Searching for the secret to engaging virtual meetings that don’t feel awkward or impersonal? Follow these tips to increase connection and productivity.
So, your meetings are going virtual. Or perhaps they have been for a while, but you’re looking for ways to make them better. No problem! Below, we’ve got 8 tips and best practices for running great virtual meetings.
First, however, don’t forget that virtual meetings are just regular meetings in a new format. As a result, all the typical meeting advice still applies. This includes things like:
- providing an agenda ahead of time
- asking for feedback on the agenda before the meeting
- planning ice breakers and/or making introductions
- designating a note-taker
- setting meeting expectations
- respecting people’s time
- encouraging participation
- assigning team members to action items
- sharing notes with attendees and absentees post-meeting
Cover those bases, then read on to learn how to maximize your virtual meetings.
Virtual Meetings Best Practices
Most virtual meeting software today centers around videoconferencing. This is great, as it comes closest to recreating the face-to-face experience of an in-person meeting.
However, new technology takes time to get comfortable with. And, for better or worse, virtual meeting software introduces new communication elements that require consideration. Here are some tips for ensuring great virtual meetings:
Give everyone time to get familiar with new tools.
It’s unrealistic to expect every team member to jump seamlessly into a new meeting format with possibly unfamiliar technology. Before holding any formal meetings, give everyone time to download, experiment with, and perhaps even experience an informal virtual meeting via a “test run.”
Introduce and test features like chat, screen share, mic muting, and virtual hand-raising. Ensure every team member is comfortable with your chosen platform before taking it for a high-stakes spin.
Come up with clear virtual meeting practices.
Are attendees required to have their cameras on and/or mics muted at certain times? Is multitasking okay? Can they use the chat function to introduce new ideas while someone is speaking, or should they wait until the speaker is finished? Should attendees use a hand-raising button to indicate they’d like to speak? Who hands off to the next speaker?
Whatever policies you decide on, make sure they are clear to everyone, and appoint a moderator who is prepared to enforce them fairly. An assistant who can mute mics, watch the chat, and troubleshoot tech issues can also help keep practices in line.
Make sure team members have what they need.
If working from home or with their own personal computers, issues like internet connection, feedback from audio equipment, and the home environment can introduce challenges.
Consider whether you can offer headsets with microphones, company laptops, or a stipend to cover the cost of high-speed internet. Send individual emails to ask team members what they personally need to feel prepared for virtual meetings.
Plan breaks, especially for long virtual meetings.
Keeping meeting attendees engaged and attentive even in-person is tough. Five- or ten-minute breaks every 45-60 minutes can make a big difference. If appropriate, consider allowing attendees to turn off their cameras after introductions to avoid Zoom fatigue.
Breaks are particularly helpful if meetings include long video or slideshow presentations. Give attendees a chance to recharge and come back to their desks refreshed and ready to absorb the information presented.
Explore your platform’s tools.
If you’ll be running meetings, take some time to poke around your virtual meeting platform. Many offer cool features like anonymous polling, screenshare, breakout rooms, and other tools that might make some meeting aspects even better than in-person meetings.
For those who miss in-person meeting norms like handshakes and printed handouts, you might be surprised to find fun technological substitutes.
They happen. Be patient and flexible. Have backup plans for critical items, like sharing a presentation via Slack or email if screen sharing isn’t working, or planning to call in if a mic won’t unmute.
It might also help to explain to attendees upfront about what to expect if they’re disconnected from the meeting. Once they return, will they be brought up to speed, or are they expected to refer to post-meeting notes or recordings to fill in the gap?
Be intentional about inclusion.
Participating in a virtual meeting for some can be even harder than participating in an in-person meeting. To make sure everyone has a chance to contribute, go further than the usual “Any questions?” query after new information is shared.
Instead, if the meeting is small enough, explain that you’d like to give each person an opportunity to share thoughts or ask questions and that you’ll be going down the list of attendees in order to do so. Call each person’s name and ask what, if anything, they have to add or ask.
After one or a few virtual meetings (or now, if you’ve already been conducting them), ask attendees for feedback. What were some things that worked well about the virtual meeting format? What could have gone better? What changes would attendees like to see in future meetings?
Reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of virtual meetings every so often can help inform new practices and improve them over time.
Remember: Virtual Meetings Are Still Meetings
At their core, virtual meetings are just regular meetings. While technology can create new challenges to connect with team members, it can also unlock new opportunities. Keep an open mind, consider using supportive meeting software like Hugo to make things easier, and remember the tips above to ensure your virtual meetings go off without a hitch.