We may start to see the beginnings of the world opening up again, but virtual meetings are here to stay. While for many companies, virtual meetings have been a standard practice for years. For others, they were thrown into this form of communication as a requirement. Now after a full year of virtual communications, many companies are leaning towards remote work (and therefore, virtual meetings) indefinitely.
Virtual communication, but internally and externally, will only continue to grow. With this increased prevalence comes higher expectations for streamlined meetings. The “sorry, we’re new to this” excuse won’t be legitimate much longer, and it may get embarrassing if you come off as clueless or disorganized, especially if the meeting isn’t just with your internal team.
Lead virtual meetings with a goal in mind, and preparation to back you up.
The more people in your meeting, the more chance for time-wasting technical difficulties, annoying background noise, and irrelevant side conversations. By inviting only essential personnel, you cut down on the fluff and it is simpler to stay on task.
It also increases the focus and attention of the meeting attendees. If your team is invited to meetings by default, there is a pretty good chance they’ll tune out if the meeting doesn’t cover material relating to them. By enacting essential personnel only standard, they’ll know if they are in a meeting, it’s for a really good reason.
Create “house rules” that all attendees understand and abide by. Each team will most likely agree on different codes of conduct tailored to their needs. Some may opt for more relaxed rules like simply muting yourself when you aren’t speaking (a very common rule) while others may opt for more active rules like having your video on and setting specific speaking topics and times for each individual. Whatever rules work best for your team, make sure everyone is on the same page with what is expected of them.
Using a meeting agenda can increase the productivity of virtual meetings in many ways. It limits the tangents, side conversations, and distractions that can crop up during virtual meetings. Planning topics also give meeting attendees a warning of exactly what will be discussed. They will know what to prepare for and what they can leave for later, increasing the productivity of meeting prep as well! When attendees know there won’t be any “pop quiz” topics to worry about, they’re more likely to put more time and energy into preparing for the meeting goals.
Assigning roles to manage and document the meeting will cut down on tangents and open up attendees to be in the moment instead of focusing on notes.
Having an assigned meeting navigator or manager will keep the meeting centered and steer the conversation away from unplanned topics. They can also manage screen sharing, visual content, and other details that can take up the meeting time if left to the last minute. This role can also manage time spent talking per person, so the chattier attendees have a limit and quieter attendees will have a set opportunity to share their opinions.
This tip is a “work smarter, not harder” classic. There’s no point in having everyone take the same notes – so assign one person to take notes and share them! A meeting scribe is especially important for “think tank” and idea creation meetings. If you know there will be a lot of big ideas thrown around, and you’re asking for a lot of brainpower from your virtual meeting attendees, relieving them of the burden of general note-taking will open up the floor to focus on the conversation and brainstorm. They understand that while they may want to take quick personal notes or reminders for themselves, general notes of the overall meeting are taken care of, and they will get a copy after the meeting.
If you don’t have anything to move forward on after the meeting, was it even worth it? Always have a section at the end of the meeting where everyone lists their deliverables grown out of the meeting and when relevant people should expect to see it finished. This not only makes the life of the note taker easier for capturing important due dates and projects but also acts as a verbal contract and increases the personal accountability of meeting attendees. Also – muscle memory! Let’s say the main goal of the meeting is for your team members to learn and remember specific responsibilities. If your team hears them, writes them down, says them, and reads them, they are much more likely to remember them and the accompanying details!
It doesn’t take much to throw a meeting off track. On the flip side, it doesn’t take much to drastically improve the productivity of virtual meetings! With 5 simple steps, watch how much more you can get done in your next zoom conversation.