In a recent survey, 77% of remote workers stated that they are more productive compared to working from an office.
Despite the benefits that come with remote work, 16% of remote workers struggle with collaboration and communication, a situation that was accelerated by the current global pandemic.
Companies had to adapt fast by investing more in collaboration software which meant more virtual meetings. Unfortunately, most were not ready for this, which led to a host of challenges.
If this was something that you have had to go through, don’t worry. We’ve prepared a list of 10 dos and don’ts for your next virtual meeting. The good news is that once you follow these action steps, things will definitely improve!
1. Book a dedicated meeting space
Coworking spaces offer various types of settings to have a meeting – from formal (like a conference room) to flexible (like a lounge space or pod). This variety can be helpful when trying to find the right space for your meeting.
For example, if you need a more formal setting for a productive and focused remote meeting, most coworking spaces offer conference rooms that you can reserve in advance. If you need a more casual setting, many coworking spaces also have lounge areas and pods that you can use. This flexibility can be really helpful if you’re trying to find a space that will work for your team’s needs.
In addition, a dedicated meeting space can help you avoid some of the distractions that can come with working from home. For example, if you have young children at home, it can be difficult to find a place to hold a meeting where you won’t be interrupted. Renting a dedicated meeting space can help you avoid this type of distraction and provide a more professional setting for your meetings.
2. Assess whether you have the right tools
The tools you choose to use need to help you hold your meetings without a glitch. Assuming you’ve already had a virtual meeting tool in your tech stack, which of the following features is it missing?
- High-quality audio and video
- Screen sharing
- Integration with different tools
- Ability to chat and record meetings
- Easy to set up and use
These features are a must-have in your tool. If you’ve found yourself stuck in your meetings because your tool lacks any of those features, then you need to start looking for a new tool.
If your tool has all of these features, then you want to go a step further and make sure that you have guaranteed support in case things go wrong. In other words, you want to avoid any rude surprises in the middle of your meetings by covering your bases.
For example, can you access a support team whenever you start having unreliable video and audio during your virtual meetings? If the tool has a steep learning curve, do you have access to onboarding documentation to help you learn how to use it? What options do you have if the tool cannot integrate with some of the tools you’re already using?
3. Hold meetings only when necessary
There are many benefits of building a remote team but that doesn’t mean that meetings should be held each and every time someone needs to communicate. Sounds counter-intuitive, right?
With tools that allow you to hold virtual meetings seamlessly, why wouldn’t you hop on a meeting whenever you want to?
Turns out, the lesser the better.
It takes time, mental, and emotional energy to prepare for a meeting. The more meetings you’re having, the more your employees hate it and vent out on social media – the last thing you want is to need a social media manager to limit internal damage.
Unless you’re dealing with a crisis, here are two questions you need to answer before you send out that email notifying your team that you have a meeting next week:
- Do you want to share information with the team or with clients e.g. project updates? If so, then send out a weekly newsletter or post an update in Slack.
- Are you looking for input for a particular decision and make a decision together as a team? If so, call for a meeting.
Understanding the key differences between these answers is important when deciding if a meeting is necessary.
4. Improve on your agenda-setting skills
Your meeting agendas allow you to make sure that each meeting stays relevant, has a clear structure, and covers issues exhaustively. However, setting agendas isn’t as easy as it sounds.
How do you decide what to focus on when you have a ton of issues to discuss? How do you cover each issue exhaustively without spending hours in a meeting?
When setting agendas, you need to evaluate your most important goals then pick agendas that you will focus on. For example, if your goal this quarter is to improve the quality and quantity of your content, then your agendas need to align with those goals.
Seek input from everyone who is supposed to attend to know what issues they want to talk about during the meeting. Everyone on the team plays a role in making sure that you achieve your goals, so getting to know what they think before each meeting helps them become invested in the meeting because you involve them every step of the way.
5. Involve everyone
During virtual meetings, it’s easy to find team members who attend but don’t participate fully in the discussions you’re having.
To avoid this, share out roles that each team member will play during the meeting. For example, you might have a moderator who will lead discussions during the meeting making sure that you have discussed each agenda you set.
