Making a virtual meeting work well isn’t always easy! Many of the factors that make face-to-face meetings work well are even more important when meeting online. And of course virtual meetings also come with a whole new set of issues and advantages that we are all learning to navigate.
With that in mind, our colleagues have helped us pull together together some top hints and tips to help you get the most out of virtual meetings.
1. Get organised!
Good organisation is the key to running effective virtual meetings. Here is a short list of things to get you started:
- Send a calendar invite: do this well in advance of the meeting and ask your attendees to confirm if they can attend or not. Try to add the meeting details and main talking points to your calendar content.
- Check the tech! Make sure everyone you invite is confident they will have the right software and hardware (like a mic and webcam) to be able to access the meeting. Try to offer guidance in advance, and to support them if they are struggling.
- Remind people in advance: Email them, or set up your calendar invite to make sure everyone involved receives a notification at least 15 minutes before the meeting. Like when meeting face-to-face, not showing up, being late, or showing up unprepared are sure-fire ways to get meetings off to a bad start.
- Structure your meeting clearly: This will help people know when the best time will be to bring up their question or comment. For regular or repeated meetings it can help to have a consistent structure. For one off meetings, make sure everyone gets an agenda in plenty of time.
2. Focus on what’s important
As in face-to-face meetings, every virtual meeting should have a clear objective. Remember that you are taking up everyone’s valuable time. Asking people to stay and listen to things that don’t affect them is not an efficient way to run a meeting, and will lead to people multi-tasking or not contributing.
3. Always use video (if you can*)
- Put a face to your voice: Humans respond well to faces. Facial expressions humanise your virtual meetings, and create a better atmosphere. So using video in your virtual meetings wherever possible will make a big difference.
- Use body language: Of course, what you’re saying is very important, but seeing how you’re saying it will help people understand you better.
- Don’t multitask: Research shows that multitasking harms your performance so really try to stay focused on the meeting at hand.
- Make ‘virtual eye contact’: just like in a face to face meet up, eye contact is important to keep people engaged. But remember, in a virtual meeting, this involves regularly looking at your camera, not at people’s faces! It can be counterintuitive, but it helps.
*BUT: remember to be considerate of people’s circumstances. For example, some people have caring responsibilities that mean it’s difficult for them to always have their cameras on when working from home.
And some people may have a poor connection, or not have enough data for frequent video calls. Try to speak to people about any of these issues in advance, as they could be uncomfortable for people to bring up in group settings.
4. Acknowledge everyone in the virtual room
Even if you meet regularly, as the host it’s important to take time at the start of the meeting to try and acknowledge everyone who is present. This is especially the case for meetings where people may not know each other, or where you are looking for contributions from everyone. That said, it can be less practical to introduce everyone if you are presenting to a large group, for example.
5. Share the mic
Try to make sure all participants have the opportunity to offer their input, and that extrovert individuals don’t dominate.
Make space for the introverts – for example by:
- asking their opinion on specific tasks/aspects
- asking them for a quick update
- asking if they have anything to add
- asking them if they have any questions
Manage the delay and the ‘talk-over’: Remember that depending on people’s internet connection, there can be significant delays between one person speaking and others hearing it. Don’t fill every awkward silence. Allow longer than normal pauses to leave people room to speak. And if people accidentally talk over each other, try to call on specific individuals to speak in turn.
6. Keep them short & sweet
Most people find virtual meetings more tiring than their face-to-face equivalent. So why not experiment? Instead of booking your usual hour, keep your meetings between 15 to 45 minutes so everyone stays focused and makes best use of the time.
7. Agree on the next steps
Try to take notes of any actions, deadlines and tasks, and share these notes afterwards. Keep 5-10 minutes for wrapping-up your conversation, and figuring out if you need any further meetings.