Love them or hate them, virtual meetings are a fact of business life. Zoom alone hosts more than 3 trillion meetings each year, and nearly half of those participants find meeting virtually fatiguing. There’s a different etiquette for virtual meetings. It’s harder to read body language. Many virtual meetings are still awkward affairs with no ground rules on how to participate. It can be difficult to find the right time or approach to interject into a group conversation, but there are ways to handle these virtual meetings and ensure you have your say in the conversation.
Getting noticed in a virtual meeting the right way
Although the intention is the same, virtual meetings take on a different tone and structure than their in-person counterpart. During in-person meetings, gaining attention can be as simple as making eye contact. In a virtual meeting, it’s harder to see some of the non-verbal signals normally used to signify that we have something important to add to the conversation. What can you do?
Depending on the social etiquette of your workplace, you may:
- Use the “raise hand” feature on your meeting software.
- Unmute yourself or turn your camera on, if it’s not already.
- Type in the chat that you’d like to chime in.
- Gently raise your physical hand if you’re on video.
When it’s your turn to speak, it’s important to consider the best way to transition the conversation to your contribution in a thoughtful way.
The best virtual meeting transition phrases
Simply trying to talk over someone in a virtual meeting is ineffective. At best, you’ll halt the conversation and have to repeat yourself, but that also could come with some negative emotions from others who may feel as though you interrupted them. Raising your hand, adding a comment in the chat section, or coming off mute or on-screen may work, but you also need a great transitional phrase that eases your way into the conversation.
Try these phrases to take any potential sting or awkwardness out of your interjection:
- “Great point. Before we move on, let me add . . .”
- “Actually, there’s something I need to say here . . .”
- “I’m glad you brought that up. I’d like to add . . .”
- “I was wondering if . . .”
- “I don’t know if this is the right time, but . . .”
- “I hope no one minds if I suggest . . .”
- “Sorry, not to interrupt but I was thinking that . . .”
Here are a few more tips for getting noticed in the right way during a virtual meeting.
Tips for projecting a professional virtual presence
The best etiquette we recommend is to treat virtual meetings as if they were in-person meetings. Stay alert and don’t check your email or smartphone when you get bored. Try to look and maintain your professionalism. Use a virtual background to avoid distracting participants when your cat wanders in behind you, or at least ensure your background is clean and projects a professional appearance. Then, follow the same guidelines you’d adhere to when the meeting is on-site. Arrive on time, pay attention, and don’t multi-task.
Virtual meetings are simply a fact of life. The approach you take to maintain your professionalism matters. Don’t let your guard down, stay productive, and try to enjoy your camera time.