It’s the morning; you open your laptop, as usual, to start the day with a positive mentality that today will be a productive day, only to see that your calendar is filled with virtual meetings, wondering if you’ll ever get anything completed.
This scenario is even more prevalent at the moment, with over 14 million people in the UK currently working from home. So, how can you ensure that your virtual team meetings are as productive as possible?
Whether we like it or not, technology is shaping how we work and where we work, so conducting a tremendous virtual team meeting has never been more important. Here are our top tips for holding a successful virtual team meeting.
Before the virtual team meeting
- Turn your video on. A blank screen with just your name doesn’t really add your presence in the meeting in the same way as seeing you. Since everyone on the call is separated by distance, the best thing you can do to make everyone at least feel like you’re all in the same room is to use video. Video also allows others to see your emotions and reactions, instantly humanising the room. Without video, you’ll also never be able to gauge someone’s reaction without being able to see whether that person is engaged or nodding their head in agreement. Get that video on and share your smiling face with your colleagues.
- Set an agenda like a face-to-face meeting. By spending a small amount of time before your meeting preparing what topics to discuss, you’ll have a more productive meeting. Send all participants the agenda beforehand to take full advantage of the meeting by thinking ahead about the content, formulating ideas or getting to know others in the group, which can help keep team members engaged. Just make sure all participants have read your agenda prior to the meeting.
- Check your tech! Whichever video conferencing technology you use such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, GoTo, Teams or Google Hangout, it’s important to ensure that all participants are familiar with how to use it. Far too many meetings have the first 20 minutes wasted while you wait for people to join, their mic isn’t working, they can’t access the camera, or they can’t remove the virtual unicorn background. If participants are unsure, get them to join the meeting slightly earlier and do a test run.
During the virtual team meeting
- Give everyone a share of time to voice their opinions. Video calls are different from meeting in person. It can become extremely difficult to hear individual voices if everyone is talking at once. Give everyone an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas and pass the baton to the next person once finished. This way, every participant will have time to share their ideas and not be drowned out by multiple people talking at once.
- Assign a host to ensure the agenda is adhered to. This will usually be the person who created the agenda and initiated the meeting. This person needs to ensure that any discussions are in line with the agenda and don’t become a catch up with colleagues that you haven’t seen for a while. Set a separate time to meet with colleagues for a water cooler chat at the end of the meeting or at a specified time such as 3pm on Friday. In turn, this keeps your original meeting concise and productive.
- Constant touchpoints. It’s better to let everyone voice their opinions during dedicated time brackets, so that it keeps the meeting a discussion rather than a lecture. Keeping participants engaged will be the most difficult part of a virtual meeting, so regular touchpoints to gain their thoughts or feedback will help keep them alert.
- No mute. In a face-to-face meeting, there are social norms, including not getting up to walk around the room or not paying attention. Virtual meetings are no different. You don’t go on mute and leave the room for any reason. In a physical meeting, you would never make a phone call and ‘switch off’ from the meeting. So, in a virtual meeting, you shouldn’t press mute and respond to any emails, calls or WhatsApp messages, killing any potential for discussion, shared laughter and productivity.
After the virtual meeting
- Incorporate water cooler chat. It can feel a bit anticlimactic if a meeting you attend was productive that then ends abruptly. Therefore, why not include the water cooler conversation at the end for five to ten minutes for everyone to have a quick catch up. If it were a face-to-face meeting, this would probably happen naturally, so including it in a virtual team meeting will undoubtedly make it feel more natural.
- Communicate action points. The whole point of a virtual meeting is to have productive conversations and set clear action points to follow up with. The host should summarise what was discussed and who any tasks have been assigned to.