Remote work is the new normal and so are virtual meetings. However, brainstorming, collaborating and sharing ideas over virtual meetings may sometimes seem a little difficult and many people think these aren’t as productive as meeting together in the same physical space. Virtual meetings bring people together through a digital network or internet for achieving a common objective. Surely, there are certain barriers like technological challenges, distractions, disjointed meeting flows and low engagement. However, the good news is that if well organized, a virtual meeting can be just as effective as face to face meetings.
Here are some virtual meetings best practices to make them productive and effective.
- Get Familiar with the Technology
The most important step of making a virtual meeting effective is learning about the technology and familiarizing yourself with the features before the start of the meeting. All participants must ensure that they are comfortable using the major features of the tool being used. People taking time to download the software or figure out how the video works after the meeting starts can be a major hurdle to setting the momentum of the meeting. However, when you are conducting a virtual meeting with a client or customer, you need to be even more savvy as you may need to guide them on using the technology.
- Follow the Meeting Basics
Before the meeting starts, set clear agenda so the participants can be prepared about the things to be discussed. Sending out the meeting agenda for pre-read can be helpful. During the meeting, stick to the agenda and clearly outline the next steps and accountabilities. Follow virtual meeting etiquette. Also, if the session is a long one, allow people to take breaks and set up a proper timeline to resume the discussions. Using some icebreaker conversations in the beginning of the meeting can also be helpful as people may often feel isolated while working remotely.
- Make Them Short
Unnecessarily long meetings could result in higher disengagement, especially when the meeting is virtual. Stick to your agenda and discuss what’s necessary. Providing a background information to people beforehand could prepare them in advance about what is to be discussed and how long it would take. Prioritizing the conversations is important to minimize the meeting time and maximize the productivity.
- Assign a Meeting Facilitator
Handling virtual meetings could be harder than in-person meetings as there are more challenges involved in the former. Assigning a person as meeting facilitator could make the meetings more effective and smooth. The facilitator can guide the conversation well to help participants focus better on the content. They can also introduce polling systems in the meetings to understand the views of the participants more clearly. Ensuring if everyone is audible, resolving technical issues, answering questions about the use of specific tool feature are some of the many responsibilities of a facilitator that help in making virtual meetings more productive.
- Encourage Everyone to Participate
Encouraging everyone to be an active participant is quite challenging in virtual meetings. Periodically calling on individuals to speak is important. It’s more like going around the table but virtually. Before finalizing on a decision, make sure every participant puts forward their views. There are some software which allow attendees to “raise a hand” if they want to say something. Learning how to make virtual meetings more interactive is crucial. You must ensure every attendee is actively participating in a meeting so you don’t miss out on the opinion of any introverted participant.
- Get Feedback
Since reading visual cues is harder in case of virtual meetings, it’s advisable to encourage the attendees to provide phone or email based feedback. Gathering feedback on how the meeting was conducted or about the meeting agenda can help you improve your virtual meetings to make them more effective. Avoid taking feedback during the meeting as it disrupts the conversation. Also, provide feedback to the attendees on how they can enhance their contribution in the meetings. Such practices pay off very well and are worth the effort if you aim at making your virtual meetings more productive.
- Improve with Time
It takes some time and practice to conduct successful virtual meetings. Learning from the mistakes, resolving the issues and improving your team’s experience eventually lead to higher productivity. Also, sometimes discussing a few tough or controversial topics in virtual meetings may seem uncomfortable. However, as the remote work is the new normal, you must learn not to shy away from discussing what’s important, no matter how difficult the conversation is. Working and putting efforts together can make virtual meetings comfortable and productive.
Virtual meetings work well. For conducting successful virtual meetings you only need to develop a few strategies to overcome the barriers and make your team comfortable with them. What other challenges do you face during virtual meetings and how you overcome them? Please share your views in the comment section below.