [Internet]. Mural.co. [accessed October 2022].
5. Grau-Moracho J. Virtual meetings: Adobe Connect and WebEx. prof inf [Internet]. 2007;16(5):518-22.
6. Moreno MJA. Teleworking in organizations: analysis of its benefits and barriers in Spanish companies. Cuad gest inf [Internet]. 2014 [accessed October 2022];4:172-87.