Effective Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings have taken on great prominence nowadays. They allow team coordination in case of long distances, pandemics, or difficult weather conditions.

This tool lets you gather teams of specialists who live in different cities and countries for productive cooperation. It, like the meetings you have in the office, helps you better understand common goals, build collaboration, conduct brainstorming, and more.

What Is a Virtual Meeting?

A virtual meeting is an event that is held over the Internet or a local digital network. This helps people collaborate and share information in real time, but there is no need to be physically present in the same location.

Virtual meetings are becoming more and more popular every year because they facilitate the achievement of goals and save time. Participants can attend it at the agreed time and get right back to the business at hand.

The success of a virtual meeting, just like traditional ones, depends a lot on smart planning. But in this case, instead of equipping the office, you need to intelligently choose digital tools and draw up the rules with their specifics in mind.

How to Conduct a Successful Virtual Meeting

Online meetings are different from in-office ones in many ways. Here, it’s important to choose the right conference platform, consider the number of participants, the time zones in which different people are located, and more.

Below, we will cover a few important steps to help you run an effective meeting.

Choose the Proper Tool

Today, there are many software tools that allow for group video conferencing, virtual lectures with interactive communication and rigid rules, etc.

When choosing a tool, focus on the following parameters:

  • The number of participants. If you need to gather a few people together, even the simplest platform or messenger with the ability to create a group video chat is OK. For larger events, consider the option to connect all participants and intelligently manage the communication;
  • Features needed. Decide whether you need to connect and disconnect speakers (video, audio), manage the discussion (turn microphones off and on), plug in additional presentation tools, text chats, gamification, etc;
  • Collaborative work during the meeting. In brainstorming sessions, it is handy to have a common workspace for the participants. An illustration of a collaborative platform could be Google Workspace.

Also, make sure that the selected tool will be available to all participants. There may be limitations on equipment requirements, the speed of the Internet, the specifics of the system installed on the user’s device, etc.

Work Out the Details

Imagine how your meeting will go from start to finish. Document the necessary decisions.

Here’s what you need to pay attention to when planning out the details:

  1. Choose a meeting tool and make sure it works effectively with your hardware;
  2. Make sure all participants will be able to use the tool you choose;
  3. Make detailed instructions for each participant on how to install the software, connect to the meeting, and use the tools.

Determine in advance which tools are critical to you:

  • Unmute/mute participants’ audio;
  • Turn participants’ video on/off;
  • Excluding participants from the group if necessary;
  • Setting the background;
  • Using additional software platforms;
  • The convenience of the platform and the ability to create the proper atmosphere or professional environment for participants.

Create a Meeting Plan—É

Nothing is less effective than an unplanned meeting that runs spontaneously. Any meetup needs an agenda and a thoughtful outline. The agenda defines the structure, ensuring that the meeting runs according to its objectives.

What needs to be determined in advance:

  • Goals. You need to clearly outline the topics, goals, and objectives of the future meeting. Determine what you want to run: a negotiation, a briefing, a brainstorming session, or, for example, an ongoing business meeting;
  • Structure. Determine how long it will last, who will speak, who will only be present as a listener, what topics will be covered, and how much time will be allocated to each speaker. Also, consider possible breaks, time for questions, answers, and group discussion;
  • Time zones. If you want your meeting to be productive, be mindful of participants’ time zones and make plans to connect and disconnect at times that are convenient for everyone.

Define Virtual Meeting Etiquette

Virtual meeting etiquette is a list of rules that will help it run seamlessly. Here are a few rules of etiquette that are used most often:

  • Log in a few minutes early, check your equipment (microphone, camera, stability of Internet access, and collaboration tools access). Make sure everything is working properly;
  • Turn off notifications on your smartphone for the duration of the meeting, disable messengers on your computer, and set your phone to silent mode. Calls, sounds, and notifications can be distracting to other participants;
  • Before you start talking or asking a question during a meeting, mention your name. This rule may not be necessary for a small group of people, but more often than not, it is not just relevant but necessary;
  • Turn off the microphone if you are not currently speaking. This solution will save participants from unnecessary background noise, random sounds, or chatter;
  • If the meeting is in speaker-listener format, questions should be asked in text chat in a polite and correct manner. In this case, the chat is not intended for free communication between participants, so flooding and questions not of substance should be avoided;
  • Before the meeting begins, familiarize yourself with the agenda;
  • The invitation is best sent to attendees along with instructions and links to install or visit an online meeting platform.

Coordinate the Meeting and Send Reminders

If your virtual meeting is for negotiations or a business one where certain specialists are important to attend, agree on a time in advance with the participants.

If your meeting involves several speakers and a large number of listeners, it is enough to notify them in advance about the time.

Also, do not forget to send a reminder to all participants a day or even better 1-2 hours before the meeting. Use email, messengers, or other tools for this.

Run Preparations Just Before the Meeting

If you are holding a meeting in the office, you should make sure in advance that the furniture is properly arranged, the equipment functions, and the materials for the demonstration are brought.

Before holding a virtual meeting, you also need to prepare:

  • Log in with the other administrators and moderators;
  • Make sure the microphone, speakers, and camera are working properly;
  • Check the settings, including the number of participants, the ability for moderators to turn the microphone and video on and off for users, and the option to write in the chat room;
  • Make sure you can display the necessary materials, as well as connect additional software tools;
  • If the tool you choose allows it, start a waiting room;
  • Review the plan again.

