Virtual meetings have become a staple of the business world recently, and while there are many similarities between video conference calls and their face-to-face equivalents, hosting a get together via the web poses its own unique challenges.
If you are dissatisfied with the virtual meeting experience and want to make some improvements, here are some tips to follow that will help you achieve this aim efficiently.
Read: Our Complete Remote Working Guide
Take Meeting Minutes
It is sensible to treat virtual meetings with the same level of seriousness and professionalism as you would any other meeting, and so assigning someone to take minutes throughout is necessary.
The purpose of minuting a meeting is to create a record of what has been discussed, what decisions have been made and what insights may have been gleaned for later reference. Learning how to write minutes of a meeting is straightforward enough, so ensure the person responsible is up to speed before you get started.
Are you having a strategic planning session? Make sure you ask your team these questions first:
Choose & Master the Tech
Virtual meetings are inextricably bound to the technology they run on, and there are several platforms available, as well as other variables which need to be taken into account.
Whether you opt for Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype or any of the other services available, be sure to research each thoroughly to see if it offers the features you need to have an impactful, actionable meeting.
Likewise be sure that all meeting attendees are kept in the loop about what they will need to join the meeting, and that they have a suitably powerful and compatible device to participate without issue.
This is all the more relevant if your virtual meeting will involve people from outside of the team or organization; technical glitches can bring even the best organized event to its knees, so being prepared is vital.
Set an Agenda & Share it with Everyone
A meeting without an agenda is like a ship without a rudder; it will stay afloat well enough, but it be prone to drifting aimlessly.
This is certainly the case with virtual meetings, which can feel comparatively informal and may be conducive to procrastination if they are not carefully planned and structured beforehand. Check out our virtual strategy session agenda template.
When working out the agenda, seek to determine the purpose of the meeting, as well as outlining the topics that will be tackled and the amount of time you intend to do all of this in.
More importantly still, make sure that other participants receive this itinerary ahead of time so that they can study it and make their own preparations, if any are necessary. An agenda will not just help in the run-up to the meeting, but will also be a touchstone throughout the event itself, so remember to refer to it and adhere to its stipulations yourself when hosting.
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Minimize Disruption & Distractions
When attending a virtual meeting, you will probably be working from home and thus have to account for the potential pitfalls that this environment will bring with it.
This is all the more important if you are handling hosting duties, as being interrupted by another member of your household could derail proceedings in an instant.
Setting aside a quiet, separate area in which to work for the duration is ideal. If this is not possible, at least make sure that the others sharing the same premises as you are aware when the meeting is taking place, so they can steer clear and behave sensitively.
If all else fails, be ready to mute your microphone so that any extraneous noise does not bleed into the ears of other participants. It is equally important for the host to make sure that the rest of the attendees are muted and unmuted as necessary, rather than relying on them to be responsible for this themselves. Well-publicized blunders involving accidental un-muting have shown just how embarrassing this can be.
Make Introductions if Necessary
If your virtual meeting involves team members who already know one another, kicking things off with a formal series of introductions will not be necessary. However, if there will be strangers involved, then adding a roll call at the start to make sure everyone is suitably introduced to one another is worthwhile.
As well as breaking the ice, it will mean that everyone feels included, and can help to overcome a degree of the awkwardness which is unfortunately unavoidable in virtual meetings while being absent from in-person meetings.
Have you thought about bringing in a neutral, unbiased facilitator to run your strategy session?
Send a Follow-up Email
The best virtual meetings are those which leave their mark on participants and are engaging long after the last person has left.
While you can hope for this to occur organically, it is better to make sure of it by sending out a follow-up email to attendees which is more than just a ‘thank you’ for being there.
You can include the aforementioned minutes as an attachment, or even share a recording if you have made one so that it can be referred to further down the line.
Your follow-up could also cover the next steps that are to be taken as a result of what was discussed in the meeting, and perhaps even a request for feedback from those involved so you can make tweaks and improvements in the future.
With practice, organizing virtual meetings does become easier, but it is better to avoid the mistakes of others rather than learning from your own missteps, and so become the ideal host.
About the Author:
Richard Fendler is a goal-oriented manager with proven leadership abilities. Expert in increasing productivity and growth marketing through content. Committed to streamlining procedures while optimizing employee talent. Most importantly, dog lover.