Virtual meetings are now the norm for many businesses. But just because everyone has access to the technology doesn't mean it’s being used in the most effective way possible.
Tackling virtual meetings the wrong way is a recipe for disaster. You want to ensure everyone is on the same page (literally and figuratively) before you start your meeting, otherwise, you'll just waste time - both yours and others’.
While having the right meeting management software is critical for success, there are also some ground rules you should follow to ensure your virtual meetings are as smooth and productive as possible.
In this article, we'll give you ten tips on how to make virtual meetings work by considering what to do (and what not to do) before, during, and after your session.
These simple tips will help ensure that your virtual meetings are efficient, engaging, and productive.
Let's get right into it.
10 Dos To Consider
Let's start with the dos. These tips will help ensure that your virtual meetings are successful.
1. Keep It Short And Sweet
Running an effective remote meeting is all about being concise. You want to ensure you're getting your point across without dragging on and wasting everyone's time.
The best way to do this is to create a meeting agenda before the meeting starts. This will help keep you (and everyone else) focused on the task at hand.
With the average meeting being between 16 and 30 minutes, if you are going off tangents, cut yourself off and move on to the next item on the agenda. It's a good idea to save topics for another meeting if they're not relevant to what you're discussing right now.
2. Get Everyone On The Same Page
Before starting your virtual meeting, ensure everyone is using the same technology. This includes video conferencing software, chat software, and any other tools you're using to communicate.
If you're in a small group, you might want to have a quick chat before the meeting starts to ensure everyone is ready.
If you're in a larger team, you should send out a meeting agenda (more on this in the next point) with instructions on how to join the meeting ahead of time, along with anything else participants need to know. This will help avoid difficulties (technical and otherwise) when everyone tries to join the call.
3. Set A Clear Agenda
It's essential to set a clear agenda for your meeting before it starts. This will help everyone know what to expect and come prepared with questions or comments.
Your agenda should be sent out to all meeting participants, so they have time to review it. During the meeting, ensure you reference the agenda often to keep everyone on track.
A good agenda involves more than just the topics you want to discuss. It should also include the time limit for each topic and the meeting start and end times.
Here's an example of what a meeting agenda might look like:
- 9:00 am -9:15 am: Introductions
- 9:15 am -9:30 am: Review of previous meeting minutes
- 9:30 am -10:00 am: Topic 1
- 10:00am -10:15am: Break
- 10:15am -11:00am: Topic 2
- 11:00am -11:30am: General discussion/Q&A
- 11:30am -11:45pm Meeting adjourned
Relatively speaking, this is a meeting that’s on the longer side, so adapting your agenda to the time you have available is important
4. Appoint A Facilitator
Everyone hates awkward silence when no one knows who should be speaking next. Similarly, no one wants to be in a meeting where people are speaking over each other, making it hard to follow the conversation.
To avoid this, appoint a facilitator for your meeting. The facilitator's job is to keep the discussion moving forward and make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
If someone isn't speaking, the facilitator can also prompt them to give their input. If people are talking over each other, the facilitator can remind them to take turns or ask one person to summarize the others' comments, keeping the discussion both civil and organized.
5. Encourage Participation
People can easily tune out during a virtual meeting, mainly if they're not used to the format.
To avoid this, encourage participation from everyone in the meeting. This includes asking questions, starting discussions, and sharing ideas.
If you're the facilitator, you can do this by calling on people by name or using the chat function to ask specific questions.
If you're not the facilitator, you can speak up when you have something to say and be an active listener when others are speaking.
Moreover, using a digital asset management system as part of a collaborative workflow, will also help since it gives everyone a space to contribute their ideas and materials while at the same time making it easy for everyone else to access the same up-to-date information.
6. Use The Right Video Conferencing
The functionality of video conferencing software can vary greatly. Some software is better for extensive meetings with dozens of participants, while others are more suited for small team meetings or one-on-one calls.
Do your research to find the best video conferencing software for your needs. Once you've found a few options, test them out to see which one works best for you and your team, and then stick to the same software solution.
7. Invest In Good Equipment
If you want people to take your virtual meeting seriously, you must invest in good equipment. This includes a good webcam, microphone, and headphones.
In addition, having robust broadband internet ensures that communication happens successfully. A bad connection can make it hard for people to hear or see you, making it difficult to follow the conversation.
8. Take Breaks
Virtual meetings can be draining, especially if they're long or complex. To avoid this, it might be a good idea to include breaks throughout the meeting.
If you're the facilitator, you can use these breaks to check in with participants and see how they're doing. You can also use them to ensure everyone is on the same page before moving on to the next topic.
