With increasing numbers of freelancers, independent contractors, and employees working remotely, virtual meetings are becoming a lot more common. But we still have a long way to go. Chances are you’ve been frustrated before when you or a colleague were connecting remotely and things didn’t go the way they were supposed to.
Business Week predicts that virtual meetings will likely replace onsite meetings in the next ten years, so we’ve got some improving to do before then. Fortunately there are video conferencing platforms that make it easy and affordable for even small businesses to take part in the virtual communication revolution. But we’ve still got to make sure that the actual meetings themselves are as effective and productive as possible.
There are a number of different ways to maintain efficiency in meetings, virtual or otherwise, but video conferencing comes with a couple extra guidelines that help things run smoothly.
Virtual Meeting Etiquette
Getting the basics down isn’t hard, but it takes a bit of practice because there are things to consider that you normally wouldn’t have to worry about in person. For example, you’ll want to keep your hand gestures and any physical movements minimal. I’m sure you’ve experienced Webex meetings before where the leader was moving their mouse or files around the screen that looked super delayed or jumpy on your end. It gets super annoying really fast. So to avoid unnecessary delays and freezes on camera, move on the slower side.
You’ll also want to look into the camera to maintain eye contact, enunciate clearly, stay close to the microphone, and avoid interrupting people. Be respectful like you would in person, and don’t text or eat while someone else is talking. Also try to connect in a quiet location so the other attendees don’t have to hear background noise when you’re talking.
Email Docs Before And After
Virtual meetings require more structure and planning than physical meetings to be the most productive. Even though virtual meetings don’t require printed material, you should prepare digital documents that can be shared for the meeting. By giving attendees the opportunity to review any materials prior to the meeting, you establish an agenda in advance and save time during the meeting. Emailing out the docs in advance also gives people the chance to print out certain pages if they want to take notes. And emailing out materials also serves as a reminder to your colleagues and clients of the upcoming meeting.
It’s also helpful to send out copies of your notes and presentation documents within an hour or so after the meeting comes to a close. It helps to recap what was discussed, note any open items that need to be addressed, and gives your attendees a chance to easily contact you with any questions they forgot to ask earlier.
Check Everyone’s Fully Connected
Remember that a productive virtual meeting is much like any other effective meeting in that attendees have the opportunity to communicate and participate with the presenter directly, ask questions, provide input, and learn.
This means sticking to your agenda, but setting aside a little time at the beginning of every meeting to do a roll call and make sure that everyone’s equipment is working correctly. Remember that it may take some participants a minute or two to get fully connected, so give them the time they need to sign in and take part.
Record The Session
In virtual meetings, you should consider recording the entire meeting for later review. This helps attendees get caught up if they joined late or were unable to dial in. And it also helps you to listen and watch how you spoke and answered questions, to allow you to refine your presentation skills. You can also review these Tips For Public Speaking And Giving Business Presentations before your next meeting to give you a leg up.
Double check that your videoconference platform offers the features you need to make this possible. Some companies offer both session recording and video sharing features, making it easy for anyone who attended to stream and review the meeting later should they have questions on a particular topic.
Be An Effective Leader
If you’re leading a virtual meeting, make sure to stay organized and have an clear purpose with objectives. It’s best practice to have an agenda for any business meeting regardless if it’s onsite, virtual, or over the phone. Use concise visuals like this board meeting software to show your audience easy to understand data. Rehearse your presentations in advance and practice timing yourself so the meeting can be kept brief. Virtual meetings are best when they’re kept short, so see if you can keep things to 10-15 minutes if possible.
Just be sure to leave enough time for questions and discussions on key topics in between sections. If you wait until the end to do that, people will likely have lost track of what they wanted to ask earlier in the meeting and things can get sidetracked. You can also read through My Hard Earned Manager Tips For Newbies And Existing Leaders to further learn how to improve your effectiveness as a leader.
Keep It Small And Sweet
Other tips for virtual meetings include keeping the audience size small if possible. Even onsite meetings work best in smaller groups. Also try not to bite off more than you can chew in each meeting, especially if there are a lot of attendees. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean it’s any easier to answer the questions of more than fifty people at a time. Knowing your audience helps a lot to in terms of how you prepare and lead the meeting. If you’re speaking to a younger crowd, learn how to embrace Millennials at work and keep them engaged.
Having effective and productive meetings takes practice and preparation. If you follow the above tips for virtual meetings you’ll be on your way to managing your audience and keeping things focused. Remember the basic virtual meeting etiquette suggestions above, email docs out before and after the meeting, make sure everyone’s successfully connected before diving in, record the session, be an effective leader, and keep the meeting as small as possible.
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