COVID-19 has led to a drastic shift in the way meetings are held, with virtual meetings replacing in-person gatherings for many businesses and teams around the world. While these virtual conferences have existed before the pandemic, it can present some difficulties to those who are unfamiliar with using technology to conduct meetings.
As a semi-distributed team, we at Zetl go to great lengths to make sure that our remote communications are done well. Here are a few tips we’ve found that help.
Follow meeting etiquette
A virtual meeting is not too different in essence to an in-person meeting at the office, so it’s important to make sure that you conduct yourself professionally, and to also ensure that your meeting participants do so as well. With this in mind, here are some pointers to keep in mind when holding a successful online meeting:
- Always be on time! Just like how you wouldn’t arrive late to a meeting at the office, you should make sure that you attend virtual meetings on time as well. Good use of calendars and alarms help a lot! At Zetl we set a quorum for each meeting, and once the quorum is met, the meeting starts.
- Be prepared. Test your connection and hardware beforehand in case there are any issues that need to be resolved before the meeting starts. This is especially important for external meetings.
- Join the meeting from a quiet area to reduce unnecessary noises. Microphones are surprisingly powerful, and if you are attending a meeting in a loud environment, chances are that other meeting attendees can hear you, and it can come off as unprofessional and rude.
- Look at the camera when you’re speaking, which will help others be more engaged
- Look presentable. Even though you’re not in the office, a virtual meeting is still a professional obligation you have, so it’s important to look presentable and ready to work.
Set a meeting agenda beforehand
One of the most important components to holding a successful meeting is preparing an agenda, which will help your attendees stay updated on what your meeting will be about and inform them of their priorities. It’s always useful to create your meeting agenda in advance and send this out to your attendees a few days beforehand so they can make preparations if necessary as well.
When you put together your agenda, you should make sure that you:
- Delegate specific blocks of time to topics you want to address
- Write down the name of the people who will lead the conversation for each agenda item, if applicable
- Always plan for time at the end of your meeting for additional queries or concerns
Also don’t be afraid to ask for input from your attendees and team members, so that you can not only improve your agenda, but they also feel engaged and involved. Most calendar invites will allow you to put in notes so that’s a great place to drop the agenda so all participants know what to expect. Alternatively, many mail apps let you create calendar events from email threads, which give participants a reference ahead of the meeting, making it easier to remember the context of the call.
Avoid virtual meeting fatigue
Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end can cause something called virtual meeting fatigue. According to a report from Microsoft, “brainwave patterns associated with stress and overwork were much higher when collaborating remotely than in-person”. In other words, it takes a lot more energy to concentrate on a virtual meeting in comparison to an in-person meeting, as you’re not only staring at a screen, but you are also focused on more things like the other speakers, their surroundings and how you look on your camera.
To avoid you and your attendees from suffering virtual meeting fatigue, try to keep your meetings as short as possible, with a maximum of an hour.
Engage with everyone during virtual meetings
The key to holding a successful virtual meeting is to engage with everyone and make sure they are all included, including those who may not be the most vocal or outspoken. For example, you can create a group discussion where each individual spends a couple of minutes talking about their insights, which can give everyone an equal opportunity to voice their opinion.
If there are some individuals that still seem reluctant to speak up, it may be a good idea to schedule a one-on-one meeting so you can gather their insights in private. It can also be a good idea to create a shared document or folder where each person can write down thoughts and suggestions after the meeting, which not only allows you to improve on what to do for the future, but also allows people who are more uncomfortable with speaking to contribute to the team.
Share meeting notes
Once your meeting is over, it’s useful to write up a summary of the meeting and share these notes with the rest of the attendees. This helps to create a shared understanding of what is going on, and allows everyone to know what to follow-up on in preparation for the next meeting.
It’s also a good idea to record your meetings so that you and your attendees can review it afterwards. Not only does this allow you to look back on your meeting and find out what worked and what didn’t, but others will also have the opportunity to review points in the meeting notes they need further detail on.
At Zetl, we log bullet points of meetings in Slack after they’ve been held. This helps everybody stay aligned and remember what was discussed in the meeting. It’s also a good chance for those who were unable to attend to catch up on what’s going on
Do you have any tips or tricks that you find helpful?