After last year’s unforeseen events left no other option, much of today’s business moved into the online environment. In-person meetings were swapped for virtual ones, and this brought about a slew of new, unexpected challenges. There is more to a successful virtual meeting than meets the eye. From technical difficulties to low engagement, there are a lot of potential pitfalls that can turn a productive meeting into a time-waster. Here are 7 tips for virtual meetings that should help you make the most of your sessions.
1. Know when a meeting is necessary
While it is true that regular video meetings will keep everyone in the loop, you don’t want your employees to feel like they are wasting time. You need to determine when a meeting is actually necessary. They should be reserved for matters that require participants to all be there at the same time. The rest of the matters should be dealt with through asynchronous channels such as email and forums. Otherwise, your employees are going to be tempted to multitask. So, provide background information before the meeting through other channels. Share your presentation slides and have your employees look at them beforehand to make the meeting more purposeful.
2. Make video mandatory
As said, one of the biggest drawbacks of virtual meetings is that it’s much more difficult to hold the participants’ undivided attention. The level of distraction is high, and unless your employees know that you can see them. They may as well spend the meeting scrolling through their phones. If you don’t want to be a mere background sound, be sure that it’s mandatory that your employees turn on their webcams. Of course, even this cannot be a 100% guarantee that everyone is fully focused on the topic at hand. But, it certainly cuts down on distractions and even has a slew of other benefits. Having video on will take your virtual meeting one step closer to a real one. Making participants feel like they are, indeed, at the same meeting.
3. Do prepare well
Starting a virtual meeting unprepared is a sure recipe for it to be less than successful. Allow ample time for yourself to prepare well for the meeting. First of all, determining the meeting time might require some forethought. If you have employees working in different time zones, make sure you take everyone into account. Next, your objective should be clearly defined. Set an agenda with all the main points that are going to be discussed. Thereafter, make sure you allocate a certain amount of time for each of them so that the meeting does not drag on at the expense of everyone’s attention span. The aforementioned practice of sending out background information in advance is also a crucial step in the preparation phase.
4. Keep the engagement alive
A meeting is hardly successful if you end up being the only one doing the talking. However, it’s not easy to make a regular meeting engaging. Let alone a virtual one, so you need to make an extra effort. You may start the meeting with an icebreaker to make everyone feel part of the group. During the meeting, make sure you use visuals through screen sharing to illustrate the topic at hand and grab people’s attention. When asking questions, there is a high possibility that you will be met with silence on the other end. To prevent this, you may call on people instead of waiting for volunteers. Assigning a facilitator or taking on this role yourself to help guide the process and ensure participation is a good idea. You may even decide to assign the various tasks of the facilitator to different people to keep everyone engaged.
5. Make sure the tech is top-notch
Let’s face it, many of us weren’t prepared for the sudden switch to virtual meetings. However, you mustn’t let technical difficulties get in the way of a successful meeting. That said, you should devote special attention to figuring your tools out before starting a meeting. Testing everything will not only help you avoid delays that destroy productivity. But it will also help you identify problems with your current setup. Meetings often fail because of poor sound quality that makes things difficult to hear. It’s also extremely important that the video quality is high so that faces are clearly visible and communication is more effective. All in all, virtual meetings will only bring the desired results if the audio and video quality is high, so you should invest in this aspect.
6. Have clear rules and video meeting etiquette
Another common issue with virtual meetings is the lack of common etiquette. A meeting can easily turn disorganized without everyone being on the same page regarding the rules. A loud person may take over, leaving no opportunity for others to get a word in. Or people may cut into one another’s words with the lack of ground rules. So, make sure you determine the code of conduct beforehand. For instance, requiring participants to state their names before contributing will make it easier to follow who is speaking when there are a lot of participants. Making sure everyone mutes their microphones when they are not talking is another example.
7. Facilitate tuning in
Finally, to make sure everyone gets there on time and there are no delays, be sure to give your employees clear instructions regarding participation. Allow them enough time to download and familiarize themselves with the tool in question. Let them know of any passwords, and give them a heads up on how to use the most important functions. Send out meeting links once again directly before the meeting to make it easier for everyone to find them. It is also a good idea to keep the same links and passwords for any future meetings to save time. It’s a small detail but it can make a big difference in how the meeting starts out.
Virtual meetings need to be approached in a different way than traditional ones. However, by understanding this and putting enough effort into the preparation phase. You can take your virtual meetings to the next level and ensure that they will be just as productive as in-person ones.