The spread of COVID-19, and the associated adoption of social distancing, has sharply and suddenly restricted face-to-face meetings. As we all adjust to working remotely, there are a few key guiding principles to follow to have successful virtual meetings.
Open the technology at least 10 minutes before the start of the meeting to allow people to gather and discuss. Don’t keep people “waiting in the virtual lobby” and keep standing meetings from becoming stale and predictable, consider rotating the hosting duty. Or assign a new person each week to share a 60-second success story at the start.
Treat the meeting like a live meeting. Send out an agenda with meeting objectives, meet and greet each other when the meeting begins (eg, ask about the weekend) and start the meeting as normal.
Rollcall vs asking attendance: When some people are just on the phone, do a rollcall vs asking who is on the phone and avoid everyone talking over each other.
When possible, everyone should be on camera and speak directly to the camera. This keeps everyone engaged. Everyone knows no camera angle is flattering. And no muting unless there is background noise.
Get personal. When you speak, say your name first. When directing a question at someone, use their name at the beginning so they are certain to tune in and can be prepared to respond quickly.
Be patient. There could be delays in a response due to technology, background noise or because they were on mute. And be on the lookout for too much back-and-forth dialogue between a couple of participants. The rest of the group can start to feel isolated, and it could be a good predictor of a topic for a separate offline conversation.
For longer meetings, ensure you schedule breaks upfront and alert attendees of the schedule.
If only a portion of the meeting is remote, let those that are remote speak first. It’s easy for them to feel left out – so you need to encourage participation.
Provide all team members with instructions on how to use the technology and have the help desk phone number handy (eg, practice, test your speakers, know how to share your screen, etc). Take advantage of all the features your platform has to offer like white boarding. As with most technology, people typically only use 20% of the features available.
Try to end your meetings 5 minutes early so people can dial into the next meeting. If you are hosting back-to-back meetings, maybe have someone else host the next meeting so if people sign on early, they don’t pop into the wrong meeting.
End the meeting like any live meeting. Summary of next steps and takeaways.