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Etiquette in virtual meetings

/ 04:01 AM November 30, 2021

Time was when stockholders’ and board of directors’ meetings were conducted in the physical presence of their attendees.

For publicly held companies, the annual stockholders’ meeting gave the minority stockholders the opportunity to talk with the companies’ top brass in person.

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With regard to board meetings, the physical attendance enabled the directors to interact with each other closely and discuss at length the items in the agenda.

Although the conduct of those meetings through telephone or video conferencing has been allowed by law for some time, that procedure was largely availed of by companies that had foreigners on their board who were based elsewhere in the world.

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The gregarious nature of Filipinos preferred face-to-face or “warm bodies” meetings over technology-based corporate gatherings.

That disposition had to be modified because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The quarantine measures imposed by the government to arrest the spread of the virus forced many businesses to forgo physical attendance, using instead “virtual meetings” via internet-based apps or facilities.

Although there are indications the government would further ease quarantine measures, virtual meetings may continue to be used by businesses in their operations and in complying with mandatory corporate meetings.

To maximize the benefits of virtual meetings, there are several rules on etiquette that should be observed by their participants, namely:

First, they should be punctual or, better still, join the meeting ahead of the scheduled commencement time, so they can take the proper steps to effectively access the meeting’s app and position themselves and their instruments in such a way that they can be clearly seen and heard by the rest of the group.

In the business community, punctuality is considered a sign of professionalism. It sends the message that a person respects and values the time of his or her colleagues.

Besides, by being late, the tardy participant may miss the important matters earlier discussed. And unless he or she is at the top of the company’s pecking order, the rest of the attendees may not look kindly at going over again things that have already been taken up.

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Second, observe the company’s dress code. The fact that a participant is attending the meeting from home does not give him or her the right to act homey or pleasantly comfortable, that is, in casual house clothes.

Neither is it advisable to use the meeting as an opportunity to flaunt new clothes or fashionable accessories to attract attention (or silent scorn). The participant should wear the clothes that he or she is expected to wear if the meeting was held in the office premises.

Third, eliminate or minimize distractions during the meeting. While serious discussions are in progress, it is annoying to hear, for example, people talking loudly at the background, more so if their subject matter is personal or not meant for public consumption.

The members of the participant’s household should be asked to keep quiet or pipe down when talking while the meeting is in progress.

But if the noise is coming from crowing roosters, barking dogs or loudmouthed neighbors of which he or she has no control of, muting the audio reception may have to be resorted to.

Fourth, avoid unnecessary movement or action during the meeting. Although the ability to multitask is sometimes considered beneficial, eating, drinking or doing something else while on video conference is improper.

Not only are those acts distracting, they send the subliminal message that the subject matters being discussed are not important to merit the undivided attention of the multitasking participant. It’s like saying, “I have better things to do than listen to or join in the discussion.”

There are other rules on etiquette that should be observed during virtual meetings, but the bottom line is, participants should behave in a professional manner and act as they would like to be treated while at work. INQ

For comments, please send your email to [email protected]

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