By Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Meetings are all about sharing ideas, increasing employee engagement, finding solutions, and the collective growth of the attendees. Virtual meetings need to be the same. But are they? Mostly not. Virtual meetings tend to go awry because we’re still novices at them. But as they become prevalent because of our remote teams or hybrid work, we need to have effective virtual meetings.
When meetings go wrong, we often find that the original issue remains unresolved. It seems so easy for virtual participants to go on tangents, switch off, or simply stop taking part in the discussion. Virtual meeting fatigue is an actual problem, and it is imperative to create an environment that will not lead to this.
If you are committed to having a remote workforce management system that ensures the mental health of your employees, you need to recognise that virtual meetings are hard work. In-person cues and body language are difficult to read online, making it challenging to have a normal conversation, let alone a business meeting. It leaves people drained of energy, and morale plummets.
Business leaders need to reconsider how their organisations conduct virtual meetings. It will improve productivity, support the well-being of their remote teams and drive innovation and engagement. The following 12 best practices can cater to the challenges of virtual meetings. They can help create virtual meetings that your employees do not fear and perhaps even anticipate.
Virtual or not, being professional is paramount. It does not matter if half of your team works from the convenience of their home. You have offered them a collaborative remote working environment, and your professionalism is of paramount importance. Both parties need to respect each other’s time and ensure the meeting starts on time and the attendees all arrive on time. Working from outside the office does not mean you should take meetings nonchalantly.
Arrive early, especially so you can correct any technical issues before the meeting starts. Being prompt is necessary because many people have back-to-back meetings and some work during different times of the day, also known as asynchronous work setup. If you start on time, you’ll have a better chance of ending on time. Otherwise, you will be affecting another person’s time and those supposed to be part of the following meetings.
Meetings that are longer contribute to overworked employees. While you try to stick to the time allotted for the meeting, also try to have shorter meetings. If you need to have a lengthier meeting, try to break it up into shorter sessions of 20 minutes each, so the attendees don’t tire out.
Instead of traditional conference dial-ins that we used before the digital age, use video conferencing. Everyone has access to video telephony software, but some of the best ones are paid and allow you to have an excellent video meeting experience. Being able to see the faces of your colleagues makes the meeting more personalised, and it also helps keep participants engaged.
That said, you still need to ensure all employees have access to an audio dial-in option. As incredible as technology is, it can’t always be trusted to work when needed. So you need an alternative like having Dialpad business phone numbers that allow you to conference call using the telephone network and the internet simultaneously.
No one has hated technology more than someone who got disconnected from a meeting because of a patchy network connection. Video conferencing software has been the bane of our existence when we could not figure out if we were muted or not and when our headsets and mics decided not to work at the wrong moment.
The first step to ensuring a smooth meeting with minimal hiccups is to choose the right software and hardware. A robust software test methodology ensures that most video conferencing platforms will not let you down. But if you’re trying out a relatively new one, read the reviews and test it out before the meeting. Ensure you train your employees to use the interface so that they are not figuring it out during the meeting.
Hardware malfunction is another cause for anxious and embarrassed participants during meetings. Find the best headsets for meetings. They should block out noise and have a mic. Speakers tend to create feedback and disrupt the meeting. Ensure your network connection is secure and you have a backup device if it bails on you. Nothing kills the momentum of the meeting like a delay because your internet can not connect.
There is no point in calling in a meeting if you can’t define what you will be discussing. Your agenda must be designed around who attends the meeting and what information will be shared. Set and share clear objectives beforehand with all attendees to achieve the best outcome. If you are using an enterprise video conferencing platform, you could distribute the agenda via chat on that platform.
Agendas help set expectations and allow everyone to make meaningful contributions to the meeting. Imagine you are having a meeting with your marketing team about your affiliate marketers. Suddenly springing a question about what will be best paid traffic for affiliate marketing can leave everyone a little startled. It would be best to include it on the agenda, so everyone has brainstormed some.
An agenda ensures you conduct your meeting promptly. It is the deciding factor between a productive meeting and chaos. If you have a conference about a new electronic contract management system and want to confirm if your employees are finding the interface friendly, keep the meeting only about that instead of asking employees about the rest of their work for the week.
