If running effective, productive, in-person meetings wasn’t hard enough, nowadays video and teleconferencing add a whole new layer of complication. “There’s no doubt that virtual meetings give us flexibility and global reach that creates all kinds of possibilities for collaboration,” says PowerSpeaking’s Chief Learning Officer, Carrie Beckstrom. “But like any technology, we have to learn to use it well. And when it comes to virtual meetings, that technical know-how must be in addition to the application of best practices that make any kind of meeting, in any setting, successful.”
Here are our best tips for making virtual meetings engaging and worth everyone’s time:
Know the technology. Know what tools the virtual meeting will require, and make sure participants
know how to use them. Visually inspect the meeting host site ahead of time, and if feasible, do a
Develop and send out a clear agenda before the meeting. By defining and communicating the specific
goals and expectations of the meeting beforehand, participants can come properly prepared, which
means the discussion will be more productive. Seeing a clear discussion outline in black and white, in
advance, will help get everyone on the same page before the meeting starts.
Make time for connection. Start the meeting off right by creating an environment of personal
connection. One of the best ways to do this is to ask everyone to join via video camera. The simple act
of being able to see facial expressions and body language goes a long way. There’s something distancing
about sitting in a meeting listening to disembodied voices. Another way to create connection, especially
if some participants may not know each other, is to do a quick round of introductions. If your meeting
includes people from all over the world, do something fun like displaying a map of the world, and with
annotation tools, have participants show where they are located.
Make multi-tasking a big no-no. Speaking of getting everyone connected and on the same page, there
is absolutely nothing wrong with insisting that people be fully present in a meeting. It’s not only a
matter of civility, but science. Recent studies have proven that despite what people would like to
believe, multi-tasking does not make you more productive. So, make it a rule: cell phones off, no
perusing email or YouTube on laptops, and no hitting the video mute button so you can take another
Keep people engaged. As much as possible, spread the responsibility for a successful meeting around
by assigning tasks at the outset: one person to take notes, one person to sum up the action items at the
end, etc. During the meeting, encourage everyone to participate by asking and soliciting questions
and/or comments. Also, if a participant refers to a document, encourage them to share the screen so
everyone can see.
Take a new approach to virtual staff meetings. Rather than formatting your weekly staff meetings to
the usual round-the-table status reports, consider getting the information from staff in advance,
summarizing it, and sending it out before the meeting. Then, use your virtual time together only for
questions, collaborative problem-solving, asks, or follow-on action items.
Ask for feedback and provide follow-up. Either at the end of or soon after the meeting, ask
participants what they thought worked well and what could be improved upon. Then, e-mail meeting
notes to participants and provide a clear list of any action items. Finally, reach out to participants who
were absent with instructions for obtaining missed information.
Make the most of virtual meetings by employing these tips, and the people you invite will be glad they
clicked the “Join Meeting” button.
To learn even more about how to master virtual meetings, check out our Achieving Meeting Success
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