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With the coronavirus pandemic causing offices across the globe to pivot to working from home, we have had to quickly become accustomed to taking our meetings online and running them virtually.
In order to ensure meetings remain worthwhile and actionable, remote workers need to make a conscious effort to help those who have struggled to get accustomed to the rapid rise in digital acceleration.
A whole host of technical errors, disorganized participants, or a poor host can all result in unproductive, ineffective meetings where participants merely reel off a list of updates as opposed to adding genuine value to the call.
Fortunately, we’ve outlined eleven tips for making sure your virtual meetings are a success so that you and your colleagues can be at your most productive while working remotely.
- 1. Find A Platform That Works For You
- 2. Make It Mandatory To Have Your Camera On
- 3. Keep It Concise
- 4. Only Invite Who Is Necessary To Attend
- 5. Allow Time For Technical Hiccups
- 6. Enforce Good Virtual Meeting Etiquette
- 7. Define Your Meeting’s Purpose In The Invite
- 8. Make Sure Everybody Comes Prepared
- 9. Use An Icebreaker
- 10. End By Clarifying Actions
- 11. Is This Worthy Of A Meeting?
1. Find A Platform That Works For You
Identifying the right video conferencing platform can be crucial to delivering an effective virtual meeting. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, users have tended to stick to the reputable Microsoft Teams (often favored by I.T departments) and the rapid newcomer to the market, Zoom.
Whichever platform you use, just ensure it works best for you and your participants. For instance, some workers may suffer security issues with Zoom, whereas others might not have Google or Skype accounts. Microsoft Teams tends to be the best all-rounder but make a decision based on your organization.
2. Make It Mandatory To Have Your Camera On
One of the main reasons for Zoom fatigue is being constantly aware of the fact that we are being watched through our webcams. For those who suffer from anxiety, this can be crippling to have to deal with through a day of back-to-back video calls.
However, it is common video conferencing etiquette to keep your camera on for the duration of a meeting. People respond much better to people and seeing faces on your computer screen helps to break down so many of the barriers of digital communication. Make it mandatory for your participants to have their cameras switched on, as this will massively humanize your virtual meetings.
3. Keep It Concise
You must maintain respect for the time participants have taken out of their day to attend your virtual meeting. Whether they are your subordinates or seniors, it is important to acknowledge that everybody’s working day might be different from your own, and while you might have time for an hour-long call, somebody else might really only be able to spare 15 minutes.
Therefore, keep your virtual meetings as concise as possible, focus on the action points, and don’t draw out a meeting by not coming prepared. If you are able to stick to under an hour, preferably half an hour, then your participants will remain focused and engaged. Any more than that, and you risk losing their attention.
4. Only Invite Who Is Necessary To Attend
Be mindful of people’s diaries. We all moan being back-to-back on video calls all day but often then don’t think twice when extending the invitation to our own virtual meetings. There can be a temptation to invite absolutely everyone involved in a meeting for awareness purposes and to avoid you having to rebrief others, however, that isn’t always the most productive use of everyone’s time.
Only invite those to your virtual meeting for whom it is imperative they attend. That way, your team’s diaries won’t be as clogged up and you will have more time to get down to some actual work.
5. Allow Time For Technical Hiccups
Technology isn’t always our friend. So, remember to leave five or ten minutes in every meeting to account for any technical glitches. For instance, if you are making a presentation to the rest of your colleagues, then try to come as prepared as you can to avoid this. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about screen sharing for participants being disabled, or being locked away in the virtual meeting room with the host unable to see you, so just ensure you account for this lost time when scheduling your next virtual call.
6. Enforce Good Virtual Meeting Etiquette
Turning up on time and being dressed appropriately is one thing but try to ensure your participants stick to good video conferencing etiquette throughout the duration of your meetings. It is okay to call somebody out who looks like they are just sat scrolling on their phone or trying to work on another task while not paying attention.
It’s also polite to introduce everybody at the start of a virtual meeting, just as you would in person so that everybody knows who is who and what their role or function is within a project – this especially important for external participants.
7. Define Your Meeting’s Purpose In The Invite
People need to know what they are signing up for. There is nothing more frustrating than when a vague-sounding virtual meeting invite pops into your inbox unexpectedly. If you are feeling super organized, have an agenda prepared in advance and attach it to your invite.
You will need to clearly set out the duration of your call, its purpose, and the next steps following it. For example, one hour to discuss our marketing plan with a client, with the next step being executing said plan. Simple! You don’t need to write chapter and verse – you can save that for the meeting – but make sure invitees know what they are attending, else you will waste a lot of time at the beginning of your virtual call clarifying what is actually going on.
8. Make Sure Everybody Comes Prepared
This tip is especially important if your virtual meeting is going to take the form of a brainstorm. Be sure to warn everybody involved that they are expected to bring some ideas to the table. If there are relevant reading materials you can attach ahead of time that participants can prep with, then that will only help your cause further. A written meeting agenda can also help to ensure everybody knows what topics will be covered and can therefore be prepared in advance.
9. Use An Icebreaker
While working remotely certain colleagues might be feeling a little anxious or isolated. Bring them into the meeting and instill confidence in them with an icebreaker exercise for the first five minutes of the call. It is perfectly okay to allow time for those watercooler chats we are currently missing out on while working remotely through the pandemic. Plus, this will put everybody in a warm and friendly mood ready to discuss business matters. Checking in with colleagues can really make your virtual meetings more effective, so why not give it a go?
10. End By Clarifying Actions
Every virtual meeting you attend should close with an overview of the agreed actions as discussed on the call. That way, you can ensure your time was spent productively and not just spouting off ideas without any end product.
End every meeting with a clear action plan and assign tasks to the various participants. If you have agreed to a follow-up meeting, then these can then be reported back on in the next virtual call. Recording these action points is especially important if meeting virtually with a client as you will have a record of what was agreed.
11. Is This Worthy Of A Meeting?
In the ‘new normal’ of lockdowns and remote working, a lot of companies have become much stricter with their staff about how frequently they are able to call for a meeting. One of the biggest frustrations employees have – either virtually or in-person – is when a meeting is called that could easily have been sent as an email or a pre-prepared presentation that could be consumed at a time that suited them. Before scheduling your next virtual call, ask yourself, is this worthy of a meeting? Chances are it might not be after all.
In summary, running an effective virtual meeting does take a bit of concerted, proactive effort. However, none of these tips should be too much work or too difficult to follow. Your workplace will be a much more productive and noticeably happier environment if you stick with our suggestions. Furthermore, it looks as though this way of working is fast becoming the ‘new normal’, so if you get into the swing of things now, you are already one step ahead.