Hold Your Meeting

To make your meeting a success, we recommend keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Wait an additional 3 minutes before the meeting begins to give all participants time to connect. In doing so, turn off the microphone and video when participants enter so that there is no unnecessary information noise before the actual meeting begins;
  • Appoint moderators. They should monitor the correctness of communication and text chat and, if necessary, disable the ability of participants to speak. Also, a separate moderator should keep track of messages (via email and messengers) from those who are late or unable to attend the meeting;
  • Limit the waiting time to fix unforeseen problems. For example, if someone can’t connect, remind them that they’ll get a recording of the meeting and tell them you’ll be happy to see them next time.

Remember that a virtual meeting, just like a real one, should not be overly boring and formal. Even the most solid meeting sometimes requires emotional release. Otherwise, listeners become discharged and stop absorbing information.

At a virtual meeting, it will be useful to:

  1. Give participants a chance to greet each other. This can be combined with a roll call, so you can see who is present and who is absent;
  2. Involve people in the discussion as much as possible. Get participants to talk, not just stare at the screen in silence;
  3. Be mindful of the goals and the plan that has been developed. Don’t backtrack on it. This will allow you to hit your goal and meet the pre-agreed time frame;
  4. Speak as clearly as possible and try to speak more slowly than you would in a face-to-face meeting;
  5. Make pauses so that people can understand everything;
  6. Remember to give people the opportunity to ask questions. In fact, remind them of that yourself. In a virtual meeting, there is a temptation to just watch the discussion, like on TV. And you need to involve participants in the flow of the meeting;
  7. Pay special attention to participants who avoid questions and discussion. Help them express themselves and their opinions;
  8. If the call becomes too long, take breaks.

After the meeting is over, don’t just say goodbye and shut it down with the push of a button, no matter how tempting it may be.

At the end:

  1. Summarize;
  2. Clarify if anyone has any questions or wants to add anything;
  3. Repeat in summary the next steps and plans for the next calls;
  4. Remind participants that they will receive a recording of the meeting if it was planned.

You can also disconnect after and allow participants to communicate freely for a while. In some cases, such a discussion will be helpful.

What to Do After the Meeting

If your virtual meeting needs to conclude with notices, do so as soon as possible. You can include this information in the email:

  • A summary of the call;
  • A follow-up summary;
  • Key decisions and accomplishments;
  • Recording (if acceptable and agreed upon in advance with meeting participants);
  • A link to the meeting satisfaction survey (should include suggestions for improving the format and other comments).

Also, it makes sense to contact everyone who couldn’t attend the meeting. Of course, they will also be included in the main newsletter. But if they are your employees, it is advisable to clarify the reasons for their absence and make sure that they understand what their tasks are. If they are partners or participants in a webinar, they will enjoy the extra attention.

Major Mistakes in Organizing Virtual Meetings

Often, virtual meetings are not effective enough because the organizers do not understand the difference between real ones and the virtual format. Therefore, they make mistakes. Below, we have collected the most common examples of them.

Fatigue from Continuous Communication

Virtual meetings are psychologically tiring, and their frequency contributes to a sedentary lifestyle.

How to solve this problem:

  • Only hold calls when necessary. Don’t engage in unnecessarily frequent and long ones. This only reduces the productivity of the work;
  • Allow participants to turn off the camera during the meeting and take short breaks;
  • Even if you’re holding a business meeting, you can allow certain professionals to participate in the session on a voluntary basis.

In fact, a lot of issues can be resolved through email, messengers, and the shared work environment. So, hold sessions only when you can’t do without them.

Too Many Multimedia Files

During a virtual meeting, don’t get too involved in showing promotional videos, presentations, and reports. People get tired of that format, and their attention gets distracted.

It’s better to create a visual presentation of slides that will illustrate your live report. Send the multimedia materials so people can study them on their own. In this case, you’ll get maximum attention during the call, and the multimedia will be studied the way it merits.

Lack of Personalization

Virtual meetings can be split so that small teams could communicate. For example, you can hold a separate one for each department.

A large meeting is convenient only for delivering information. In all other cases, you need the speaker to be able to spot shy people who are not participating in the discussion, consider everyone’s opinions, listen to personal reports, etc.

A Poorly Planned Program

The quality of planning directly determines the success of any meeting. Even for the daily fifteen-minutes ones of the department, you need to have a certain plan.

And if you hold a major meeting with a discussion of something new for the participants, without a strict schedule to which you will adhere, the participants may be distracted far from the goals and objectives set. As a result, the fruitfulness of the call will be low or even zero.

Passively Engaged Participants

Staring at a screen for a long time is tedious, the attention dissipates, and participants lose interest in the meeting and miss important information. That’s why it’s crucial to keep people engaged.

Of course, many meetings involve the study of reports from speakers, and sometimes, they last long. But if in a real meeting, you can only ponder about something, during virtual ones, there is much more chance to be distracted.

So, try not only to make reports that are really interesting to listen to but also maintain a certain level of interactivity. Ask questions that can be answered in a chat room. Come up with quizzes, the answers to which will be displayed in real time. Use gamification methods.

Bottom Line

Virtual meetings are becoming more and more common every year. The popularity of remote work, the practicality of such a format, and the time savings contribute to this. But it is essential for the leaders and speakers to evaluate not only the advantages but also the peculiarities of such a format.

We hope that our tips have helped you do that.