Webinar etiquettes: virtual & real

By Dr Priti Swarup

The word ‘etiquette’ means ‘the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group’. The present pandemic situation has made human beings come up with a new and sustainable way of communication, i.e. communicating online and webinars. In the context of online connect, etiquettes are a set of rules and socially acceptable behaviors that must be followed while communicating on the web.

Universal rules:

  1. Respecting everyone’s time: It is the foremost yet often forgotten aspect of online communications. Time must be used judiciously and applies both to the presenter and the attendee. The presenter must start and finish within the allocated time, which shows the professional conduct of the presenter. Similarly, attendees should be present in the webinar well before time so that it doesn’t cause any disturbance to the host and hassles of allowing the guest to join in after the meeting has started, can be well avoided.
  2. Appropriate attire and dress code: It is imperative to follow the dress code and protocol while attending any meeting online. Not just the presenter is required to be formally and appropriately dressed, the attendees are also expected to follow the dress code specified. Hair should be properly done and fiddling during the session is not welcome. Casual attire like shorts, loose clothing, and revealing clothes is a straight no and must be avoided under all circumstances.

  3. Background set up and noise: Both the presenters and the attendees should preferably sit against a plain background with minimal décor and wall colours with neutral hues. This ensures better visibility, avoids distraction, and helps in understanding the body language well. Also, sitting against the window should be avoided as it blocks the light and the person appears darker. The attendees should also follow this, even if most of the time their webcam and mic is off.

  4. Snacking or munching: Now this is a big NO for both sides. Not only munching, eating, or even chewing gum is distracting for the audience as well as the presenter, it also indicates bad manners and indifferent attitude. The presenter can always keep a bottle or glass of water beside them and can also keep some candies handy to overcome the stage anxiety or nervousness. For longer sessions, the attendees also may consume water or light snacks if the need is, provided the video and audio are in off mode.

For Presenters: In addition to above-

  1. Timely login: The presenters should acquaint themselves with the webinar platform that is being used for the session. It is advisable to log in at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled time. This leaves a margin to take up the tech issues beforehand that may arise during the live session. The external plugins like cameras and mics should be tested earlier. Browser settings, operating system, and internet speed should be taken care of well before time.
  • Practice and rehearse: It requires a lot of effort before going live in front of an audience. Practice, practice, and practice; is the key to overcome nervousness and stage fear. Features like screen sharing and slide presenting must be familiarized beforehand. Practicing the whole session in front of your family members or real audience is never a bad idea. Even the most skilled and experienced speakers fail sometimes, if not rehearsed well.

  • Be professional in your conduct: Use appropriate posture while sitting and presenting. Slouching in the chair or sofa are signs of unprofessional behaviour. In case of unexpected issues like background noise or tech issues, stay calm and composed and look for the best solution. Use the chat box option, if available, to apprise the audience in case of any issue and engage the audience positively.

  • Talking and listening: It is better to wear a good quality noise-cancellation headset. Use the mute button, if not talking and nod your head often. Try to look into the camera instead of reading from the slides throughout. Stop now and then, to allow the attendees to process and retain more information. Avoid overcrowding of information on one slide and use graphics whenever possible. Repeat the questions for all the viewers and answer the queries in a poised manner.

  • For Attendees

    1. Webcam and mic: Keep these in turn off mode and switch on only when asked by the presenter.
  • Avoid chatting: Chatbox option of the webinar platform should be used very sparingly as it becomes disruptive for others present. If there’s a need for communicating with someone personally, text them individually or speak directly, and only after the webinar is over.

  • Wait for your turn: Look for cues and use the chat box option to raise relevant queries that too when necessary. Ask questions that are pertinent to the ongoing discussion and not just to tease or make fun of the presenter in any form.

  • Any kind of distraction is a deterrent to the success of any online communication. Following protocol and etiquette are imperative for learning and sharing the information for the benefit of all, as it does in the real world.