Tips on Virtual Business Meeting Etiquette

Virtual meetings are here to stay; they are the future! Like face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings should be effective, concise, and professional. Your clients and other participants should feel valued.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Maya Angelou

Key tips to having a successful meeting and encouraging strong participation.

PRIOR TO THE MEETING

The Look

  • Virtual Style: Design a personal style that works virtually. You are representing your company, so dress up/dress for the occasion. Take virtual meetings seriously and look professional. Make sure your body language is appropriate and look at the camera.
  • Lighting and Framing:  Use the camera on your computer to see what your surroundings will look like to other participants. You need to be visible (not too dark or too light).
  • Group Size and Audience: Consider the size of your group and the audience as you proceed and think about how you will conduct a virtual meeting.

Actions

  • Invitation and Meeting Information: Send thelink, password, day, date, and time (including time zone), ask participants to RSVP and give them a deadline.
  • Instructions for Back-up Plan:  If technical difficulties arise, make sure participants know the alternate plan, such as the phone dial-in number.
  • Agenda: Have an (even if brief) agenda and include a schedule with how long the meeting will last and if you will include breaks, etc.
  • Preparedness (Mental): Be mentally prepared, stay positive, be ready for technical difficulties, conversation lags, misunderstanding, contentious moments, and disagreements. Keep on task, be polite and use humor and humility in uncomfortable situations. Be gracious.
  • Preparedness (Meeting): Come to the meeting prepared, just like you would for a person-to-person meeting.
  • Virtual Meeting Tools/Applications: Know how to use virtual meeting tools, such as chat boxes, shared screens, and applications.
  • Test Run & Equipment: Do a test run of the virtual meeting. Get familiar with the equipment – camera, mic, chat tools, and shared documents. Make sure all equipment is working properly prior to your meeting.

THE MEETING

Introductions & Managing Expectations

  • Punctuality: Be on time or early (host should open the meeting 5 minutes early). Let the host know if you will be late or need to leave the meeting early.
  • Sound & Video check:  Make sure everyone can be seen and heard.

Let participants know if they are not coming through clearly – either internet (screen freezes), voice (mic), or video (camera).

  • Technical Issues & Back-up Plan: Make sure participants are aware of the dial-in number in the event of technical problems (most platforms allow you to dial into the meeting).  Say something like: “There is an internet connectivity problem, let’s move to the dial-in.”
  • Reaction Time: Be aware that it will take people an extra second or two to respond or jump into the conversation. It is a little more difficult to discern if the person speaking is finished, especially if any internet lag time. Additionally, participants may hesitate to be sure someone else is not going to speak.
  • Introductions: Welcome everyone to the meeting.Start with any introductions and recognize who is on the call and who may be missing.
  • Agenda Adjustments/Overview: Go over any adjustments to the agenda and quick overview of the upcoming meeting.
  • Excusing Yourself/Leaving a Meeting Early:  Communicate who may be leaving the meeting early, let others know it is fine to just wave and go. If you need to leave unexpectedly, wait for a pause in the conversation, raise your hand and say, “I need to sign off, good meeting, thank you.”

Do’s

  • Video/Camera On:  Show up, have your camera/video on. A dark box or screen with just your name, gives the perception that you are not interested in participating.
  • Listen: Be intentional, stay present, look at the camera, be authentic, clear your desk, silence your phone, and take notes.
  • Speak Clearly:  Speak clearly, slowly and with confidence.  Remember the sound quality may not be great. Be sure to mute and unmute as needed.  Do not forget people can hear you if you are not muted, so do not make a side snide comment-could be embarrassing or awkward!
  • Time: Be aware of the time, make sure a clock is in view.

Don’ts

  • Do Not Interrupt:  Never polite and very confusing on a virtual platform.
  • Do Not Shout into the microphone: Shouting distorts the sound.
  • Avoid Distractions: Such as kids, pets and, outside noises (mute).
  • Do Not Eat: No need to elaborate.  
  • Drinks: Keep beverages close, but out of sight. If you need to take a drink, take a drink as discreetly as possible.
  • Movement: Do not walk around and/or move erratically.

Ending the Meeting

  • Short wrap-up: Keep it short, include a reminder of follow-up items.
  • Parting:  Thank everyone for their time.  Leaving a meeting well and professionally is key, this is the last impression.

POST MEETING

  • Follow-up: Send a thank you email and meeting summary and/or any information requested immediately. 
  • Not Addressed in the Virtual Meeting: Ask via email if there were any questions or items that need to be addressed that did not come up in the virtual meeting.

Good Luck and Happy Meetings!

Fraud Risk Within Non-Profit Audits

Recently, John Crosslin, Co-Managing Principal, presented to the Tennessee Society of CPAs about audit issues and deficiencies in the non-profit sector.  He brought up a very important issue that can taint a non-profit’s reputation and cause other very substantial issues:  fraud risk.

Fraud in non-profits can reveal itself in a variety of different ways.  Such examples include a college employee in the financial aid office signing up false students, an employee using a credit card for personal uses, or creating fake credit card statements for reimbursements.  Significant control by the founder or executive director, difficultly in verifying certain revenue streams, lack of management oversight, unusual disbursements or reliance of volunteer boards can cause red flags.  Ultimately, many of these types of occurrences point to fraud within the non-profit.

How can an auditor detect fraud?   Establishing a system that requires all employees to submit expense reports that include original support for all expenses, identifying where/when the expenses occurred is vital. These expense reports must be carefully reviewed and all expenses will need approval by the designated person.  It is also important to always limit employee credit cards.  Additionally, assigning identification numbers to approved vendors while using pre-numbered purchase orders will also decrease the opportunity for fraud.  Fraud can also appear through financial reporting.  Failing to disclose significant related party transactions, misclassifying restricted donations to mislead readers, overstating program expenses, and incorrectly valuing donated assets are some examples where auditors encounter fraud.

It is important to formulate procedures to reduce fraud risk exposure.  You can do so by periodically testing management fraud expenses, journal entry testing for odd items at odd times (SAS 99),  test their 800 hotline, look for abnormalities in budget to actual reports, and review accrued vacation to ensure employees are taking regular vacation.

What are the effects of fraud?  Non-profit organizations that experience fraud can be faced with financial damage, loss of support from donors; auditors will suffer and can lose relationships with their customers.  The most extreme result can be that the organization will dissolve.

Remember that when something seems fishy while performing an audit, always trust your gut and use professional skepticism.

IRS Warns of Student Scam

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a warning to taxpayers about bogus phone calls from IRS impersonators demanding payment for a non-existent tax: the Federal Student Tax.

Even though the tax deadline has come and gone, scammers continue to use varied strategies to trick people, in this case students. In this newest twist, they try to convince people to wire money immediately to the scammer. If the victim does not fall quickly enough for this fake federal student tax, the scammer threatens to report the student to the police.

Scam artists frequently masquerade as being from the IRS, a tax company and sometimes even a state revenue department. Many scammers use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the drivers license of their victim if they do not get the money.

Some examples of other tactics seen this year are:

  • Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes gift card
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals
  • Verifying tax return information over the phone
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry

The IRS urges taxpayers to stay vigilant against these calls and to know the telltale signs of a scam demanding payment.

The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you dont owe taxes, heres what you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting FTC.gov and clicking on File a Consumer Complaint. Please add IRS Telephone Scam in the notes.
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

If you have further questions on any tax-related matters, please contact your Crosslin tax team at (615) 320-5500. As always, thank you for your business!