Virtual or online meetings have been the real game-changer this year with many businesses continuing to offer these as a preferred option even after lockdown ended. Not only to online meetings save us all a lot of time (in travel and organisation) but they are also kinder on the environment with less fossil fuel use (petrol, electricity, heating…)
Here are a few of our top tips for ensuring your virtual meeting is worthwhile and successful ie. Follow the magic formula of Preparation, Participation and Follow-Up. This formula will ensure that communication is crystal clear and important details and tasks won’t fall through the cracks.
As the saying goes, “to be prepared is half the victory.” If you go into an online meeting with a clear plan then you will get better results during and after you meet.
1. Your Agenda
This will help everyone come to the meeting on the same page and keep participants focused on your priorities. A good agenda is less about your ability to lead an online meeting and more about fostering understanding for participants, especially people who aren’t in the same room.
Tips for writing an Ideal Agenda
- ask for input from those attending the meeting
- note any time a decision needs to be made
- if necessary, identify who will lead the discussion for each agenda item or topic
- leave room in the agenda for last-minute additions or questions.
2. Your Location
Whether it’s a cat walking in front of your camera or a garbage truck coming down your street, distractions happen. You can’t prevent every mishap, but preparing your space beforehand can go a long way.
Make sure you find a quiet environment where you can limit distractions. Use headphones to minimize background noise and prevent audio feedback. If you’re working with new conferencing software, do a test run before the online meeting begins.
You’re all prepared and it’s meeting time. Here are a few tips to make sure your online meeting goes smoothly.
1. Slow Pace
Keep the pace of your online meeting a bit slower than in-person meetings. Expect a 2-3 second delay for people to communicate due to varying online connections.
If you’re leading the meeting, make sure there are sufficient pauses after asking a question. If you are a participant, bring attention to yourself before addressing the group by signaling with your hand or saying “question” or “comment” and then waiting a couple seconds before continuing.
2. Be Descriptive
If you’re not sharing your screen and need to describe something remote participants can’t see, try to be extra descriptive. This will help you communicate clearly and effectively.
3. Take Notes
Good note-taking is something all meetings can benefit from.
If you want to take shared notes during an in-person meeting, you may well turn to a whiteboard. For online meetings, you can get a similar effect with online mind maps, which allow everyone to see and add to the notes as new ideas come up, in real-time. It’s a great way to keep everyone engaged, create more clarity and get input from all team members involved.
Here are a few things you can do at the end of an online meeting (and beyond) to maintain clear communication from everyone involved.
When the meeting is about to end, give each participant time to recap the action items that they are responsible for. This is a way to make sure everyone understands who is tackling what and ensure accountability. That extra clarity is especially helpful when you cannot see facial expressions or body language.
2. Debrief Later
If you just finished a high-stakes meeting, often our first reaction is to immediately debrief with colleagues. Hold off until you are out of the room, though. You would never want remote attendees to overhear something you didn’t mean to share because they hadn’t left the video conference yet. As a general rule, wait until you’re out of the room to discuss anything that occurred.
3. Share Notes.
Remember those great notes you took? Make sure everyone involved has access to them. This can be another great way to create a shared understanding of what was decided, who is responsible for what action items and what to follow up on in the future.
The goals for online meetings are no different than in-person meetings: communicate clearly so you can make decisions that move your organization forward.
When your meeting is remote, you just need to make a few adjustments to achieve that goal. By preparing properly, participating fully, and following up, your online meetings can be just as successful as sitting in a room together.