The do’s and don’ts of virtual meetings

Virtual meetings, whether by phone or video, have become a business staple. But virtual meetings present special challenges. How to stay professional during a virtual meeting:

Press “mute” to block any background noise. Bob Preston, chief collaboration officer at Polycom, a telepresence, video and voice communications company, remembers a teleconference in which someone was eating a bag of potato chips.

He says, “You could hear it rustling during the meeting, and finally someone said: ‘Whoever is eating the potato chips, could you please mute?’”

Be heard without being rude. The audio delay inherent with some conference calls can make it tricky to join the conversation. Try starting with “Excuse me” or “Question” and wait a few seconds before continuing, suggests Preston. On a videoconference, raise your hand first.

Wear solid colors on a videoconference. Stripes don’t transmit well on camera and can be mistaken for movement, causing the camera to keep refreshing itself, says Susan Colaric, director of instructional technology at Saint Leo University in Florida. Stay away from large, shiny jewelry, too.

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Avoid multitasking. Doing other tasks during the meeting doesn’t allow you to come across as a true contributor. Be ready to ask questions, and offer opinions and answers.

On a videoconference, look into the camera when you speak and use the same kind of body language and facial expressions you would in a face-to-face meeting.

Hitting the mute button so you can disengage is not the way to stand out.

— Adapted from “Staying Professional in Virtual Meetings,” Eilene Zimmerman, The New York Times.