The moderator might appoint a team member to explain the context behind a certain issue that is on the agenda while allowing other members to ask questions for clarification. You might also appoint a timekeeper who will make sure that you don’t spend too much time discussing one agenda at the expense of others. Feel free to add more roles as you want, allowing them to be rotational.
Just as you’d reward customer loyalty, these text message templates can also be used to incentivize employees to attend meetings. You could even take a leaf out of a top text message template library and use the right message as a meeting reminder while also adding a bit of fun to the message.
What you don’t do during your meeting is as important as what you do. With all the preparation that goes into your meetings, it’s only fair that you know what not to do to avoid blowing things up.
While virtual icebreakers have their place at the beginning of a meeting, they shouldn’t last too long. Crosstalk often happens when team members start talking over each other, and it quickly derails the meeting.
During your meeting, what gets said is important and you want to make sure everyone gets heard. Whenever someone is speaking, others should mute their microphones.
Also, have a moderator in the meeting in case unrelated discussions arise. This helps keep everyone in check and makes sure that the discussions stay productive no matter what everyone’s point of view on a topic is.
A good moderator keeps everyone on track without making them feel like they are being guided in a certain direction. Allowing anyone to dominate a meeting might cause your other attendees to filter out what you’re saying while becoming disengaged throughout the whole thing.
2. Have meetings start at random times
Disruptions during your meetings can make it difficult for everyone in attendance. You don’t want unnecessary distractions that derail discussions and force participants to lose their focus.
To avoid this, agree on a regular time for each virtual meeting where input is expected from every team member who is supposed to attend.
This allows people to schedule their daily tasks around such a meeting so that everyone can participate comfortably with minimal interruptions.
3. Be unprepared
Never think about your meeting without preparing for it beforehand. It’s important to know what you want and expect from each meeting so that every person attending knows how they can contribute and what to take home once it ends.
If you’re planning a virtual meeting, communicate this with everyone who has been invited by sending out an agenda well before time so that they can prepare ahead and avoid unnecessary interruptions during the event.
Regardless of when your meetings are scheduled, make sure everyone has enough time to properly attend them – whether they are in the office, across the globe, or just down the street doesn’t really matter as long as people are prepared for what’s coming.
Also, if you are discussing a specific topic with your team, be sure to share all the relevant background information beforehand so that everyone is on the same page when the meeting starts. For example, if you’re a CBD-based company and you want to introduce Delta 8 THC to your product lineup, you would want to do your research on the topic and make sure everyone in attendance is well-versed in what it is and how it can be used.
4. Be poorly organized
Managing your meeting is as important as managing any other activity. Without being properly organized, your virtual meetings will fall apart and nobody will know what they are supposed to do.
A lack of structure or organization can lead to a disaster where everyone feels like they wasted their time and energy because the discussion went in different directions and nothing was achieved at the end of it. Make sure that you’re properly informed about what needs to be discussed before starting any kind of meeting.
This means making sure everyone knows what they need to contribute and that their points of view and input are taken into consideration. The right meeting management software can help you organize your thoughts and keep track of what needs to be discussed.
5. Have an open-ended finishing time
Have you ever been to conferences where speakers go on and on for hours, repeating the same material over and over again without actually adding anything new? Such events can be tedious to follow. The same thing could happen if your virtual meetings are run in an unorganized way without proper structure – and without an end time.
To avoid this kind of scenario, set an ending time for the meeting before it even starts. Within that time, make sure that one person isn’t dominating your meeting by allowing everyone to share their thoughts and opinions freely, all while sticking to the set amount of time.
The Structure of a Great Virtual Meeting
While some virtual meetings can be scheduled once in a while and last for just half an hour or so, others could go on for hours and require everyone to contribute their point of view.
Structure is the key to ensuring that everyone participates in your meeting and it all starts with having the right agenda. These are some structural points to keep in mind:
- Have an agenda that’s sent out at least one day before the meeting and which gives attendees time enough to prepare for what you’ll be discussing
- Having a set of rules you want to be followed during your virtual meeting is important. This is what will make it clear who will lead discussions and when people should speak up. This idea has helped many companies avoid arguments that could arise from different points of view.
