3 Things You Do in Virtual Meetings That Make You Seem Unprofessional

Virtual meeting etiquette

With more employees working from home because of the pandemic, virtual meetings have replaced in-person meetings. Whether on Skype, Zoom, Slack, Or Teams, they are used for everything from routine status meetings to job interviews. Most video conferencing apps have had more use in the last few months – Tech Crunch reported over 62 million downloads of conferencing apps in the week of March 14-21, 2020.

Virtual meetings may have a more casual air, mainly when speaking with colleagues. But just like in-office relations, all meetings are not equal. If you have a meeting with a superior or a virtual networking meeting, you must be careful about giving off the wrong impression. These virtual meeting habits may make the wrong impression on your bosses or clients, but luckily they’re easily identified and remedied. Make sure you employ these virtual meeting etiquette rules to make a professional impression.

Not Checking the Tech before the Meeting

Apart from checking for lighting and preparing a quiet and professional environment, it is critical to ensure the technical aspects are taken care of. Some technical issues are unavoidable, but taking time to test your video conferencing app before the meeting reduces interruptions due to technical breakdowns.

Check your settings.

Most programs require that you customize your settings upon first use. You may need to change these settings according to the kind of meeting being held – audio access, screen sharing, webcam permissions, etc. Do all these before the meeting time. This is especially true if you’re downloading a new program to use for a particular meeting or event.

Set up your webcam properly.

If your laptop is on a desk, check that the webcam is positioned appropriately relative to your posture. Have you been on a call where you can see up someone’s nose – off-putting, right? Set your webcam at eye level and ensure you look natural, as though you are sitting across the table from each other.

Look into the camera.

Even if you need to minimize your screen, ensure you position it just under your webcam so that when you glance at it, you are looking right into the webcam. Do not leave the minimized window at the bottom-right corner. Even if you look into the window, your webcam shows that you are looking down, which can be misinterpreted by other participants.

Not Having a Professional Remote Workspace

Choose a quiet room and eliminate echo.

It is critical for your space to look as professional as possible, even if you don’t have a dedicated home office. A quiet, carpeted room can help to reduce the echo from a call. You can use a rug or floor pillows to reduce the echo effect and create a warmer sound. Sound hygiene is one of the most critical parts of virtual meeting etiquette and setting up a room to be acoustically pleasing will go a long way.

Make your background neutral.

It is safest to choose a neutral wall in the background if you are having a high-stakes virtual meeting. Shades of grey and white or other pastels work great, as do walls with bookcases, small indoor plants, and a few pictures. If you have a bookshelf, the titles on it also make an impression – many people forget this. Avoid background with video content (such as a TV playing), overly colorful backgrounds, or any other whimsical furnishings for important virtual meetings.

Have adequate lighting.

Dim lighting can make any room look dated, drab and unprofessional. Your device should be set up on a firm surface, such as a table or desk, with a strong, soft light around your face. Two adjustable LED desk lamps can help you create the perfect effect (you can make a practice call to a friend or colleague to ensure settings are just right). You don’t need to purchase any fancy equipment for this either, just bring over a lamp from another part of your home and set it up strategically.

Choose the best device.

Unless the call was impromptu, and you were on the move, avoid using your smartphone for important virtual meetings. You need the stability of a laptop on a desk/table, and you can easily take notes or share important information from your laptop.

Not Following Virtual Meeting Etiquette

Depending on the number of people and length of a meeting, you will need to turn your video and sound off and on to allow proper communication. Manage these things actively, throughout the conversation, to adhere to virtual etiquette rules. Barring extraordinary circumstances, it is customary for all meeting participants to keep their video on at all times. Seeing one another preserves continuity and assures other participants that you are focused on the meeting.

Know when to use mute.

professionalism in virtual meetingHowever, it is critical to manage your sound to avoid disrupting the meeting. Background sounds are often amplified in meetings, and they can be distracting. Use mute when other people are speaking, but remember to turn it off and make your contributions at appropriate times.

Do not hog the meeting.

It may be challenging to know when to allow contributions from other participants because virtual meetings have little room to interpret body cues. A rule of thumb is to be mindful of opening the flow to other participants throughout the meeting. If you need to get through a presentation, explain this at the beginning, then invite questions/comments when done. Try to keep an eye on other attendees while you speak to see if someone seems like they have something to say, and offer them an opportunity to do so when appropriate.

Avoid private messages.

Private messages on Zoom may not be as private as you think. For example, where a host is saving a recorded meeting, any public and private chats will be sent to them as part of the minutes. Do not share anything you don’t want others to see. Similarly, make sure your desktop notifications for any messaging services are turned off when you are presenting and sharing your screen.

Avoid clicking out of the Zoom window.

If you are on a Zoom meeting and screen sharing is activated, the host will be notified if your click out of their screen for over 30 seconds. This feature is called attendee attention tracking, created to help teachers maintain student attentiveness.

Don’t join the meeting late.

You should treat virtual meetings with the same etiquette as in-person meetings and show up on time. Logging in late may communicate that you don’t take the meeting – or its participants – seriously.


It is entirely possible to come from virtual meetings with your head held high. Take your virtual meeting etiquette as seriously as you would in-person – prepare in advance, create a professional environment, and dress the part. By doing this, you will avoid the common pitfalls that make you seem unprofessional during high-stakes virtual meetings.

Struggling to present your best self virtually? Learn more about how to make a great impression with our career coaching services.


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