Virtual meetings can be so powerful in that we save travel time, are more likely to be focused on the agenda items as opposed to small talk, everyone but the speaker can be muted (reducing interruptions), and it is easier to navigate scheduling across different time zones. According to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, well managed virtual meetings can actually outperform face to face meetings and increase productivity up to 43%.
All this being true, the lack of rapport that is built naturally in a meeting room can change the flow and dynamic of an online group. It can be hard to tell when someone wishes to speak as interruptions are more difficult to navigate online. With these challenges in mind, we wanted to share some tips and tricks for making the most of your virtual meeting. We’ve included some best practices for you to adopt as well as some pet-peeves/pitfalls to avoid.
1 – Plan ahead. Send the meeting details ahead of time, with clear instructions including the meeting password (if applicable) and instructions on how to “dial in”. Make your life easier by taking advantage of the automated options available by most video conferencing software providers.
2 – Set a “do not disturb” with your quarantine buddies. We get it, your kids and pets live there too and that’s okay. Set yourself up in the quietest area in your house and remind them that you are hosting a virtual meeting.
3 – Limit the amount of background activity captured. The mute button and virtual backgrounds are your best friend when it comes to hiding any distractions in the back of the room – whether than is your dog barking, kids yelling or to hide your dirty dishes!
4 – Set a clear agenda and distribute ahead of time. If this isn’t possible, start the call with a short overview of the meeting agenda and run through the essential topics to be discussed.
5 – Get all participants to turn on their cameras for as much face to face contact as possible. After all, this is the point of a virtual meeting.
6 – Remind participants to MUTE themselves when entering the meeting and encourage them to continue to mute themselves when not speaking.
7 – Divvy up speaking between participants and assign parts of the presentation to different team members to keep the meeting more engaging.
8 – Select only the screen that you want to be sharing if you are screen-sharing during a video call. Also turn off notifications and popups that may distract you and others.
9 – Get everyone involved. Be aware of the quieter folks in the meeting and call on them first so that their more outgoing colleagues don’t dominate the conversation. It is harder to interject in a virtual meeting as social cues are less obvious, so the extra support can go a long way.
10 – Keep your eyes on the clock. Be aware of time and of the progress of the meeting to keep the discussion on track. Provide warnings as you reach the 10 and 5 minutes remaining marks.
Challenges with mute/unmute – the person who takes two minutes to unmute themselves to speak, or they forget to mute themselves as their dog barks wildly in the background.
Microphones turned up very high and the person speaking sounds like they are yelling—this is the virtual meeting equivalent of the ALL CAPS REPLY that makes you feel like you’re being screamed at!
When large group meetings become a 1:1 conversation and everyone but the two speakers are left waiting.
People on their cell phones thinking no one else has noticed. WE ALL NOTICED!
Videos being off and so the presenter is speaking to a blank screen, or several blank screens.