Always ensure that breaks are time-bound (with the times being made available before the meeting starts) to avoid interrupting the meeting flow.
9. Follow Up After The Meeting
Once the meeting is over, follow up with participants to thank them for their time and input.
You should also send out any materials that were discussed during the meeting, as well as a copy of the meeting minutes. This will help everyone stay on the same page and ensure that nothing is forgotten.
With as many as 80% of respondents saying that virtual meetings create more productive daily workdays, it’s key to ensure that what’s discussed in meetings is adhered to.
10. Keep The Minutes
Last but not least, make sure to keep the minutes of the meeting. This will be a valuable record of what was discussed and decided during the meeting, and it will be helpful to refer back to in the future.
If you're using a DAM system, you can easily store the minutes and all the other meeting materials for easy access later.
You can also get up to speed on the best Google drive tips and tricks to help you work smarter, not harder, when it comes to keeping (and accessing) the minutes.
10 Don'ts To Stay Away From
Let's now consider some of the things you should avoid doing if you want your virtual meeting to be a success.
1. Don't Have Virtual Meetings Just For The Sake Of Having Them
There's no point in having a virtual meeting if there's nothing to be gained from it.
Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself if it's essential. Could the same goal be achieved through a different format, such as an email or phone call?
If so, save everyone time and get a quick(er) answer instead.
2. Don't Start Late
If you want people to take your meeting seriously, you must start on time. This shows respect for people's time and attention.
The way you treat time is also a reflection of your professional attitude. If you're constantly starting meetings late, it sends the message that you don't value people's time in general.
3. Don't Make The Meeting All About You
While everyone loves to hear about themselves, a virtual meeting is not the time or place for an ego trip.
The focus of the meeting should be on the participants, their needs, and the set agenda.
4. Don't Be Afraid To Use Record Your Meeting
Oftentimes, video or audio recordings can be valuable to the meeting. They can help people who couldn't make it to the meeting stay up to date, and they can be a useful reference for later on.
In addition, knowing how to upload and manage video content in cloud storage is key to making the most of recordings over the long term.
5. Don't Forget About The Non-Verbal Cues
When communicating virtually, it's easy to forget the non-verbal cues that are so important in face-to-face communication.
Make an effort to pay attention to your body language and facial expressions, as well as those of the people you're talking to. This will help to create more rapport and make the conversation more effective.
It will also allow you to play by ear when it comes to lower-priority items.
6. Don't Make Assumptions
It's important to remember that not everyone is on the same page, especially when it comes to the technical aspects of virtual meetings.
Don't assume that everyone knows how to use the technology or that they understand the agenda. When necessary, take the time to explain things clearly and give people the opportunity to ask questions.
7. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
The other end of the spectrum involves people who are afraid to ask for help. If you're unsure how to use the technology or don't anything that’s being said, speak up!
There's no shame in asking for help, and it's better to do so than to sit through a meeting you don't understand. Remember that the best time to address any issues is during the meeting itself - after all, that’s the aim of having a meeting in the first place.
8. Don't Forget To Bring The Fun Factor
Just because a meeting is virtual doesn't mean it has to be all business all the time.
Injecting some fun into the meeting can help break the ice, build rapport, and make the experience more enjoyable.
There are many different ways to do this, but a few simple ideas include starting with a fun icebreaker, participating in a quick online game, or sharing a funny video.
You could even run a quick word unscrambling competition relevant to the meeting's topic. While this might sound silly, it can be a great way to focus people's attention and get them thinking creatively before getting down to business.
This always depends on the context but in general, there are always ways to spark some fun into virtual meetings.
9. Don't Forget To Mute Your Microphone When You're Not Speaking
This is one of the most important virtual meeting etiquette tips.
We've all been in a situation where someone forgot to mute their microphone, and we were subjected to their background noise. It isn't enjoyable, and it disrupts the flow of the meeting.
To avoid this, mute your microphone when you're not speaking. This way, you can be sure that the only sound people will hear is your voice when you’re speaking.
10. Don't Be Afraid To End The Meeting Early
If you've accomplished what you set out to do and there's nothing left to discuss, don't be afraid to end the meeting early.
The issue of respecting people's time is essential here and again comes into focus. If people feel like they're being kept on the line for no reason, they will not be happy about it - even if they don’t openly show it.
Keeping these do's and don'ts in mind, you’ll be well on your way to hosting (or participating) in successful virtual meetings! Just remember that virtual meetings need to have a primary purpose, and sticking to that is key to keeping everyone engaged.
AuthorHanson Cheng is the founder of Freedom to Ascend. He empowers online entrepreneurs and business owners to 10x their business and become financially independent. You can connect with him here.