Standard meeting etiquette, virtual or otherwise, dictates that every time someone enters the room, they should be greeted. It has become usual for the meeting to start without everyone being present, and when someone enters later, they aren’t greeted.
In a virtual meeting, ensure that everyone who enters the meeting room is acknowledged, and if they are not familiar with everyone, they should get to introduce themselves too. Saying hello is the best ice breaker, and it also helps everyone know who is in the meeting with them. Offer employees the benefit of being comfortable in a meeting and not be wary of people unknown to them.
Again, this might be basic etiquette which makes it surprising how easily ignored it is. Interrupting someone while they’re speaking annoys them, but it also does not allow the rest of the people to grasp the concepts and ideas that are being shared.
Sometimes, people don’t intend to offend, but in excitement or too much enthusiasm, they speak while another is speaking. This makes it more necessary to enforce this practice, that only when someone stops speaking can another person begin. For those who talk too much, perhaps the meeting moderator can interject and request them to cut it short.
Most of us are not big fans of icebreakers, but the truth is that they’re an essential tool in the work environment. Icebreakers are necessary for those who think emotional intelligence in the workplace is a necessity as they help us connect to those who feel isolated. Ice breakers help set the tone for the meeting, so break the ice with a small game, activity, joke, anecdote, or even by sharing a meme.
Mute is your frenemy. Your virtual meeting ground rules should ensure that webcams are always on, but the mic is on only when there is a need to talk. This doesn’t curtail participation but helps maintain decorum, where others aren’t disturbed or distracted by background noise, breathing, movements, or other sounds.
However, in virtual meetings with smaller groups, you should encourage the participants to remain unmuted. It ensures a free flow of ideas that isn’t possible in bigger groups.
Virtual discussions are hard to manage, which is why every virtual meeting needs one individual who ensures the rules, can guide the conversation, makes sure that the agenda is being followed, and helps everyone focus. The job of the facilitator is also to guarantee that everyone is heard.
The facilitator should have his finger on the pulse of the group. They should be able to steer the conversation away from conflict and towards harmony. For example, you have a virtual meeting about brand reputation and safety, but there is a clear division among the participants on whether social media should still be part of your marketing strategy. The facilitator can suggest a poll to put the issues to rest if the discussion is getting too intense.
The meeting might be virtual, but the participants are not bots. They are not virtual agents AI-powered but human beings who need to be engaged to be productive. Virtual meetings should not have passive observers but active participants. This is why there should be ample opportunities for everyone to take part, including the introverts.
Allow participants to get creative with the whiteboard, share opinions in the chat, and be able to use fun emojis to share reactions. Choose a video conferencing platform that has these engagement features. Prioritise human connection despite the medium being digital.
Before you end the meeting, discuss a summary of the important points, questions, and concerns. It is a simple step, but it can have a massive impact on the participants. It can remind everyone about the actions following the meeting, and you can also tell everyone if there will be a follow-up meeting and who needs to prepare what for it.
The best way to do it is to go back to the agenda and see the actions against each point. Align the follow-up actions with deadlines and only then bring the meeting to a close.
It’s slightly problematic to gather high-quality feedback during the meeting. First, visual cues are easily missed, and taking feedback properly by asking every person would elongate the meeting. You could, however, share the link for the feedback form in the chatbox and ask everyone to fill it in before the meeting ends.
Feedback is critical, so you know how successful your virtual meetings are. They help you improve your next meeting and tell you what parts of your meetings to do away with and which ones were a crowd-pleaser.
Meeting reviews can tell you if meetings are effective and if you are holding them based on relevant issues. A meeting to inform your HR staff about your new data lake open source system would be redundant. No matter how much you want to empower your team with information, they do not need that information and your reviews will tell you that meetings need to be relevant to work.
Virtual meetings can be impactful teamwork drivers. If you use the right video conferencing solution, you can use many of its features to enable the best practices above and set the tone for positive and successful interactions.
Remote work is the future of the corporate world. It is here to stay, and virtual meetings are now an indispensable and instrumental part of our workday. Plan them and execute them by following the best practices above so you can create an interactive space that enables your employees to contribute.
Remote meetings can be a great experience, provided you allow your teams to adapt to the virtual environment. Being adept at virtual meetings is one of the most crucial ways to future proof your business. Keep the above best practices in mind to have an easier time keeping your teams engaged and holding meetings that are worthwhile.