Top Tips for Virtual Meetings
Posted on 30th March 2020 at 17:53
Whether it be by teleconference, video-calling, webinar or chat space the current pandemic is forcing teams to redefine their ways of working – overnight!
With a plethora of platforms (Teams, Go To Meetings, Skype, Zoom, Join.me, Google Hangout, Adobe Connect, Miro etc.) the collaboration software and technology to assist us to continue to connect and run businesses is available – each product and service provider having their own advantages. However, a common theme we’re hearing is that it doesn’t matter what tech we have to master, it’s the etiquette and processes of actually running an e-meetings that is foxing us.
So, here’s our 7 top tips for your teams to get to grips:
1) Ensure everyone can access & operate the technology you’re using
When people are working remotely, ensure they have the means to access the platform you are using. Be clear about how to use it – most providers have a ‘guide’ to the basics. Sounds obvious, but we’ve been on e-meets where some people struggle to connect until 15 mins into the discussion! Then, how to turn on their video/audio. Will they ‘dial’ in remotely by phone or use VOIP? Can people use the ‘interactive’ functions – e.g. chat box, screen sharing, annotations, voting buttons etc.
Don’t forget the practical aspects: How will people get the ‘link’ or message with joining instructions? Who will ‘dial in’ as the chairperson? Who will ‘host?’ Will it be recorded for later playback? Where will this be stored?
2) Lay down the rules
How you run your meetings say everything about you as a team! Who will chair? Will notes be taken? Who keeps a log of the agreed actions? If there is a ‘chat box’ facility - who will keep an eye on this?
Is the expectation that all participants will be visible (if using video-conferencing)? Remember to respect cultural differences when people are working from home. Will everyone’s ‘mute’ be centrally controlled or will the etiquette be to mute yourself upon joining the meeting?
How ‘formal’ is your meeting? – Can you have stuff going on in the background (e.g. office/home noise and distractions)?
Is there an agenda? Will there be slots for people to say how they feel?
As you get started, have the ‘chair’ inform everyone of the format: will there be lots of ‘information giving’ followed by questions? Depending on the size of the group, will you open up discussion? Could you ‘take it in turns?’ How will people know when it is their turn? Could you use a ‘virtual table’ so that when you do a ‘round robin, everyone is aware when their turn is coming up.
3) Avoid distractions – be focussed
Switch off notifications of other apps. Divert phones if you can or switch them to silent. A video call can keep you more ‘focussed’ than a conference call as you are aware of others seeing you being ‘present.’ It soon becomes obvious when people are zoning out and in need of a quick break. If your team are new to working from home, there may be all sorts of distractions that divert their attention until they become familiar with this new way of working.
4) Re-energise frequently
Remember, people become fatigued very quickly if they’re staring at a screen during an online meeting. Due to the obvious isolation, a video conference meeting provides a much required ‘connection’ to colleagues and the outside world but it is better to keep to a shorter timescale than you would for a face to face meeting. If the meeting is likely to be lengthy, agree breaks and timeouts so that people can be mentally prepared for when they may get a comfort and refreshment pit stop. During the meeting, ask people how they are feeling - don’t underestimate the different levels of energy and engagement as individuals adjust to this way of working. Can you do some ‘virtual exercises’ together that get people moving, laughing, controlling their breathing and relaxing? Sounds weird? – try it, this stuff works!
5) Be extra- descriptive
It is often difficult to interpret and ‘read’ peoples body language via phone/video. You just don’t get the ability to tune in to the same ‘vibe’ like you do in person. For this reason, things said, may be taken in the wrong way. Messages delivered may come across in a totally unintended ‘curt’ way. When people are feeling isolated, they will lick their wounds and take slight at the smallest thing. One way to avoid misinterpretation of messages, is to be ultra-explanatory and informative. Think: “Could what I am saying be misconstrued?”
Also, don’t take it personally when people question things more heatedly. They are probably not being aggressive, they are just seeking clarity. Treat every query with respect and diffuse any rising tensions by meeting them with a calm and empathetic response.
6) Preparation is slightly different
Over the ‘air waves’ meetings require slightly different preparation to a normal meeting. Be clear in the email/chat space joining instructions if there are likely to be things to work on and decisions to be made – so that people have that person head space prior to the meeting. Ensure people know what the expectation of their participation is. Do they need to read something ahead of discussion (like a normal face-to-face meeting?) Are there any questions/activities you would like them to work on within the meeting for which they could prepare? This is good practice for all meetings but it will save a lot of time during a ‘virtual meeting’ as people have enough ‘tech things’ to master during feedback.
7) Groupwork – use breakout rooms
Most online forums have additional chat/breakout rooms you can use for people to work on things together and then re-join the main session. If the application you are using doesn’t then agree who will be paired/work together, ensure they have a facility to call/link up with each other, and agree a time for them to reconvene back into the main session. (i.e. could people be put into pairs to call each other and work on a particular problem or discuss a new opportunity?)
If you have additional tips, we’d love to hear from you…contact us directly or comment…let’s share the learning!
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