With the global pandemic outbreak came the adaption of home offices, and virtual meetings became an essential part of every workflow.
Companies had to rethink strategies for conducting meetings and keep in touch with their employees to maximize productivity.
So, how do you ensure meetings are productive, focused, and?
Here are things to consider before, during, and after the next virtual meeting with your team members.
Before The Meeting
Determine If the Meeting Is Relevant
Before planning and scheduling a meeting, establish whether the meeting is relevant. Here are a few essential pointers;
- Is that meeting replaceable with an email?
- Are individual projects updates replaceable with weekly or biweekly roundups on the status of multiple projects, with project leaders providing 10- or 15-minute status reports?
- Can a simple project status sheet with a field for questions circulated to members serve the purpose of the meeting instead of scheduling a meeting?
- Can the meeting involve only the critical stakeholders and ensure members attending understand their roles in the process?
- Share meeting recaps with members who didn’t attend.
Identify Appropriate Meeting Tools
Any remote meeting should enhance connection, collaboration, and feedback. For each of the categories is an appropriate tool to use.
- Connection tools: Microsoft teams and Zoom.
- Collaboration tools: Slack, Trello, and Google drive.
- Feedback tools: SurveyMonkey and Google Forms.
Update your team members about the tool of use before the meeting for earlier preparations.
Refine The Meeting Agenda
Meetings take time and effort to prepare. Ensure you prepare agendas in advance by creating a comprehensive plan of all needed items.
To gain the most out of the meeting, use the items you have listed in question format during the session; this will allow you to understand better who you should invite and what challenges should be tackled instead of covering abstract topics. When you cover all questions in your plan, you will be sure the meeting was successful.
For maximum productivity, share the meeting agenda with all the participants to prepare their ideas and questions in advance.
Set Time Appropriately
When setting the meeting time, identify top priorities. For example, if you intend to include team members that deal with client services, you may need to prioritize them and adjust meeting times based on appropriate schedules since clients come first. Similarly, if your team members are everywhere across the continent, you must schedule the meetings based on their local time.
Keep in mind the meeting duration and set a strict time limit. Review your meeting agenda and ensure you will have enough time to cover all the items and hold discussions. A shorter meeting time allows you to focus on the most significant ideas.
Notify your team members of the meeting start time and its duration to schedule on their end.
Develop And Share the Meeting Guidelines
Establish meeting scenarios to make it more productive and organized. The following pointers may help you gain perspectives.
- Make sure the attendees are aware of the meeting’s goal in advance.
- Distribute the agenda and alert participants on their roles and to expect from them.
- Identify and test the technology in advance. Have a plan B.
- Provide space for participation and contribution.
- Allow participants to ask questions either at the end or as they arise.
- Let them know when to use voice or text chats.
- Ensure all team members are aware of the decisions made.
Virtual sessions create emotional and physical distance between employees. So, it’s crucial to break the ice when holding a virtual meeting to make the participants engage in conversations.
You can get ice-breaking ideas from the internet. Just make sure they align with your corporate cultures. Here are some examples.
- Trivia quiz: Create a quiz on any topic, share your screen, host the quiz, allow discussion between meeting participants, after which they submit the winning choice.
- Team photo: take a fun team photo with the participants. You may allow a few minutes for them to get ready.
- Hold a coffee break in a video chat room, feel free to share, and discuss things outside work.
Icebreakers and team-building activities allow team members to relax to get energized and motivated.
Communicate The Meeting Context
Virtual meetings will need you to introduce participants to the meeting details, such as the topic, meeting duration, team members expected. You can do this by sending pre-meeting emails with calendar invites or sending a message to the meeting chat on Slack.
Assign A Meeting Lead
Assign roles to team members to put them in charge of the meeting, ensure they alternate for every session, update other attendees. The meeting leader should;
- Connect and communicate with the leadership on the meeting’s goals.
- Establish, circulate and time-manage the agenda of the meeting.
- Share meeting notes efficiently with attendees and influencers.
- Ensure all participants know their roles, the protocol, and timing beforehand.
- Bridge the gap between team members when it comes to questions and follow-up.
During The Meeting
Set A Positive Mood
Mood plays a crucial role in how people feel and respond in a working environment. As a meeting host, set the right mood by starting the meeting with energy and a positive attitude to encourage creativity and productivity.
Begin by introducing the planned ice-breaking activities to create a positive atmosphere, hold brainstorming sessions, and do anything else that will help enlighten the mood and encourage member’s engagement. Be consistent throughout the meeting.
Its good practice to allow each of the participants to introduce themselves, especially if there are new members in the team. Not everybody turns on their camera during the virtual video meeting, and the list of participants may not display all the users present for the meeting.
Remind Participants of The Meeting Goal
Remind participants of the meeting goals and objectives that you are looking forward to achieving at the beginning of the meeting. Share the screen to allow visuals such as presentations and collaborative whiteboards to make your introduction more engaging.
After the introduction, share meeting guidelines and the plan. Elaborate meeting scenarios, the order of topics and speakers, and how and when the participants can ask questions. If, for example, you want to hold a brainstorming session, inform participants earlier to avoid unnecessary interruptions.
Split Roles Among Participants
For the virtual meetings to be effective, distribute tasks among team members; this will allow you to keep track of things during the session. Assign a few unique roles to members of your choice.
