As the world copes with the COVID-19 crisis and the majority of Americans remain under shelter-in-place orders, the new normal seems to change by the moment. However, since the shutdown began, businesses received one lifeline that has remained constant: the virtual meeting.
Whether meeting internally, conducting a sales call or even hosting a training event, these meetings are keeping businesses afloat. But with no end to the crisis in sight, how can virtual meetings maintain effectiveness?
Structuring virtual meetings using these 5 simple rules will be a game-changer for your business:
1. Prepare Beforehand
Different types of virtual meetings require different types of preparation. Determine which materials and technology make the most sense for this particular presentation. A bit of research might be required. For example:
- Ensure your platform can support the number of attendees
- If conducting training, consider a cloud-based virtual lab
- For those especially important, large or externally-facing meetings, consider calling upon technical support in case you run into a problem
2. Conduct Virtual Meetings with Video – Always
As the leader of the call, be there early and turn on your camera to set the expectation that video is required. Consider labeling the meeting “Video Call” in your invitation.
Video calls beat audio calls for a number of reasons. Video calls:
- Make attendees feel more connected
- Improve engagement
- Allow you to see the reaction of others, check for understanding and know when to redirect
3. Discourage Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking is the silent killer of virtual meetings. You can save your virtual meeting from multi-tasking in a number of ways:
- Use video. Attendees can see you and you can see them. Enough said.
- Establish a “no-multi-tasking” expectation. For internal team meetings, you can overtly set the expectation that multi-tasking is frowned upon. An overt announcement might not be necessary if the meeting involves all team members in the conversation and creates an interactive environment.
- Drive engagement. Loosen up the meeting with a personal story or a funny video to keep your attendees engaged.
4. Conduct Purposeful Meetings
Too often, we have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. One of the most critical rules for virtual meetings is to ensure the meeting has purpose. Here is how you can put the purpose back in your virtual meetings:
- Present a business challenge your team or company is facing. Use virtual meeting time for collaboration. Establish expectations that everyone is expected to offer insights.
- Maintain positive energy. To avoid problems outnumbering solutions, consider a rule such as: when a problem is raised, a proposed solution must accompany it.
- Share information in advance. If any material can be shared in advance, do so. This makes for a more productive meeting. Virtual training labs enable participants to share materials and keep the meeting moving forward offline.
- Avoid the “report out.” Speaking at each other from a bulleted list is not a good use of anyone’s time. Move that kind of information to the pre-reading material.
5. Model Proper Etiquette
When conducting an internal team meeting, let team members know that being prepared is an “ethical” expectation of each member. Clearly state that you feel being prepared for meetings shows respect for other attendees.
And then, of course, there are the reminders that, under normal circumstances, might not require mentioning. But as we get further removed from social interaction outside of the home, keep these etiquette reminders nearby:
- Look directly into the camera when speaking.
- Remember everyone can see your reaction so when others are speaking, act accordingly.
- Allow a longer pause than usual after asking a question.
- Avoid interrupting other speakers.
Bonus Advice: Leading Virtual Meetings During a Crisis
- Humanize the meeting. Keep in mind this is a difficult time, not just for business, but for the health and safety of everyone. Virtual meetings can serve an added function for your employees by combatting social isolation. Check in with casual personal conversation in the beginning of each meeting. These opportunities are critical in establishing rapport and trust.
- Keep an eye on the clock. Less is more. As entire households spend the days at home, attention spans are certainly not expanding. To ensure your meeting maintains effectiveness, 60 minutes should generally be the maximum.
- Remember this technology is not just for meetings. As our daily work shifts to accommodate the new normal, time might become available for training that could benefit your teams or your customers. Do some research about fully interactive virtual training
COVID-19 too shall pass. And when it does, the virtual meeting will have a new place in corporate culture. Not only will these tips strengthen your meetings now, but will remain critical when we get through this crisis.
Mercy Ehrler has been marketing for corporate events and learning organizations for more than 15 years. She is currently the Director of Marketing at Attune (attune.com), a global leader of meeting and training venues, virtual collaboration solutions, and end-to-end event coordination services. Ehrler’s extensive background in the industry has given her unique insight into the challenges faced by organizations when developing and executing corporate events. Drawing on this experience, she helps shape Attune’s positioning of its innovative meeting and training delivery solutions.