How To Effectively Host A Virtual Meeting
Summary: Looking to plan virtual meetings and need some tips? By leveraging the tips below, you can make the most of your virtual meeting while compromising minimally on the benefits of face-to-face interactions.
As companies become more global, employees now have the ability to work remotely as such teams are located in different parts of the world and are working from different locations. We know being physically present in an office provides many benefits like face to face interactions, watercooler informal chats, the ability to read body language and being able to build strong relationships. As we become physically separated and work from different locations, many people are relying heavily on the use of technology to bring people together virtually.
With advanced planning and preparation, you can host virtual meetings effectively resulting in increased engagement and effective use of everyone’s time.
As you begin your planning, the first thing to do is to identify purpose of the meeting. Is it a formal meeting where you may be looking for decisions versus an informal team building event? While for most part, considerations should remain the same, but you may choose to tweak it depending on the purpose of the meeting. Here are some key things to keep top of mind as you begin to plan your virtual meeting:
Choosing the right platform
There are many options available today such as Skype, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, just to name a few. Make a list of features that are maybe of interest to you. For example – do you need breakout rooms for discussing ideas; do you need to share and/or edit documents in real time during your meeting; do you need a way for participants to submit their questions; lastly, number of people participating in the meeting. Based on your requirements, select the platform that meets your need. Your organization may have a preferred technology platform for virtual meetings, in that case get to know the platform and its features so you can leverage it for your meeting.
Time & Duration of the meeting
Consider the time zones of your participants when setting the time for your meeting. It is important to consider that the meeting is booked during participants’ work hours, as they may differ especially if they are in different time zones than you or other participants. When considering the length of your meeting, virtual meetings are best kept to increments of 30 minutes. Especially in a virtual setting, meetings longer than 30 minutes can result in distractions and lower engagement. If you have to book the meeting for longer than 1 hour, be sure to insert breaks so that people can get up stretch and grab a refreshment.
Set an agenda
To ensure efficient use of everyone’s time, it is always helpful to set an agenda. Agenda clearly outlines the objective of the meeting and sets clear expectations with all the participants. It also allows to keep the conversation focused on topics listed on the agenda. Make sure to build some time in the agenda at the beginning for informal conversations, introductions or just general topics to allow for some fun, lighthearted chat that also helps with social interaction among people. It is also important to keep a few minutes at the end to recap the meeting and let your audience know if you will be sending out meeting highlights and next steps.
Share rules of engagement
Create a set of rules and share in advance of the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting to set clear expectations. These could include rules such as:
- Start with introduction/Icebreaker – It is nice to set some time aside for informal, fun conversations so that participants can connect with each other at a personal level.
- Participants should identify themselves – When sharing comments or asking questions it is good to identify themselves with their name in case the video is not working or freezes due to bad connection or if for some reason the person only dials into the call.
- Minimize distractions and multi-tasking – Gently remind participants to provide their attention to the meeting so that the desired outcomes to topics listed on the agenda can be achieved.
- Mute all functionality – Remind participants to mute themselves or the host may choose to use the “mute all” functionality to limit background noise so that people can clearly hear the person speaking on the call.
Increase engagement through involvement
One way to minimize distractions or people multi-tasking is by involving them in the meeting. This can be done in a few ways:
- Create roles – It is always good to identify a few key roles such as host, facilitator, note keeper. One of the benefits is that it segregates the duties and allows everyone to focus on what they are assigned to do. Secondly, giving them a role will increase their engagement in the meeting. Host can focus on the technical aspect of the meeting, support people if they are having technical issues. Facilitator can focus on ensuring all agenda items are discussed, keep the conversation focused and help move the conversation along if it is going off topic. Note keeper can document the meeting highlights and any action items to be shared at the end of the meeting.
One way to engage participants is by asking questions and directing them to specific people and calling them by name. In a virtual call, limit asking open ended questions, for example – “what does everyone think”. Such questions may result in silence and no one may take initiative in answering the question. There may be some quiet participants who may not be comfortable sharing their thoughts especially if there are extroverts on the call. It will be helpful to create some space for the quiet participants and encourage them to share their thoughts by calling on them specifically giving them a chance to share their ideas or feedback.
Use of Quiz & Polls functionality
To increase engagement and allowing everyone to participate especially in a larger group, you can make the meeting more interactive by asking questions, quizzing the team or running polls. This type of activity not only increases audience engagement but can also provide pulse check on how the team is feeling without everyone having to speak on the call. There are many online platforms available that can be leveraged to bring some creativity in your meetings and increase interaction. Platforms like Slido, MeetingPulse, Mentimeter allow people to use their smartphones to interact in the meeting by using quizzes, polls and capability to ask questions anonymously.
While nothing can replace the face to face interactions and the value, we get from in person meetings, but we can come close if virtual meetings are hosted well. Today’s technology provides many options and people are getting more comfortable with virtual interactions. With the right planning and preparation, you can host a great virtual meeting, achieve your goals and keep your audience engaged and involved in the meeting.
At MALTO Group, our goal is to be the preferred partner of choice to support our clients in their journey to success. MALTO Group provides the best-in-class consulting and recruitment solutions for all Information Technology (IT) requirements of organizations within a large spectrum of industries. Contact us directly [email protected] if you have questions.