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8 tips to improve your virtual meetings

Posted by Shivali Anand

January 31, 2022    |     4-minute read (692 words)

The forced switch to remote working has been difficult for both organizations and the people they employ. But the pressure has been especially intense for leaders who need to keep their staff interested and on track through virtual meetings.

The fusion of work and personal space, coupled with the difficulty of picking up on nonverbal cues when communicating digitally, over time can contribute to employee disengagement. However, remote meetings can become much more engaging with a bit of preparation.

Here are a few suggestions to help your virtual team meetings feel more like “normal” meetings without turning to gimmicks.

  1. Make sure you have the right tech

Technical glitches can dramatically compromise the success of virtual meetings. It's tough to engage professionally when you can't hear or see someone well due to poor speaker or video quality. Essentials for you and your team members include a reliable internet connection, up-to-date meeting software and good-quality hardware including a webcam and headset.

Check the setup ahead of the meeting, and urge attendees to double-check their equipment in advance as well, and to be acquainted with the software platform’s capabilities, like screen sharing.

  1. Share the agenda in advance

Getting employees together for a remote meeting takes time and effort, so be considerate and provide an agenda beforehand so that participants arrive prepared. Attach the agenda to the invitation, and remind attendees to read it before the meeting starts. Sharing the agenda also helps leaders to steer the meeting and encourages staff to come up with suggestions ahead of time rather than during the meeting.

  1. Invite attendees

It is possible to have a meeting in which colleagues do not mistakenly interrupt one another, but it requires proactivity. Ask people to express their thoughts in turn by digitally walking around the "table.” Ensuring that everyone participates yields more meaningful results and helps team members feel appreciated.

  1. Embrace etiquette

Practice appropriate virtual meeting etiquette in the same way you would in a face-to-face meeting. Seeing coworkers with untidy bed hair in their nightclothes or snacking on toast while having coffee ruins any idea of professionalism. This apparent lack of concern also sends the message to other employees that slacking on your team is okay.

Establish a few etiquette standards for virtual meetings to prevent attendees from acting irresponsibly. Inform attendees in advance that business casual attire is expected, and that eating is not permitted during the meeting. Since workers are likely working from home, urge them to attend from a quiet spot with a plain background to minimize family and pet distractions.

Although your employees are adults and should know better, you may want to remind them of the expectations in section 8. Most of us are new to working online, so don't assume people know what to do.

  1. Keep meeting size manageable

Individuals find it difficult to contribute to online meetings with a large number of participants. Smaller virtual meetings where everyone is able participate are preferable. To improve participation, assign each participant an agenda item. Plan for the meeting to be completed in an hour or less. Giving invitees an agenda ahead of time can help keep the meeting on track and encourage meaningful debate.

  1. Avoid excessive meetings

As many teams have gone entirely remote, some managers try to compensate by organizing more online meetings, while others are arranging back-to-back virtual encounters to monitor staff. But holding many virtual meetings can cause "Zoom fatigue," which may hamper your team's effectiveness.

  1. Seek others’ input

With visual cues difficult to pick up on during remote meetings, accurately gathering and processing feedback becomes much more difficult. To combat this, consider interacting with your staff on a more personal level by holding casual meetings or informal chats, away from your regular one-on-one sessions, where members can connect informally.

  1. Good manners for virtual meetings

Arrive on time. Make the team wait.
Be respectful of participants’ time. Interrupt.
Communicate clearly. Cover the mic when speaking.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Carry out unrelated tasks.
Look at the camera. Drink or eat.
Minimize background distractions. Be a lurker.
Keep the mic off by default. Keep the mic on.

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