- Have time limits on topics so that a discussion doesn’t go on for too long and that participants don’t get tired of the same thing being repeated over and over again. This can be done by asking questions periodically, having discussions where everyone has something to say, viewing real-time analytics during the meeting, etc.
- Have a way of summarizing what was discussed at the end of each virtual meeting so that people leave with a sense of accomplishment about how things went. This will make them look forward to more meetings that are as productive as the previous one.
Let’s put this in practical terms.
Consider a storage cabinet company that wants to introduce a new product line. The company has done its research and wants to introduce the product to its employees in a virtual meeting.
The agenda for such a meeting could look something like this:
- Introduction (5 minutes): Here, the company explains what the meeting will be about. It introduces the new cabinets along with how they function.
- Presentation of the new product line (20 minutes): The company walks its employees through the new features of the cabinets and discusses how they can be used in different settings.
- Discussion (15 minutes): This is where employees can ask questions and voice their opinions on the new product line. The company facilitates a discussion to get feedback from employees. In this case, they may want to know what people think of the new cabinets and if there are any suggestions on how to improve them.
- Summary (5 minutes): A quick recap of what was discussed in the meeting. The company thanks its employees for their input and ends the meeting.
The benefits of taking your time planning your next virtual meeting far outweigh the actual time needed to do so. By focusing on expectations, goals, structure, and even who’s going to lead conversations, you are setting yourself up for success.
All of this ensures that everyone is up to speed with what’s going on and that the results end up being as you’ve visualized them, without any kind of surprises. This also leaves space for the sharing of new business ideas, asking important questions to clarify specific points, and even having a set time for anything else that is important to discuss.
The Importance of Always Having Action Items
It’s key that everyone leaves your virtual meeting with something to do. This is how you avoid wasting time when people go back to their desks and realize they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing next.
Action items are clear goals that need to be achieved which involve the virtual meeting participants.
For instance, if your project involves several groups working together on something, each group must have an idea about what they’ll contribute and how it fits into the final plan. This is important when it comes to building a great brand that employees are proud to be a part of.
Also, sending out minutes or notes at most one day after each meeting helps keep people in the loop and reminds them what tasks they still need to complete. This is a good way of avoiding any misunderstandings which can slow everyone down and cause delays.
Finally, it’s good to keep in mind that the more you involve people in your virtual meetings, the higher the chances of them feeling part of a group and being able to contribute, which is what you want. Building a company culture in remote teams is crucial to long-term business success.
How to Get Everyone Involved in Virtual Meetings
In the above list, we mentioned that getting everyone involved is crucial. However, some might say that this is easier said than done.
If you have a lot of people to involve, you might feel stuck because managing several conversations at the same time is tough.
This is where using video chat goes a long way because it allows participants to see each other and interact as if they were in a physical meeting. So they can speak up, make suggestions, or basically help build consensus around what should be done next.
What’s more, it’s important to encourage everyone who participates in your virtual meetings to take an active role in discussions. This means that they’ll need to introduce themselves before chiming into conversations and show interest in what other participants are saying because this will create excitement about being involved which will make them want to participate again next time.
The job of the moderator can also include making sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what’s expected of them. That means repeating important points and asking questions where necessary to make people understand what they need to do or what they need to say, encouraging collaboration, and so on.
Since people have different ways of understanding information, it’s good to consider different learning styles; that is, how people learn best. Some might be visual learners who need to see things rather than read them, whereas others learn better through examples or by experimenting with something.
The best thing you can do if you’re a moderator is to use the most appropriate communication style for each person and adjust your approach accordingly. This will make it easier for people to understand what they need to know and allow them to participate more effectively.
The key takeaway is that everyone should participate in virtual meetings, much like they would if it were happening in person.
Keeping these 10 points in mind will help you plan and hold more productive meetings. It may take a little time to get used to organizing your agenda, but it pays off in the long run because your employees will be happier knowing that their input counts and that everyone gets to share their thoughts.