Virtual meeting etiquette and best practices 201

Now that we have been practicing physical distancing mandates for several weeks, many of us are becoming more comfortable with the tools needed to meet virtually. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about some basic dos and don’ts for using Zoom. I thought it would be helpful to share more 201 level etiquette and best practices for virtual meetings. Here are some additional tips to help you be a polished virtual meeting professional.

Let’s start with etiquette dos and don’ts

Video on or off?

I recently gave a training on virtual meeting etiquette and was asked when, if ever, people should turn their video off. There will be times where it’s acceptable to turn your video off and others where it would be considered very rude. If you are meeting with a small group, you should not turn your video off with a few exceptions listed below. It signals to others that you’re checking out. However, if you attend a function with a lot of people and you are not an active participant, it is acceptable to turn your video off when you aren’t speaking.

These are times when you should absolutely turn your video off.

  • When you are moving your device, perhaps to sit in a different place or to escape a noisy room. It’s polite to let a small group know you are going to do this before turning off your video unless you would interrupt someone. You can explain why you turned it off when you turn your camera back on if you weren’t able to say something prior to going video off.
  • When you need to move around or leave the room for a short time, maybe to refill your coffee. When I am doing more listening than participating in a large meeting, I turn my video off so that I can walk in place during the meeting without disturbing people. Also, when you do move around on video it takes a lot of bandwidth and may impact your connection.
  • When family members need to interrupt you or are doing something distracting in camera view.

Who are you?

Use the “Rename” function if the moniker showing under your image is not appropriate for the meeting. For instance, if your employee id or your spouse’s name is showing, change it to your first and last name. First name only is acceptable if you’re with a group that knows you. To change the name showing, click “Participants” then hover over your name. Click on “More” and “Rename.”

Introductions and goodbyes

At the virtual meeting etiquette training I gave recently I was asked when you should introduce yourself and say goodbye. If you join a meeting before it starts, introduce yourself if there are people in the meeting who you haven’t met. Some small talk is appropriate to break the awkward silence. However, if you arrive late to a meeting, wait until there is a break in the conversation to introduce yourself and apologize for being late. When leaving a meeting early, you can either say goodbye verbally if it won’t interrupt others, or send a Chat message to everyone with your adios.

Wear headphones

To avoid shouting and having your family members hear what is being discussed in a meeting, it is polite to wear headphones when you are in virtual meetings. Headphones will also make it easier for you to hear and for meeting participants to hear you more clearly.


Virtual Meeting Best Practices

A quicker way to unmute

By now you should have mastered the mute button. But did you know you can easily unmute yourself to say something on Zoom by pressing the space bar on your keyboard? Tis true! Rather than fumbling with your mouse to click the mic icon, just press the space bar while you speak to quickly unmute yourself. When you let it go you’ll go back to being muted.

Upload a headshot

If you need to turn video off, it is more professional and friendly to have a photo of you replace your live self. On Zoom, go to and click on your profile. There you can upload a photo from your computer. Chose one that’s clear and professional looking. Your hair and attire should be office ready. Avoid having a photo that’s more weekend than work unless you attend virtual meetings only for social reasons.

Look your best

Zoom, has a really great feature that allows you to erase all of your wrinkles. Well, almost all. For those of you who are on the, ahem, mature side, like me, this feature is a must have. When you are in a Zoom meeting, click on the carrot (^) next to “Stop Video.” Click on “Video Settings” then click the “Touch up my appearance” box. It will make you more beautiful than you already are. I had someone ask me how I manage to look so good on Zoom. I’m sure they wondered where the usual dark circles under my eyes and “character wrinkles” went. Well, thanks to that little setting and the lighting in my office, no one really has to know how old I am.

Position your device thoughtfully

I’ve seen my fair share of double chins, nose hairs and people sitting in bed or slouching on a couch. Where you position or use your device really does matter. The best angle is at eye level or slightly higher. This keeps you from looking down, and your meeting mates from looking up your nose. Also, while I know we are in our homes and it’s tempting to get comfortable, REALLY comfortable, ask yourself what message you’re sending if you sit or lie in bed or slouch on your couch. Neither are professional or even appropriate. To convey a level of home and work separation, sit in a chair with good posture, preferably facing a window or light that shines on your face. That’s the most flattering lighting and will also help remove wrinkles. You can use books or a file box to place your camera or laptop at eye level. I found this video helpful for tips on positioning your device.

A less distracting view

Leaving the view in Zoom on Gallery view is distracting to me. It’s hard for me to focus when I see a lot of people moving about in their little Hollywood Squares boxes. To help my focus, I change the view to Speaker view. That way, the person who is speaking is the main image and I only see a few of the other participants in smaller boxes. To change your view, look at the upper right corner of the video. If the view shows Gallery view, it means you’re in Speaker View. If it says Speaker View you are in Gallery View. Click and it will change to the other.

I hope these tips are helpful. Have you discovered any fun shortcuts or features that make virtual meetings better? Would you add any etiquette tips that would make our video experience more pleasant? Feel free to comment below.


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Sheri J Kennedy on April 27, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for these additional tips, Arden! I am a somewhat reluctant host to a Zoom meeting that’s a cross between social and business, for our writer’s group. I enjoy our usual meeting in person, but I’m finding the more formal – one at a time – format intimidating to moderate. Usually at our large table people break off into side conversations. Now when someone is discussing a topic that loses the interest of some of the others, I find the others distracted, fidgeting or moving about drastically. They don’t always mute so sometimes the noise of their activity puts them as an interruption in the Speaker full screen. I don’t want to squelch freedom since it’s a social and encouraging setting, but I don’t want distractions to bother those who are engaged. Is it alright for me to ask everyone to mute when they’re not speaking? Should I send an email outside of the meeting to those who are ‘offending’ or bring it up during the meeting to everyone? Thanks for taking my question!

  2. Arden on April 29, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Sheri,
    Great questions. It’s pretty common these days to request that people mute themselves in virtual meetings. Even kids know to do this, so it’s not an unusual request. I would bring it up in the meeting. If people continue to not mute themselves, then email the offenders directly. It is really hard to be on a social call listening to just two people talk. So, maybe before you start getting down to business you allow a few minutes of socializing. And, what will help is if you have a question people can answer rather than having a free for all, which can be boring for those not engaged. Humanities Washington is now posting Cabin Fever questions that are a good starting place. There latest one was about poetry, which might be a good topic for your group. One other thing you could do is put people into breakout groups so they can talk with just one or two others for a bit and then come back to the main group. It’s pretty easy to do this. Just Google Zoom breakout rooms and you’ll find plenty of information on that topic. I hope that helps. Good luck.

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