That most of us have attended more online meetings this past year than ever before is no news, but even before the global pandemic hit us, we were communicating with colleagues working from home, in a different city, a different country or even on a different continent. The surge in online meetings this past year has put the spotlight on these meetings and made us aware of the fact that online meetings can be just as abundant and ineffective than real life meetings can be when there is no strict agenda or purpose for it.
It has also become clear that our work environment post Covid-19 will not be the same as it once was. Many people have been working from home and realized they love it, while just as many have done the same just to realize they hate it. Consequently, no matter what we come back to post-Corona, we can be sure that virtual meetings will endure and grow even more common.
So, to help you kick-start 2021 here is a short guide on how to effectively conduct virtual meetings while also keeping some of the social aspects of face-to-face meetings.
1. Present a virtual meeting etiquette
consider including a virtual meeting etiquette in your invitation to the meeting. Most things will be no brainers, but it is still a good idea to remind everyone of these before a meeting. The etiquette may vary depending on your organization and the seniority of those attending, but general etiquette to follow may include:
- Listen to your moderator/facilitator
- Do not interrupt your colleagues, instead let everyone finish their thoughts and ideas.
- No checking of emails/phone while attending meeting.
- Keep cellphone on mute
- Be in a quiet room
- Stay seated
- No eating
- Keep your camera on during the whole meeting
- Mute microphone when not talking
- Email requests to add to the agenda no later than 1 day prior meetinga
2. Have a clear agenda
The saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” could not be truer. Have an agenda and communicate it clearly before the meeting to those who will attend. The agenda will be most effective if your conversation points clearly show what decisions/outcomes you are aiming to get out of the meeting. For example, instead of writing “New clients” write “How can we find new clients”, instead of writing “Productivity” write “How can we become more productive” etc. The topic of your meeting directly asks the questions, and your conversation has been directed towards its purpose from the get-go.
3. Use the correct software and have a technology back-up plan
Make sure you have the right software for the purpose – will you need screensharing, audio, video, collaborative documents etc. Also make sure that you are familiar enough with your software to make the meeting flow.
And make sure you have a back-up plan in case of tech-error. For example, you have a virtual client meeting on Teams but once it is supposed to start it turns out your client can’t access teams… Do you have everyone’s phone number in case you need to switch on a group call? Are email addresses handy so that you can quickly send the ppt presentation to everyone when the screensharing stopped working? We all know that glitches occur, try to prepare for some of them.
4. Introduce everyone
If people have not met make sure that everyone gets a chance to introduce themselves with name, role, and department of those attending. Consider making these introductions until everyone has met in the virtual meeting room at least a few times, making sure names and roles stick. And do not take shortcuts by skipping the role and department, it is important for everyone attending to know how people in the meeting can contribute to different aspects of your business.
5. Make room for small talk
Schedule an extra 5-10 minutes for a bit of chit chat before commencing, make time for people to check-in with their colleagues and feel relaxed around each other before getting down to business. After all, we are social beings, and the social setting is many times what keeps us motivated and loyal to an employer.
If needed, put the conversation in gear by asking questions such as “Hey Anna, how did your kids birthday party turn out last weekend”, “Any travel plans this summer Matt?” etc. People who know each other will find it easier to chime in and give input and feedback during the conversations to come.
Firstly, let people know who will moderate the meeting. Secondly, make sure everyone is being heard. If someone is quiet – make a point out of asking them specifically for their opinion on matters. If someone hijacks the conversation, gently steer them off and involve other people. Finish every discussion point with a brief conclusion of what has been decided and how to follow up: What needs to get done now? By whom? By When? What are the next steps and when will we follow up on these tasks? Then move to the next point.
7. Take notes
Make sure one of the attendees are taking notes of all the decisions and discussions being had. This person will then send the notes to the rest of the team as the meeting concludes. This way you will have all decisions and next steps in writing. You can assure that everyone has the same info, and you can proceed without any further questions.
Finally, what is a successful meeting?
A successful meting should result in attendees having a clear objective as the meeting finishes. This goes for any meeting, virtual or not, and as you can tell the above points will make sure these questions are answered and well communicated to the group. Best of all, most of the above can be applied to both offline and online meetings.
So, cheers to a 2021 with more structured and effective meetings!
Author: Caroline Tiala 2020-12-21