Posted on Sep 23, 2021
A lot of people have been thrown into the online meeting ring over the last 18 months where companies like Zoom, Google (Meet) and GoToMeeting have seen millions of new users.
Access and use of these online conferencing tools have gotten a lot easier over the past few years, especially when using tablets or phones that have great cameras and microphones.
For those that are new to online conference meetings or still learning as they go, it can feel a little foreign. Just like a face to face meeting, online meetings have their own little intricacies around the expected and often unspoken rules.

Here’s the TL:DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) version of online meeting etiquette. If you want more details on each item, read on after the list.
  • Be ready: Be sure to test your setup. You’re going to be using a laptop, phone or desktop so use the device you plan on using to attend the meeting. Make sure the mic, speakers and video work BEFORE attending your first meeting.
  • Run a test meeting: To help everyone to be ready, book a test meeting specifically to help people get setup properly.
  • Mute is your friend: If you’re not talking, mute your mic. Every conferencing system has a way to mute, usually a microphone icon will toggle your mic on and off.
  • Turn on video: Don’t be shy, turn on your camera if you have one. It feels more like a meeting if you see people’s faces.
  • Use chat: If there are a lot of people in the meeting, use the chat to ask questions or to express interest to talk.
  • Use a moderator: For really big meetings with 20+ people, assign one person to monitor the chat to handle questions.
  • Don’t troubleshoot during the meeting: If you’re struggling with connecting, don’t hijack the meeting. This is why you test before you join.
  • Use the views: Most conferencing software will have more than one way to view the people on the call. Gallery or tile view is great when collaborating as a group as you get to see many faces. Speaker view is good when one person is doing a lot of talking.
  • Leave pauses: When you talk, it actually takes a second or so before everyone will hear what you said (it’s called latency). So after you ask a question or if you expect a response, leave a pause of a second or two before you jump back in.
  • Use a headset: If you have a headset, use it. You’ll hear better, you’ll sound better, and it stops sound from echoing.
  • Speaker etiquette: If you have someone who’s speaking, make sure you are muted! But keep your camera on, the speaker will appreciate being able to see faces. And maybe switch to speaker view so you can see their face clearly.
For those would like a little more details on each if these items, keep on reading.
Be Ready
It’s good to give your setup a test before the first time you use a new conferencing system. And don’t test just before the meeting, test it out the day before! You can often test by trying the meeting link before the meeting. You might have to download and install software, just follow the instructions (usually with the first time).
Most systems will give you a chance to test your setup before joining, but don’t actually join the meeting if you’re just testing.
At the very least, make sure you can hear. There should be a “button” to test sound or your speakers. It will play a sound — if you don’t hear it, turn up the volume!
There should also be a way to test your microphone — there should be some kind of level meter (usually green or coloured bars that go up and down as you talk).
And finally, turn on the video if you have a camera. You should see video of yourself. If you’re on a phone or tablet, you might see video from your back camera — there should be a little icon somewhere on the screen to flip to your front camera.
Doing this test will make sure that you’re ready to join the real meeting. The host will appreciate you being prepared.
Run a Test Meeting
If you have a lot of people that are new to online meetings, it’s a good idea to book a meeting specifically to help people get setup. Invite two or three people who can help those that need help. Make sure you have an alternate way to contact attendees — if someone is having a problem connecting, you can contact them via email or phone to help walk them through it.
Mute is Your Friend
There is often more background noise happening around you that you’re not really aware of. It’s always good to mute your microphone when you’re not talking — just remember to un-mute when you are talking.
Since people are often joining meetings from home, muting can block out those unexpected noise situations like dogs barking, kids asking questions or someone knocking at your door.
Muting can also help with sound echos, which happens when your microphone is picking up the sound coming out of your speaker.
There will be a “button” on the screen, usually with a microphone icon on it. Clicking that will turn your microphone on and off. To keep you from having to search around for that button, there should be a keyboard shortcut to mute/un-mute. Google Meet uses the ‘M’ key for example, so hitting the key will turn the microphone on/off.
Turn On Video
Not everyone is a fan of this one. If you have a camera, it’s considered polite to turn it on. There’s a lot to be said for seeing people’s faces when communicating which is especially helpful during online meetings.
Try to be setup in a place where there is minimal distractions, but if you’re connecting from home, it’s not the end of the world if your kids or pets come into view. With the increased use of online meetings, the people in the meeting with you are pretty forgiving of these little random happenings. At least they should be.
Use Chat
When there are a lot of people in a meeting, it can get pretty unruly with people talking over each other. Every conferencing system has a text chat option. Don’t be afraid to use it! You can ask a question via chat which should prompt a moderator to give you an opportunity to talk.
