As the host or presenter, whether it is a standing Monday morning update or a sales and marketing webinar or a virtual interview with candidates, you want to maximize your probability of success.
The demand for and use of virtual meetings has increased dramatically as COVID-19 closes offices and places of business, requires social distancing, and halts business travel. Virtual meetings will continue to be a viable way to conduct business with employees, customers, vendors, owners, regulators, and other stakeholders.
Most people dread bad and long meetings anyway, and the social distancing mandates caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have further made it harder to conduct effective get-togethers. With video meetings, it is difficult to read subtle body language and other communications cues. To do the best you can, you need to ensure that you are set up to succeed in your virtual meeting.
Virtual meetings require more planning than in-person meetings to be effective. To ensure a successful and productive virtual meeting, keep in mind the following steps before the meeting even begins:
Standardize on Technology
There are many web and videoconferencing platforms available (Skype, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and many other providers), so find the right platform, software and features to support your business. Choose one well-known platform and stick to it; share these details in your meeting invitations. After attendees download the platform once, it’ll be easier to join future meetings with you.
Create an Agenda
Attendees may have a full calendar, so be clear on the purpose of the meeting. Provide a timed agenda with specific topics, key questions and assigned facilitators. This will help invitees decide upon their attendance if they have multiple meetings at the same time, as well as allow adequate preparation before the meeting starts. Share this prework at least 48 hours in advance, with an automated follow-up reminder 8-24 hours before the meeting starts.
Establish Ground Rules
In virtual meetings, it is harder to share and ensure compliance with behavioral expectations than with in-person meetings. It might be helpful to have an agreed-upon way of working, such as ensuring everyone uses video options (not just audio), stating your name before talking, or always muting your microphone when not speaking. This helps keep the meeting professional, efficient and distraction-free.
Test the Technology
It’s important to join the meeting at least five minutes early to test your connection, microphone, speakers and video. If you’re the presenter or administrator of the meeting, you want to ensure that you know how and where to find key tools in the software or platform, like buttons for muting all participants, managing the pipeline of meeting attendees, and similar tasks.
As the organizer, this is **your** meeting. It’s your time to demonstrate your professionalism and organizational skills. If using video, present yourself with appropriate grooming, hygiene and attire. That means mirroring what you would wear in-person and keeping in mind whether it’s an internal or external meeting. This simple task and your attention to detail will help maintain your professional image.
Remember to Connect on a Human Level
During the pandemic, there is less opportunity to build and maintain connections with your team. Virtual meetings can often appear cold and detached. To avoid this, you need to show empathy for your people. Plan to use a portion of the meeting time to share thoughts, concerns and questions, whether within an agenda topic, at the beginning of the meeting, or at the end of the meeting. Remember to seek input from all participants, to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. And lastly, remember to ask if there is any help or support that anyone needs.
When it comes to virtual meetings, it’s crucial to invest in personal and participant preparedness. Setting expectations beforehand can go a long way to positively impact a meeting’s effectiveness.
(written by: Nelson)