7 tips for running a successful virtual meeting

  • 13/07/2020
  • 06:58
  • Client

The future holds more remote working and video calls than ever before
Even before the emergence of COVID-19, there was a growing need to include remote participants in meetings. Statistics from December 2019 suggested that half of all meetings already included a virtual element. This trend has rapidly accelerated with the impact of the pandemic. On March 31st, 2020, MS Teams recorded 2.7 billion meeting minutes, an increase of 200% from March 16th, clearly demonstrating the new reliance on video technology and virtual meetings required during lockdown.

There are unique challenges in both hosting and attending virtual meetings. There have been emerging reports on virtual meeting burn out. We need to be aware that people can’t use the same social cues as we do in 1:1 meetings, and that this can make concentrating on the content more difficult.

There are some key ways in which you can manage meetings to help make them safer and simpler to deliver, while helping your audience to focus more easily on the content. Here are some of the key areas you need to consider in order to get the best from hosting a virtual meeting!

Be prepared – If you’re chairing a meeting, it’s important that your resources are ready and to hand. Any materials that you want accessed by attendees need to be shared beforehand, so that your colleagues are already familiar with them.

Make sure that you log in at least five minutes before the meeting starts, so you can test run your equipment.

Be clear about what you want to deliver – No one wants to spend their time in meetings where there are no clear drivers or outcomes. The easiest way to show this is to build a clear meeting agenda outlining what the intent and content of the meeting will be. It is also useful to send out follow up communication showing actions and resolutions. This approach helps to emphasise the benefits of the meeting’s content, as well as its proposed outcomes.

Before you set an agenda, understand what type of meeting you want to have, is it to kick off a project, provide a clear update, collect information? Meetings should have a defined reason and function. This helps to ensure that attendees prepare beforehand and helps you assess how long you need the meeting to be.

Define roles – Another way to help engagement is to define your roles at the beginning. This is especially important if there are members who are not familiar with each other.Avoid saying things like, “Right, I’d like this to be more of a conversation than a presentation…” and instead, allocate responsibilities to each team member and/or team lead (in the case of larger groups). When you assign responsibilities to all those involved, you’re more likely to create engagement and participation.

Keep it short - Consider making virtual meetings shorter where less time is required. We recommend 45 minutes as a maximum but shorter is fine. A good example of how shorter meetings can work well is an initial idea exchange. Try setting the meeting for 20 minutes and have participants come prepared with ideas they can share. Then, have people try and think of additional ideas as a group. It can also be helpful asking a colleague to track the time and keep you on schedule. It can be useful to give a 2-5-minute warning before the transition to the next topic and presenter.

Keeping the meetings brief means participants are more engaged and less likely to multitask.

Motivate engagement – There’s an art to motivating engagement in meetings, and it’s linked to making sure everyone understands the purpose of the meeting. Consider setting a shorter call and kicking off the meeting by presenting the top three bullet points and top three lessons learned from previous meetings.

Use the 5-minute rule – Even if the previous steps are used, you can lose people’s attention if you don’t ask them to solve a problem every five minutes or offer some way for them to engage. Building this into your structure helps to avoid the pitfalls of overly long monologues and refocuses the meeting on interaction. The aim for any chairperson is to keep the meeting moving. This approach helps reduce the temptation of presenting too many slides or data points in each section.

Make sure you have an agenda!

It’s important to set the agenda, as it helps you clearly communicate the purpose and form of the meeting as well as providing the information your attendees need to come prepared. Here are five tips for creating an effective agenda for a virtual meeting regardless of the meeting type.

  • Set the objective of the meeting: List the one main goal you need to accomplish. Keep it clear and concise!
  • Set the meeting duration: Make sure it is the right length for the meeting’s needs.
  • Double-check the invite list: Keep meetings small when virtual, so that everyone participating can contribute. If virtual meetings get too big, you’ll have people sitting on the call just listening You should also flag anyone who is essential to attendance.
  • Know who will present and notify them in advance: Decide who is leading which part of the meeting and let them know in advance so they can prepare.
  • Give each presenter a set amount of time: Specify time frames in your agenda and stick to them. Respect the agenda and use this information for future meetings so that your estimates are accurate. Note any changes or if additional time should have been allocated and adapt for future meetings.

Things to include in your agenda

  • Date and time
  • Duration
  • Topic and top three points to cover
  • Presenters/chairperson
  • Attendees

Preparation: At the bottom of the agenda (or within it), you can recommend what each person needs to do to prepare/bring to the meetings.

Taking the time upfront to build an agenda and understand the best format of your virtual meeting will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of each and every interaction.