Let’s face it – virtual meetings can be tricky. Whether it’s coordinating everyone’s online schedules, facing technical difficulties, or keeping your colleagues engage; virtual meetings can often be met with a collective groan and be seen as roadblocks to productivity and authentic collaboration.
However, this really doesn’t need to be the case. Nowadays, you’re just as likely to be having a virtual meeting with a colleague on another continent as you are with the colleague who sits across from you at your desk. This is why it pays in the long term to have a toolbox of tips and techniques available to you to create fun, informative and engaging virtual meetings, and to make sure your staff are comfortable with organising and conducting them.
Follow our six tips for effective virtual meetings to ensure you’re following the best practices for engagement, as well as understanding the big do’s and don’ts for before, during and after your meeting.
1. Choose the right tool
There are so many different tools out there on the market that facilitate virtual meetings. It’s important to really consider what it is you need from a video chat tool and ask yourself some key questions before subscribing:
- Do you need screen sharing capabilities?
- How many people will need to be involved in your virtual meetings?
- Is the software well-known enough for others to be familiar with it?
- Are there online reviews for the software – does it have a history of crashing?
2. Decide on an appropriate time
Virtual meetings will often require participation from people living or working in different time zones (or just people with extremely busy schedules!) Google Calendar is the best way we’ve found to coordinate schedules and see when people have free time. You’ll need to look for an international timeframe that works for everyone to have an effective virtual meeting, and fortunately, there are a number of tools you can use to easily find the right time:
3. Always have an agenda
Our first tip for running an effective virtual meeting (and one that finishes on time) is to send through a concise yet comprehensive agenda to attendees beforehand – ideally the day prior.
Outlining the key points that you’ll be covering in the meeting will give your colleagues time to prepare and will allow them to join the meeting with their fresh and unique ideas already prepared. It will also help to keep things on track and make sure no points or roadblocks are left unturned! Having a collaborative agenda (like in a Google doc) means everyone can add to the talking points, making sure nothing is forgotten in the discussion.
The agenda could include:
- Key talking points
- Meeting structure (for example: when and for how long you plan to discuss each talking point)
- Team members/teams that will be in attendance
- What each team member/team is responsible for bringing to the meeting
- Any relevant documents, files or research
A few hours before the meeting (or the afternoon before) send a reminder to meeting attendees to ensure everyone has read the agenda. Be firm with this, as it really helps when everyone is on the same page!
4. Do a virtual icebreaker
How do you make a virtual meeting fun? To break through any awkwardness and get everyone feeling comfortable with each other (which is especially important if some people haven’t virtually ‘met’ before), you can do a virtual icebreaker! These are just little discussions, questions or activities that create a positive group atmosphere, break down social barriers, motivate and inspire, and encourage people to start thinking about a topic.
You could ask someone to introduce their pet, share photos of their location, ask what the most exciting part of their weekend was, ask everyone to bring their favourite drink, or play a virtual pop quiz. The only limit is your imagination!
5. Keep your etiquette in check and everyone engaged
When having face-to-face meetings, there are unspoken rules about how you can and cannot behave. For example, it would probably be considered rude to get up and take a phone call in a meeting room while someone was presenting, or to be typing away on your computer while someone is speaking. The same goes for virtual meetings! There are some basic virtual meeting rules that everyone should be versed on and following.
- Introduce everyone and give everyone time to contribute to the meeting
- Don’t interrupt or speak over someone
- Don’t start at your phone
- Make sure your technology is working before the meeting
- Come prepared with ideas and context
- Turn off notifications from your phone and laptop
- Make sure you’re in a quiet room where everyone can see you
- If you’re hosting the meeting, try to specifically engage remote workers
6. Have a ‘water cooler 10’
It’s common in offices for everyone to head to the ‘water cooler’ when the meeting is over and tell everyone how they really feel. This is often where the most honest frustrations and thoughts are aired, and these can actually be really valuable for projects and colleague rapport.
Don’t let virtual meetings take this honesty away by implementing a ‘water cooler 10’ at the end of each meeting (or having it as a separate meeting by itself). Allow colleagues a safe, transparent and conscious space for them to air how they’re feeling about the project or the meeting in a “speak now or forever hold your peace” style engagement. You could go first to set the tone and encourage others to participate. They could state what they disagreed with, what they feel challenged by, what they’re concerned about, or what they would have preferred to go differently.
It can also be a good idea to have a ‘water cooler 10’ at the end of client presentations or meetings with clients (after the client has logged off, of course!)
Saxons offer virtual training solutions to provide a seamless link between the home and office that is required today. Find out more about our virtual training solutions here, or contact one of our friendly team members today to start your Saxons journey.