Recommendations to achieve effective virtual meetings
How to take advantage of the existing tools and improve the virtual meeting experience for your company.
For more than a year now, many organizations faced the challenge of maintaining contact and communication between participants in a project or members of their teams in different locations, as well as clients, suppliers, and consultants from other latitudes. One of the obvious and most used solutions has been virtual meetings and there are more and more technological tools that allow improving this experience.
However, conducting truly effective virtual meetings for everyone is now more than ever a necessity. Currently, the measures that each country has taken to protect all communities worldwide have forced many organizations to have the majority of their employees working from their homes and with it through virtual meetings. Not only to review projects and maintain the day-to-day workload but also to maintain contact between teams and people during isolation.
Here are some basic recommendations to achieve it:
A virtual meeting is still a meeting and therefore requires prior preparation. The recommendations for any type of meeting are the same: it is necessary to establish and share in advance:
An agenda with a limited time for each item. Preferably it should be sent to the participants with enough time in advance.
Adequate selection of meeting attendees (the people who really need to be in the meeting) and sending the invite with adequate anticipation.
Establish a specific objective.
2. Then, during the meeting it is key:
Respect the times of the agenda and the topic (objective) of the meeting.
Do not interrupt. Wait for whoever has the floor to finish speaking to participate.
Pay attention (when we are working from these PC we usually answer emails or perform other tasks simultaneously, which should be avoided unless it is mandatory).
Put the microphone in mute until it is time to participate, to avoid noise that interferes with clear communication.
3. Finally, it is recommended:
Close with next steps and a general review of what was agreed.
Assign responsible for each issue, with deadlines.
In addition to this, it is important that you select where you are going to take the meeting. Locate yourself in a private space, select a place in your house where there is less probability of being interrupted or of sound leaking that interferes with the call.
Make friends with technology
Most of the difficulties of virtual meetings undoubtedly come from the correct use of virtual connection tools. The most common problems come from not being sufficiently prepared and not knowing how to deal with unforeseen situations. For them we recommend:
Coordinate with the participants the best time for the meeting, especially consider if the participants are in several different time zones. Avoid setting up meetings at lunchtime and outside of work hours.
Connect to the meeting a few minutes early to see if an app or update needs to be downloaded to gain access. In these minutes before also review how to connect the audio and video.
Having a conversation between several people who are not seeing each other can be challenging, consider that the audio will occasionally have delays and that the voices will overlap, so take pauses and breaks to allow people to ask questions and comment, seek to establish an order.
Review who and how you can share and present files and if any participant outside the organization can present or not, and how to enable them to do so.
Coordinate in advance who will speak in each part of the meeting and if you are going to present information, who will do it.
Indicate when participants should have their microphones open and when they should be muted.
Make it personal
In all meetings, it is a challenge to maintain the interest of the participants, but in the case of virtual ones, it is easier for people to feel less involved by not being in person. Some recommendations to increase participation are:
Encourage everyone to turn on the camera: this way everyone's reactions will be seen and greater attention will be paid. It also increases the likelihood that they will feel involved.
Start the meeting with a round of introductions if the participants do not know each other (even if there is only one person who is not known), it is important to understand who is present. Start with yourself and have each participant introduce themselves and say something else like her role to help us identify the voices.
Consider which way the participants connect: Are they all connected by their computers? Will someone connect via phone? Will everyone have access to see the presentation? If we add presentations with videos or links, will everyone be able to access them?
Involve your audience: whether or not you are the moderator, keep in mind who is speaking and who is not, and invite them to participate whenever they feel comfortable.
Use other tools to make the meeting more interactive: currently, there are several options for live polls, games, trivia, videos, etc; to make the presentation more pleasant and get feedback quickly.
Respect the schedule: as in any specific meeting the information and do not ramble, try to get back to the meeting channel if someone deviates. Kindly notify everyone of the time remaining when closing time is low and point out the next steps.
After the conference
In more formal meetings, with clients, suppliers, or colleagues from other teams, it is important, as mentioned above, to send an email stating:
The topics discussed and the resolutions taken.
Attach supporting information, if possible send the presentation seen and any extra material of interest or support.
Emphasize each other's next steps and tasks with deadlines.