Now that we’re all working from home, and are involved in dozens of daily online meetings, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit Digital Etiquette 101. I’m creating a checklist as a PDF download for you as well.
These tips are fundamentally about becoming more intentional, coaching others to elevate their digital relationships, demonstrating respect for and gratitude in others, and advancing the collective digital experience. Many believe, our current digital climate to also be our #NewNorm.
Remember, the Five Ps: prior preparation prevents poor performance.
1. Shave, Shower, Show Up – Even if you just rolled out of bed, it’s apropos to look like you cared enough to be with us. Most virtual meetings use webcams, so you want to look presentable.
2. Early is On Time, On-Time is Late! Learned this one from Scouting! A) If possible and within your control, don’t schedule back to back video meetings; B) give yourself 5 min to get a drink, bio break, and to reset/prepare.
3. Invest in Decent Equipment – Learned this from riding motorcycles. Quality equipment dramatically enhances the experience for everyone: Webcam, Microphone, Headset, Monitor.
4. Test Your Setup – Even if you’ve used Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, MSFT Team, Skype, etc. hundreds of times before, show up a few minutes early and test the audio, video, etc.
5. Always Download the Desktop Apps – With every one of the video conferencing tools, their desktop app is dramatically more capable, and it gives you a lot more control over your settings.
6. Elevate Your Settings – Upload a professional headshot, make sure your username is your actual name, and add your city, so others know your physical location. Ensure you've turned on both your camera and audio (you're not muted/hidden) when you start.
7. Ensure Your Webcam is at Eye Level – Use a simple tripod, where you can set your webcam at eye level and brilliant to look into it when you’re speaking with others. You can see what they look like and look to the side for the chat stream later.
8. Start and End Promptly – When you delay the start, you’re enabling bad behaviors by others. Respect other people’s time and demand that they do the same with yours. End promptly – most people have another one right after this one.
9. Calendar Invites – Please add appropriate and relevant content to the calendar invites, i.e., Nour Team Update, 10 AM ET, Zoom – Details Below, set 15 min alerts, add Zoom Link and one-call phone dial and invite the relevant people. Avoid acronyms you think everyone knows.
10. Confirm the Day Before – Everyone is moving at neck break speed. There is tremendous fluidity in our everyday demands. If the meeting is important enough, get in the excellent habit of calling or sending a quick email the day before to confirm the virtual gathering and perhaps a brief agenda?
11. Moderator/Host Kickoff + Ground Rules – Whoever is the host/moderator should kick the session off with a brief set of ground rules. Ask participants to show their name and location, mute themselves if they’re not speaking, use the chat function, please be brief with their comments, whether the session is being recorded or not, etc.
12. Intros, Agenda, Desired Outcomes – Most people wouldn’t just walk into a physical meeting and start talking; take a few minutes for introductions, what will we cover, and what do we want to get out of this meeting by its conclusion.
13. Discuss if Appropriate/Useful to Record – Before you start to get into all kinds of great info, determine/ask/confirm if it would be useful to record this session. I would not recommend it if personal or confidential info is shared; OK (ask permission and confirm before assuming) if the meeting is operationally focused.
14. PLEASE MUTE YOURSELF – When you’re not speaking, no one needs to hear you typing feverishly, your four-legged VP of Operations, the baby crying in the background, teenagers yelling “MAAAAAAAMMM,” or the lawn maintenance people.
15. Stop Multitasking – You look like an amateur when you ask a question just answered because you were checking emails, or otherwise distracted. Be in the moment.
16. Open/Engage Others via Side Chat – All of the virtual meeting platforms have a separate chat function. A) open it and get comfortable with its various features. B) only share with “everyone” content that’s relevant to all. C) share privately one-on-one topics. D) keep it short and use @name where appropriate – no one wants to read a dissertation here. And E) use links to references of value to others, i.e., interesting websites, products, services, tools, etc. Don’t make people guess the spelling, what you said, how to spell that again, etc.
17. Incredible Value in Brevity – Get to the point; no need or patience for anyone to pontificate. If you can’t make your point briefly, we have more significant communication challenges.
18. Do NO Interrupt – It’s rude, distracting, and derails people. The only exception would be by host/moderator– if people don’t follow the point above and keep rambling on.
19. Agree that If Anyone Drops Off – They’ll simply rejoin. BTW, if the meeting is important enough, ensure you’re in a quiet place, have already had your bio break and have something to drink nearby.
20. Be Positive, Get Creative, and Resourceful – With all the doom and gloom all around us, 24/7, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, life getting sucked out of you, and just plain depressed. Stay positive, constructive, get creative on how we can get something done, and resourceful. The most forward-thinking leaders I know right now are thinking about their post-virus recovery plans.
