How to be productive in online meetings: 16 time-tested tips

How to be productive in online meetings: 16 time-tested tips

Office meetings, whether online or in-person, are part of the job for many. And even if a company is very “lax”, there’s certain rules of etiquette everyone should always follow. Here’s how to be productive in meetings with 15 time-tested tips.

Meetings with bosses, co-workers, clients, prospects, or team members are a great way to connect, solve issues, prepare for large projects, or even seal deals. However, few enjoy meetings, especially when they happen over a screen. The bad news is we can’t magically make meetings disappear. Sorry. But the good news is that there are 16 golden rules that will help you navigate those dreaded work meetings.

1. Prepare in advance

Just like you would for any meeting. Getting stuck, blank, or confused during a presentation happens most often because of lack of preparation. Come prepared–study the agenda of the meeting beforehand and request any documentation so that everyone has the time to go through it.

2. Be mindful of others’ time

They say time is money. However, other people’s time is as important as yours. So, try to be mindful of them by not extending meetings longer than necessary. This also applies to the information shared. During the meeting, avoid wasting people’s time with remarks that aren’t related to the meeting’s topics.

3. Be punctual

You must have heard “Early is on time; on time is late; and late is inexcusable.” While we don’t know for sure who to attribute this quote to, we suspect it has a British origin. Being 5 minutes early for a meeting will hardly disrupt your schedule, and it will help you make sure you are there when the meeting starts. In a virtual meeting, there are always some problems like not being able to connect or the connection being unstable. Being a tad early will help not to be late because of “unpredictable” glitches.

4. Give notice

If you can’t make it to the meeting, notify whoever is attending as soon as you can. Last minute “I can’t make it” is quite embarrassing and, frankly, nor very professional. Of course, there are always unpredictable situations that might make you late or unable to attend a meeting, but these specific cases aren’t all that common. Be sure to check your calendar and coordinate your time-it is not ok to miss previously agreed upon appointments.

5. Dress, seat and behave accordingly

Although online work does not require formal attire (because who is even watching you?), online meetings are a distinct case. Just like you wouldn’t show up to a meeting in your pajamas, with hair all over the place, or slouching like a teenager at the movies, you shouldn’t do it at an online meeting. It is about the respect and consideration you show everyone else. Of course, if it doesn’t show, you most definitely can use your tracksuit bottoms, as long as you dress formally from the waist up.

6. Mind the cultural issues and differences

What is acceptable or the norm for people in some cultures can be unacceptable for others. For example, in some cultures, it might be rude to decline coffee, tea or water when offered during an in-person meeting. In online meetings, it is all about behavior, body language, and speech. Pay attention and be respectful of eventual differences.

7. Avoid political, religious, and cultural comments

Opinions on political, religious, and cultural topics should never, ever, be shared in a work meeting, unless specifically asked of the participants. These are sensitive topics and a simple comment, joke, or opinion might derail an online meeting. The ability to communicate seamlessly across borders is one of the key aspects valued by CIOs all over the world.

8. Beware of your body language

We get it, some meetings are really boring. But boring meetings come with the job. Be mindful and sensible of your body language and facial expressions. Particularly, don’t allow yourself to show frustration or anger. Deal with those feelings outside the meeting when you’re calmer.

9. Turn your video on

Few things are more demoralizing than speaking to a black, silent screen. Keeping your video on, even if the meeting doesn’t require your participation, makes the other person feel recognized and heard. But beware that having a messy background with lots happening can be disruptive and distracting. Try to have a solid, neutral background.

10. Have your real name on screen

Do you know those viral videos of people who used their zoom accounts to have an online get-together with friends, and ended up in a serious work meeting, days later, with the name “PartyBoy_5647”? Don’t be those people. Check that you have the right name, first name and last name, on your avatar before you join the online meeting.

11. Don’t multitask

An online meeting is still a meeting. When you’re in the meeting, bring your entire self to it. Focus on the topic being addressed. If you feel you’re not needed and have other work-related, more pressing matters, excuse yourself and leave. Better not be present than to mess up by doing two things at the same time.

Getting productive with it. An online meeting booth is a neat trick.

Getting productive with it. An online meeting booth is a neat trick.

12. Mute yourself

We get that while working remotely, you might not have access to a totally silent place, but remember that background noises (even breathing, mind you) are amplified during online meetings by the microphone of your headset or computer. Online meeting may be part of the future of work, but the future needs a better soundtrack.

13. Don’t eat or snack on camera

While drinking water is accepted, drinking other things like coffee or tea might not be. Do clear it your team leader or HR. Eating is rarely ok during a meeting. Even if your camera is off, you should not eat or snack, because you can be asked a question and how embarrassing and unprofessional would it be to have everyone understand you are munching away on a sandwich while in an important work meeting?

14. Speak clearly

How they say, use your outside voice. We know that social anxiety is a thing, but in meetings, you need to make sure everyone can hear you and understand what you are trying to communicate. One way to improve your communication is to practise your talk beforehand. The words will flow better. After all, what is a Salesforce developer without the ability to communicate clearly?

15. Don’t interrupt

Unless strictly necessary, do not interrupt someone who is talking. And if you have to, be polite and mindful. A simple “Excuse me for interrupting” followed by an explanation or redirecting to a certain topic will make the interaction much more polite and less awkward.

16. Introduce the participants

If you are hosting the meeting, introduce everyone right at the start. The attendees will certainly appreciate having a small introduction to everyone, within reason. You don’t need to give a detailed description of the person, but if you are the common link between different parties, try to introduce them by first name and last name, and at least their position in the company.

Even if your boss is always cracking jokes around the office, or your co-worker is an absolute blast at the company’s barbecues, meetings (even online ones) are not social events. These 15  simple pointers on how to be productive in online meetings should help you improve your communication skill set.

Looking for new ways of making your days more productive? At Near Partner, our team of expert problem solvers is always looking for creative ways of making the best use of the limited work time at hand. We’ll find ways of simplifying processes, automate repetitive tasks and turn hours into seconds. Get in touch and see the difference.

Patrícia Peixinho

Marketing & communication lover. Curious, imaginative, ingenious. Hungry for challenges and enthusiastic about life!