Online meetings have become a staple of many people's daily workflows, but are we utilizing them to the best of our abilities? Or are they a bigger burden rather than a help?
If running a virtual meeting feels like one big question mark, don’t sweat it. Here's everything you need to know about running effective remote meetings.
Choose the right tools for the job
There is an abundance of technology out there that makes the process of running an online meeting easier, faster, and more collaborative—the key is figuring out which of these tools is right for your team.
You'll want to identify which tools you need to succeed. While aspects like clear audio and video capabilities are essential, there may be other components that are just as necessary that you may not consider, such as a steady and reliable internet service provider.
You don't want to invest in the best videoconferencing tools, only to have conversations hampered and bugged down by choppy connections.
Designate time for small talk
When you work within an office space, there are often plenty of opportunities throughout the day to interact and bond with colleagues. These informal conversations and connections help build a rapport that carries over into meetings, making people feel more engaged and perhaps more comfortable voicing their opinions or offering critical feedback.
Obviously, remote team members don’t necessarily have those opportunities, which is why leaders and managers must be proactive and create them. If most team members haven’t spoken or met before, they’ll likely be reluctant to share or debate ideas in front of others.
Before making virtual meetings a regular part of your team’s workflow, it’s important to get everyone comfortable with communicating with each other.
Set an agenda and meeting guidelines
For every virtual meeting, it’s important to create a clear meeting agenda that includes information such as:
- Key talking points
- Meeting structure and estimated time allotted per topic
- Team members/teams that will be in attendance
- What each team member/team is responsible for bringing to the meeting
- Any relevant documents, files, or research
Just as important as the meeting agenda are the meeting guidelines: the rules and expectations of how the team is expected to contribute to the virtual meeting.
So, for example, can everyone speak freely or will the team leader call on someone when it’s that person’s turn to contribute? Does everyone need to have their camera on at all times or just the presenter? Should people mute their phones while others are speaking?
Setting a clear meeting agenda and guidelines (and sending them to the team at least 24 hours in advance) will help ensure that everyone is on the same page before the virtual meeting takes place.
Adopt general rules and etiquette
While different meetings will have different “rules,” there are some basic etiquette practices everyone should follow to create a smooth online meeting experience.
Think of them as the must-do’s of online meeting etiquette:
- Introduce everyone during the meeting, and give everyone a chance to contribute
- Don’t stare at your phone while other people are presenting
- Don’t interrupt other people when they’re speaking (or attempt to speak over them)
- Test all technology (including camera/video, Wi-Fi, and screen sharing) before the meeting
- Read the agenda, and come prepared
- Don’t work on other tasks (like checking email) during the virtual meeting
- 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
When in doubt, just practice common courtesy. People want to be heard, seen, and respected during an online meeting—just like they do everywhere else.
Be sure to follow-up
In order for a meeting to be effective, every person needs to walk out with a clear objective. The key things everyone needs to know are:
- Deliverables and next steps
- Who’s responsible for following up on each item or task
- When those deliverables are due
- When the next meeting or check-in will be
And if you were the host, don’t forget that an important part of meeting follow-up is checking in with attendees about how well the meeting went, whether you choose to do so through a casual one-on-one conversation or by sending out a simple and anonymous feedback survey.
Hearing from attendees may just give you ample ideas on how you can make future meetings even more inclusive and efficient for everyone involved.
Never waste time in an online meeting again!
Successfully running a virtual meeting can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. When you follow this step-by-step guide, it doesn’t matter if you’re working with a team of two or a team of 10, whether team members are five miles away or 5,000— you’ll have everything you need to confidently run a productive remote meeting.