Here are some ideas;
- Notetaker: writes down the key ideas, decisions, and results, which are shared after the meeting and used for follow-up after the meeting.
- Timekeeper: Ensures that each participant gets enough time and attention and notifies participants when they run out of time.
- Facilitator: is responsible for introducing the meeting, guiding the attendants to reach the meeting goals by setting the pace, ask questions to start discussions, leads in decision making, and captures important actions points.
Alternate roles to different team members if it’s a recurring meeting and let them know in advance, to enhance engagement of the meeting attendants.
To improve productivity, allow room for engagements, which kills boredom and keeps the participants attentive. Consider the following pointers;
- Set expectations for member’s participation.
- Create room to celebrate achievements.
- Hold short team-building activities.
- Encourage participants to use text chat.
- Ask questions to introduce attendants to the meeting agenda.
- Leverage online whiteboards and presentations to create flow charts and other visuals.
- Run opinion polls where necessary.
- Allow submission of anonymous questions.
The idea is to prioritize your audience by being mindful of encouraging participation.
Use Interactive Tools
Interactive tools encourage member’s participation. Implement various tools for surveys, brainstorming, and visualizing.
Some of these tools include:
- Whiteboards: Microsoft Whiteboards, Aww, Miro.
- Polls and quizzes: Google Forms, Poll Everywhere, Mentimeter.
- Mind maps: Coggle, MindMeister.
Interactive apps allow all members, even the shyest, to participate in meeting activities. Whiteboards and mind maps enable team members to come up with new ideas and easily grasp new concepts. Polls and quizzes will help you collect feedback and break the ice.
Ask Participants to Contribute
One way to ensure all participants contribute to the meeting is by asking them questions and perspectives on discussion topics. Create room for them to share their thoughts. Or better still, assign people into groups, provide a challenge, and set a timeframe within which they are supposed to come up with a solution.
Here are more ideas to encourage participation;
- Take polls and surveys throughout the session. In case of sensitive topics, use anonymous polls.
- Ask open questions. As a meeting host, collect as many opinions as possible incorporate creativity, imagination, or analysis in the process.
- Encourage collaboration. Use collective note-taking using Google Docs or online whiteboards for brainstorming sessions.
- Take breaks. After introducing the meeting agenda and finished your presentation, take a break timed break to allow participants to digest and reflect.
For virtual meetings, participants can only hear one person at a time, establish rules and guidelines on how to take turns. Use the mute button in case of any interruptions.
Give Participants Enough Time to Contribute
For each member to contribute, introduce “the first five” concept where the first five minutes in a virtual meeting are utilized by listening to members talk about how they are feeling and doing. More pointers include;
- Add time to the schedule for team members to catch up or share their thoughts.
- Give room for participants to join the meeting 5 minutes late if they want to skip the conversation.
- Create pauses to allow everyone to contribute.
- Allow the meeting moderator to guide the meeting conversations.
Keep The Meeting Flexible
Your meeting guidelines should support flexibility to accommodate the new way teams are working. For example;
- Set appropriate meeting times to accommodate parents juggling kids and work.
- Let participants turn in video calls only when necessary.
- Allow participants to exit the meeting when their part is over, and the remaining portion of the forum doesn’t concern them.
- Invite team feedback for everyone to feel comfortable in a virtual space.
After The Meeting
Before you end the virtual meeting, recap the highlighted points by summarizing essential ideas, next steps, and individual tasks and responsibilities.
Here are a few more ideas to create a summary for takeaways:
- Highlight key points.
- List action items.
- Set deadline.
- Ask for questions.
Recaps allow all team members to write down their action points and remember the meeting’s key takeaways.
Send follow-ups after the meeting to remind the team members of their action points and pick the most effective communication channel to reach all the members. You may pick Slack or Email, depending on your preference.
Create an engaging follow-up by incorporating Gifs or funny pics or adding funny quotes and ideas from the meeting. Give thanks to participants, celebrate the brightest ideas and make it a habit.
Ask For Feedback
Lastly, it’s a best practice to ask for feedback from the meeting participants. Prepare a short online survey where participants can share their feedback anonymously and offer their improvement ideas at the subsequent meeting. Use this feedback to reflect, learn and enhance your approach in the next meeting.
Incorporate links to the feedback gathering form and note-taking docs while writing post-meeting follow-up messages or emails.
Effective Virtual Meeting Checklist
- Determine if the meeting is relevant.
- Identify appropriate meeting tools.
- Refine the meeting agenda.
- Set Time appropriately.
- Develop and share the meeting guidelines.
- Plan Ice-breakers.
- Communicate the meeting context.
- Assign a meeting lead.
- Set a positive mood.
- Introduce everyone.
- Remind participants of the meeting goal.
- Split roles among participants.
- Be engaging.
- Use interactive tools.
- Ask participants to contribute.
- Give participants enough time to contribute.
- Keep the meeting flexible.
- Clarify takeaways.
- Send Follow-ups.
- Ask for feedback.
Virtual Meetings Are Here to Stay
The global shift to virtual meetings and remote work has many benefits to companies and employees. Global workplace analytics indicates that a single company can save $1100 per remote worker who telecommutes 50% of the time. Most companies consider cutting costs for their commercial workspaces allowing their employees to work from home 2-3 days per week and a few days in the office, making virtual meetings and online tools essential for everyday workflow.