Also, be sure to pay attention to what’s happening in the chat. Most chats can be viewed by clicking on a “button” with a talk bubble on it. If someone added a message to the chat, it usually highlights in some way (Zoom turns the button orange).
And finally, when you use chat, pay attention to whom you’re chatting with. You often can pick if you’re talking to everyone or an individual or in some cases, just the panelists (if you’re in a webinar for example).
Use a Moderator
If you’re running a meeting with 20+ people, it’s a good idea to assign one person as the moderator. This should be someone who’s very comfortable with the conferencing software and is not one of the key people speaking or presenting. The moderator can choose to mute everyone or individuals.
The moderator should also be monitoring the chat so they can direct questions to the right person or open up the microphone of people that would like to talk. Some systems will also allow attendees to “raise hand” to let a moderator know that they would like to talk.
Don’t Troubleshoot During the Meeting
If you neglected to test before the meeting or if you’re having technical difficulties connecting, don’t hijack the meeting! This meeting you’re trying to join most likely wasn’t called to help you with your connection. It’s very frustrating to the other attendees if the first 10 minutes of the meeting is trying to get you connected properly.
If you’re having difficulty, then try using the phone number and code to just call in (the meeting invite should have the dial-in details). That way you can at least hear and talk using a regular phone call. If you still have issues, you might have to miss the meeting or ask someone who isn’t presenting to help you.
Use the Views
This one is pretty straight forward but it can help improve your personal conference call experience. Most systems have what’s called a gallery or tile view. This puts up a grid of everyone’s video so that you can see everyone’s faces (like a big version of the Brady Bunch credits). This is a great view to use during more social parts of the meeting.
When there is one person who is presenting or speaking, it’s good to switch to the Speaker view. This will make the person talking the focus, so their video will be large and the other people are usually much smaller. This lets you see the expressions on the speakers face as they present.
Most systems also have the ability to “pin” an attendee, which means they will also show as the person in the speaker view.
A presenter can also share their screen. When that happens, you’ll see their screen. You can still switch views, but it’s best to stay on the speaker view so that you can clearly see their screen.
Leave Pauses
The nature of online meetings results in some delay between when you talk and when all attendees will hear what you said. If you’ve heard of the term “latency,” this is what they mean.
If you ask a question or are expecting a response from someone, give a pause of a second or two to give this delay some time. It takes some getting used to, but it prevents you talking over each other. What often happens is you ask a question, the other person doesn’t seem to be responding, so you start talking. But they’ve started their reply and you just haven’t gotten it yet… so now you hear both what you just said and their response. It sounds messy.
Use a Headset
Most of the problems you encounter can be avoided if you use a headset. It for sure will stop any echo, a common problem for people connecting to an online meeting. If you’re using a headset for the first time, you should test it out with a friend before you join a meeting. Most headsets have a setup that will help you out too. Headsets on phones and tablets generally “just work” and you most likely are already using them.
If you don’t have a headset, even just using headphones can help with echo. Echo is caused by your microphone picking up the sound from your speakers. If you put on headphones, the microphone won’t pick up the sound and cause the echo.
If a headset or headphones aren’t an option, just keep the volume down on your speaker to help with the echo.
Speaker Etiquette
If you’re featuring a guest speaker during your meeting, you want to make sure they feel welcomed and comfortable. If they have accepted to be a guest speaker, make sure they know what conferencing system that you will be using. That way they can be prepared to successfully connect.
Be sure to introduce the speaker and make sure all attendees are muted. Hopefully everyone will self-mute, but if not, it’s OK to force mute everyone — just be sure the speaker doesn’t get muted.
When viewing the speaker, switch to the speaker view. This lets you see their face better.
Let the speaker decide how to address questions. They will most likely leave questions to end. Have a moderator to pass questions on to the speaker.
  • Set an agenda and include it in the online meeting invite
  • Read the agenda and come prepared
  • Try to avoid multi-tasking while in an online meeting – if you don’t need to be there, then excuse yourself
  • Keep yourself on mute unless you are speaking – unexpected noise can really disrupt the flow
  • Give people a few seconds to speak when called upon – un-muting can take longer than you think!
  • Use video when speaking, but feel free to turn it off when your not
  • Be conscious that its easy to talk over one another due to the slight delay and limited visual cues – do your best to ‘give way’ and don’t try and talk over the top of one another
  • If you are sharing your screen or presenting, be sure to close any applications you don’t want to share and turn off notifications and sounds
  • If there are post online meeting objectives, make sure they are clear – it could just be the next online meeting date/time
  • When in doubt, practice common courtesy