Webinar Etiquette, a.k.a. Avoiding the Blunders

We have entered an era when online conferences, video hangouts and screen sharing technologies have crept from fringe to commonplace.

And whether the webinar is still a new experience or you rank as a seasoned pro, remember we all make mistakes and are prone to commit faux pas as both the host and the participant.  This  post will help give some commonsense pointers and insight from hard lessons learned firsthand. I hope to help increase your savvy and respect in the hybrid personal/virtual interaction.

A full disclaimer as the author, I have personally committed the biggest sin of a webinar myself–and I hope my “gut-check” moment can be a lesson you don’t have to learn personally.   More on that later…


Email Notifications

For many years I’ve watched new email notifications pop up on the presenter’s screen during webinars, and 3 things happen here:

  1. Your audience starts to salivate like a hungry dog and begins thinking about their own email beckoning their attention away from your message.
  2. Your audience may see messages that aren’t for their eyes.
  3. Your lack of attention to detail and respect of share time together is on display.

It is simple,  make sure to turn off your email program before you presentation begins.


Computer/Phone Noises

Windows 10 has introduced a new level of crazy head noises and notifications that bombard your computer throughout the day,  and they are inevitably going to kick it up a notch when you least expect it during online meetings. In the lower right hand side of your screen is a “settings/notification center”.  One of the tiles says “quiet hours”.  Turn on quiet hours before the meeting, this goes for hosts and participants.

If you are a Mac user,  don’t despair.  Your notification center has a very simple to use “Do Not Disturb” button you can toggle on. Or, go one step further and setup a keyboard shortcut.
The cell phone is a similar culprit too, beeps, messenger notifications and sounders are distracting if not outright annoying.   Put that ol’ trusty mobile cellular telephone in “Do not Disturb” before the outset of your call/conference.

Desk Space

This isn’t huge, but it is a nice touch—clear your desktop.

Files, Folders and Shortcuts all over your screen is the equivalent of not picking up your house before having guests over.
A simple trick here is to create a separate “user” on your computer and just keep that as a “webinar” only profile that you’d switch to when hosting-and let that be your clean space.


Hosting a larger audience?

Practice how to mute all or mute/unmute specific attendees.   Feedback, car noise, chewing and heavy breathing are inevitable.

Log on early. At least 5 minutes early, but I suggest 10 to 15 minutes as the best habit. And depending on your service, check your settings to make sure you allow attendees the ability to log on in advance too. You’ll get less of your prompt personality audience abandoning your meeting if they aren’t blocked from joining early.

To help keep your audience on silent engaged, use the chat function and polling/voting tools. It’s also helpful to have a partner managing the chat–that way you get to stay on topic and avoid stop down distractions.

Also, think of some potential questions ahead of time and attribute them to the audience to encourage the flow of real audience questions.   Reference the chat feature 2 or 3 times at the outset to set the tone for interaction.


Keeping the personal touch during a virtual meeting is vital.  And building trust is harder if someone can’t see the whites of your eyes.

Do some homework on your settings, surrounding and background.  Then, get real comfortable with your face.   It really is much prettier/ handsome that your give yourself credit for.  Go checkout the science behind why you are too critical on yourself: Wistia Blog

If you are a Participant, be aware of your webcam too–it’s funny the stuff we see at times.

And, Dear God!!!  If you schedule the meeting as a video chat–you better do it.   Your attendees spent time dressing up and primping–don’t set an expectation and then leave them hanging or working harder than the host.

Now,  what is the worst sin???

Well…….I was viewing a product demo with a software sales representative. I was guilty of not being super intrigued, which should have been a warning sign to raise the red flag of caution.  Key here: If you aren’t interested, you have a much higher likelihood of damaging your reputation, or earning a new reputation you wouldn’t admire.

Anyway,  I let myself become distracted with email first.  So, I put my phone line on mute and would chime in every minute or so just to “look engaged”.  It was going well–or so I thought.

Then, I let the biggie happen.   I answered another phone call that I thought would just take less than a minute.  You know,  I was arrogant and thought I could pull  it off.

I wasn’t so smooth.   I had indeed muted my phone line.  I however did not notice my computer microphone was picking up and feeding into the webinar too.

My keyboard clicking,  coffee sipping noises and then the entire phone call was heard too.  I became the horses butt, and damaged both my personal and professional reputation in all of 10 minutes.

The big sin here wasn’t the technical failure of muting my mic and my phone.  My sin was a lack of respect.

Make sure you respect the host. Make sure you respect the participant.

Value every interaction,  online or not.

Bret Brummitt

Bret Brummitt

Senior Consultant


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