Online etiquette for meetings in the wake of COVID-19

Dr. Joseph Kimani Wanjeri, Dept of Surgery Lecturer and Web Champion.

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in more business transactions, classes, lectures and different types of meetings being conducted via online platforms. Some people are still on the learning curve with regard to use of these relatively new channel as well as how to conduct themselves when participating in whichever way. Online etiquette or netiquette is the set of rules that is recommended for online communication.

Virtual meetings of whatever form are conducted verbally or in writing (chats) with or without video taken with a camera embedded in the electronic gadget utilized. When verbal and visual communication is engaged in, microphones and video cameras can inadvertently be left on resulting in private conversation or moments being unintentionally broadcast. This can result in embarrassment, discomfort to the audience or it could pose a security risk to the exposed party.

Presenters or participants can also cause offence to the audience by the way they talk, chat or the way they appear, present themselves or behave on video. Many mistakes are as a result of ignorance, carelessness or indiscipline.

Therefore in order to avoid embarrassing moments and in order not to cause offence or discomfiture to others one should exercise discipline, patience and be conversant with basic online microphone and video camera skills.   

Appropriate planning is required before joining formal online forums and this will vary depending on one’s role in the online engagement. All participants should beforehand familiarize with the relevant applications and prepare the necessary equipment, the environment and incase a video camera is to be utilized, it is prudent to look presentable or dress appropriately. The microphone and video camera should be switched off immediately after joining the forum thereafter being put on when or if required. Having the microphone and or the video camera on unnecessarily might not only result in intrusion of your privacy but can also result in noise or images interfering with the smooth running of the meeting. The video camera could for instance expose such unsavory habits as picking the nose or teeth, grimacing or yawning and sneezing without covering the mouth whereas the microphone might pick background sounds which might then cause echo or result in another form of disruption.

It is important to keep time, be respectful, polite, use official names and to first introduce oneself when the need or opportunity to talk arises. Online etiquette encompasses all these and can be summarized as the correct or acceptable conduct while interacting or communicating online. Appropriate online etiquette should be observed depending on the type of interaction (Family, Friends, Workmates, Classmates, Teacher-Student etc), the type of forum (Social, Informal, Formal etc) or as spelt out by the group, company or institution involved.

Dr. Joseph Kimani Wanjeri

Lecturer & UoN Department of Surgery Web Champion


Acknowledgement: UoN CHS ICT Team for the help accorded in preparation of this article.