21. Capture Key Learnings Internally – What went well, what worked, what didn’t, how was the experience for you and your participants? While the gathering is fresh in your minds, quickly capture 3-5 immediate ideas, you can elevate, amplify, or otherwise do differently for the very next meeting.
22. Share Key Insights Externally – Similarly, if you captured relevant insights in the chat session, shared your desktop, or reviewed a file, immediately share that with your external participants. Strike while the iron is hot, and you’re top of mind. If you send it hours, days, or a week later, you’re yesterday’s news.
23. Inventory the Participants – Where the right people on the call? Who was engaged? Who was unusually quiet? Should the same people be on the same web meeting next time?
24. Coaching Moments – Have you ever said something that right after you said it, you wished you hadn’t said it? If you’re a manager or a leader, virtual meetings are phenomenal coaching opportunities. Make diligent notes and use the opportunity for a coaching moment with individuals on the team. Make sure you highlight the positives as much as areas for improvement. I’ve also found asking, “how did you think that call went?” to be a great way to open up the conversation and gauge whether they noticed the same learning moment?
25. Consider varying your start times – As of a couple of weeks ago, we’re all getting online, and it’s easy to pick 10A, Noon, or 3P – we’re used to the in-person, physical meeting starting at the top or bottom of the hour. What about digital meetings at 10:15, 11:30, or 2:45? To avoid online meeting rush hour, schedule meetings a few minutes before or past the hour. And consider, do they all need to be an hour, or can you get more done with shorter, 15-20 min sprints cover one to two topics?
26. Learn from others – I lead or moderate a half-dozen daily online sessions. I also make time to participate in a half-dozen every week. I’m learning a ton from other sessions on what works, what doesn’t, and how I can apply those contextually within my relationship ecosystem.
27. Recalibrate Input vs. Outcome – Most people have a desired outcome from these virtual meetings. Unfortunately, seldom do most people recalibrate those outcomes (results) from the input (what they did and how they did it). Where you too aggressive with your objectives in the timeframe? Did you focus on solving the right problem? Did you use the correct framework or engage others sufficiently to get a broad base of input? Think of every one of these virtual meetings also as a learning and growing opt – not just tactically with the digital meeting, but more strategically on your business outcomes.
28. Applied Learning/Action – I take notes during most of my digital meetings. Next to each great idea, I draw a lightbulb. Next to each action item, I put a box. Right after each session, I review my notes for the ideas I can implement and the boxes I committed to calling, emailing, writing, asking, or otherwise providing to others. How are you capturing learnings and actions to apply and improve your condition?
29. Follow Through (process) vs. Follow Up (transaction) – In the past two decades of being a student of business relationships, I’ve learned a couple of things on this topic. A) a preponderance of people never follow up. We have meetings, they ask questions, and yet you never hear what happened to that initiative, project, or discussion that seemed important to them. And B) those who follow up, are often very transactional – “did you get that email?” is a transactional question. “Did you get the email, look over the attachment, was it helpful, and how can I help you solve the problem you brought up?” is a process. Get in the business of following through. One big lesson from this crisis should be how to focus on fewer relationships but invest in the most valuable ones.
30. Personal Thank You Notes Are Still Vogue – Since we’re all physically disconnected, one way to ensure social distancing doesn’t become social isolation is to revert to some of the ways that we know worked in the good-old-days (Jan. 2020). How do you feel when you receive a handwritten, personal note? How many of those do you get a day? How many do you send out? Order some online if you don’t have any, get stamps, slow down in your penmanship, and beyond emails or text messages, send a personal handwritten note to thank people – not just for what they’re doing during this crisis, but for who they are! Thank them for caring, thank them for the gift of their time, thank them for staying focused amid the chaos all around us. Keep it to three sentences and let them feel appreciated.
Bonus: My coach and mentor, Marshall Goldsmith, in his best-selling book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, captured twenty habits that are keeping you from reaching the top. From Winning too much to making excuses and passing the buck, it’s a brilliant list of often unrecognizable habits. These interpersonal patterns (flaws) create challenges and roadblocks in our interactions with others. The list may be a worthwhile revisit. I’ll post it in our blog next.
As always, I welcome your suggestions, ideas, perspectives, and questions.
Feel free to add to the list in the comments, and I’ll create future updates.
With my best,
We’ve created a learning sprint on this topic, delivered live (virtually) for your team in a highly interactive and flexible module. In the coming weeks, we’ll also add it to our learning management system for you to download as a short course.