Sales reps aren’t the only ones who need to online meetingsknow how to run an online meeting. In fact, I can’t think of anyone within a virtual organization who doesn’t need to know the basics.

Having sat through hundreds of web conferences, webinars, demos, and online meetings, I’ve developed the following five “no no’s” of running a virtual meeting. Some of my suggestions apply to business meeting etiquette in general (whether online or in person) but still apply nonetheless.

1) Forgetting to Send a Calendar Invite

Most people live and die by their smartphones these days. I’m one of them. If you’re not on my calendar, I’m probably going to forget I committed to the meeting. Therefore, it’s imperative that you take the 30 seconds needed to send a calendar invitation. Make sure you pick the correct time and include all the necessary stakeholders. With most email providers these days, you can simply enter your invitees’ email addresses, pick a date, hit “Save,” and your invitees automatically receive an invitation via email.

2) Forgetting to Specify the “Location” in Your Invite

Most people remember to send a calendar invite; however, many times, there is nothing in the invitation’s “location” field. Will this meeting simply be a phone call? If so, will the person be calling me, or should I plan on calling?

When someone sends me a calendar invite, I typically accept it immediately (assuming there are no conflicts), and then I don’t look at it until the day of the meeting. So, if you send an invitation with no “location,” your attendees may be confused when the meeting time arrives.

If you’re planning a formal webinar or demo, make sure that you include both a bridge line and a web link so that attendees can engage via phone and/or computer.

3) Showing Up Late (or Too Early)

“Fashionably late” isn’t really a popular term in business. This is especially true for virtual meetings. When you’re spread throughout different geographic locations, you don’t get much in-person face time. Therefore, being punctual is key to maintaining trust and building positive relationships.

In my experience, online meetings are much more to the point than an in-person meeting. There’s much less small talk involved, as everyone’s focused on getting down to business. Therefore, every minute that goes by waiting on a participant to arrive can be painful.

Now, let me also say that showing up too early can be equally troublesome in certain scenarios, especially if you’re the guest and you’re not well acquainted with the host. Most hosts expect participants to dial in no more than two minutes before the call is scheduled to begin. Dialing in 10 minutes early can be considered rude and may cause the presenter to feel uncomfortable with the extra time he now has to fill. Word to the wise – just show up a minute or two before the meeting is supposed to start, and you’ll always fit right in.

4) Showing Up Without a Plan

Like any business meeting, if not properly planned with an agenda, the discussion can go way past the allotted time. This is especially difficult in a virtual setting, because some participants are likely consultants who bill on an hourly basis. If your meeting bleeds past the allotted time, it can quickly mess up schedules and budgets.

Also, unless you’re doing a group video chat, the non-verbal queues of a typical meeting are absent. Therefore, a plan is especially important for keeping the discussion on track and making sure everyone gets to participate equally.

5) Wishing You Had Recorded It (After the Fact)

One of the big problems of an audio conference or video chat is the inability to record the discussion. There are significant benefits of recording meetings, particularly for project managers who will be tasked with implementing certain deliverables.

To remedy this issue, some companies utilize webinar software. Obviously, the drawback of using webinar software is that there’s a cost associated with your subscription.

Feel free to share your tips by tweeting me @ExecInSweats.

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and


  1. A few more…

    -Not having quality audio or video. Get a $40 mic like the ATR 2100 or something similar for Pete’s sake.
    -Being in a noisy place.
    -Muting yourself when it’s not necessary. When I hear “sorry I was on mute” that means “Yeah, I was checking email or listening to a sporting event.”

    • Ha! Great stuff Matt. Maybe I should write a follow-up piece with all the funny excuses about why something went wrong with the virtual meeting. “I think Skype has a bad connection again.” Good stuff – thanks for sharing.

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