As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way people work across the world, most businesses have adopted work-from-home policies as quickly and effectively as possible to allow for continuity of operations. During this difficult time, the challenge for employers is to help their teams adjust to this new reality while ensuring morale and productivity are affected as little as possible.
In reality, most organizations cannot just simply shift their in-office meeting structure to video conferencing and expect the same exact results. Thankfully, modern technology allows us to hold face-to-face meetings without having to be in the same location, let alone in the same room. Though there may be big differences between office-based and online meetings, becoming accustomed to this new paradigm is paramount to your business. Here are tips to help you put your best foot forward and ensure your virtual meetings run productively.
Choose the Right Meeting Tools
Picking the right tools for your virtual meetings can be daunting, what with the abundance of technology that makes the process faster, easier, and more collaborative. It is important to know the key functionality you will be needing for the meeting to be successful. Do you need to see your teammates’ reactions as you talk about your weekly tasks or achievements? Try a video conferencing software like Skype. Are you going to work on a file that should be accessible to and editable by others? Google Docs would be there perfect choice. Do you need everyone to watch a video or PowerPoint presentation in real time? Then a screen-sharing software like Zoom is a must.
Set an Agenda
If you want your virtual meetings to be successful, you need to plan your agenda prior to the meeting itself. The best remote meetings have an agenda set beforehand so attendees can come in knowing what they will be discussing. Expectations must also be set ahead of time. When leading a meeting, establish basic ground rules—ask attendees to join the call on time, close out email and other browsers during the meeting, as well as to always keep their video on and mute the audio when they are not speaking.
It is worth noting to include the following on your agenda:
Key talking points
Team members in attendance
Any relevant files or documents
Creating a clear agenda and a series of guidelines will help ensure that your team is on the same page before the virtual meeting takes place.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
Before starting the meeting, make sure that you have a quiet place so you can focus without any distractions. Check if your workstation is in tip-top shape and everything is organized—from documents you will be needing to how your home office looks in front of the camera. If your boss or teammate asks for a specific file or information that has a physical copy, you should be able to present it right away. You should also let your family members know that you are on a call and would appreciate extremely limited to no interruptions.
Practice Proper Virtual Meeting Etiquette
It can be easy to fall victim to some major meeting faux pas, but this can be avoided to keep your meetings efficient and professional. Online meetings are like a whole new ball game compared to office meetings because of our current situation, and let us assume this could be the new normal for the months or years to come. Keep in mind the following codes of conduct and behavior during the actual virtual meeting with your team:
Turn off all notifications and make sure your cell phone is on silent.
Make sure all team members are in a quiet area free from unnecessary distractions.
Give everyone a chance to speak and contribute.
Do not stare at your phone while other people are presenting.
Do not interrupt other people when they are speaking.
Do not work on other tasks, like checking email or other websites, during the virtual meeting.
Plain and simple, just practice common courtesy. People want to be heard, seen, and respected during an online meeting—just like they do everywhere else.
Keep Your Team Engaged
From setting an agenda to practicing proper etiquette, these important guidelines in getting a virtual meeting up and running would be useless if your team is not engaged. It is important to start the meeting with a casual conversation or an “ice breaker” to lighten up the mood. Catch up with your teammates especially in these trying times. Ask them about their families and how they get by every day. Showing them empathy and compassion makes them feel that they are cared for, which enables them to open up and be comfortable. Moreover, come up with several interactive online activities that are fun and engaging to avoid dull meetings. In virtual settings, you do not have that face-to-face interaction, so you have to work hard to gain their trust and build rapport.
Successfully holding a virtual meeting can feel overwhelming especially during this time, but it really does not have to be. When you follow these tips, it will not matter whether you are working with a team of five, or even more than ten, and even if they are miles away from where you are—you will have everything you need to be productive and to run online meetings smoothly as you would do in a regular office one.