Making the Most of Virtual Meetings
by Kelly Helton, MS, MBA, VP, Consulting Services
Virtual meetings and video conferencing have become integrated into our business, but we are now utilizing these platforms on a new scale. Although these tools allow us to stay connected from almost any location, we also need to stay engaged.
Effective meetings, whether in-person or virtual, involve some common best practices.
- PREPARATION by the facilitator and the team
- ENVIRONMENT conducive to good communication
- ENGAGEMENT from the team
- FEEDBACK to improve the next meeting
Some of these best practices are more challenging in a virtual setting, especially participant engagement and the meeting environment.
Preparation for any meeting is key to its success. There should be a clear objective and agenda. Participants should understand what is expected of them and have the resources or pre-reads to help them contribute.
Given the technology, virtual meetings involve an additional layer of preparation. Encourage attendees new to the virtual platform to log in early.
Many organizations are experienced with virtual meetings and video conferencing platforms. However, as we expand the scope of the virtual audience, some additional guidance can be helpful.
- Set expectations. For example, should everyone have their cameras on throughout the meeting or only when they are speaking?
- Run a brief test meeting prior to rolling out a new platform.
- Provide some tips for camera placement and audio optimization.
Virtual environments do not provide the same level of social interaction as is typical in an office setting. Therefore, there is a need to find creative and innovative ways to engage and remain connected. Ice breakers are a great way to introduce online tools, such as surveys or virtual white boards.
- Start with introductions. Ensure that everyone is aware of who the participants are and their respective roles.
- Remind participants of expectations (cameras on).
- Use ice breakers to get everyone comfortable with the designated format.
- Provide a team resource or communication channel for IT issues.
Engagement requires that participants have a forum and the tools to interact. Assign someone (other than the facilitator) to collect and summarize ideas in real time.
- Stop frequently for questions or comments throughout the meeting.
- Call on others – even if only to confirm that they are in agreement.
- Incorporate online surveys to drive input.
- Use collaboration tools such as virtual white boards to brainstorm ideas.
- For larger workshops, build in virtual breakout groups.
- Link team input to action items aligned with the meeting objective.
Ongoing feedback is important to drive improvements as we adapt to the changing business environment. Consider a virtual “bulletin board” for input and updates.
- Use post-meeting surveys for input (especially with a large group).
- Reach out 1:1 to your colleagues for feedback, ideally on a video call.
- Provide the team with updates on action items, demonstrating the value of their time, input, and ideas.
The global footprint of business, travel restrictions, and the need for remote work environments have accelerated the growth of virtual meetings. In addition to recurring team discussions, these virtual meetings include workshops, advisory boards, strategy and brainstorming sessions, breakout groups, training, and MSL engagements.