Uncertainty is everywhere right now. As our world adjusts to a new normal amid the Coronavirus and most Americans are living in quarantine, one thing is for sure: communication is king. And the right hand to the king is the virtual meeting.
However, virtual meetings often have the reputation for being less than effective. Meeting leaders can be guilty of placing less importance on a virtual meeting than a meeting in person. Attendees often see a virtual meeting as a time to tune out and get other work done. In fact, wasted time on conference calls and virtual meetings ends up costing businesses more than $34 billion dollars each year.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Whether hosting an internal team meeting, making sales calls or providing training, the virtual meeting has never been more critical for businesses. The predicted end of this crisis keeps getting pushed back farther and farther. Add the fact that these calls are being conducted from home. How can the virtual meeting become effective – and remain effective for the long haul?
Conducting virtual meetings from home can continue to be effective for your business if you follow these 5 rules:
Rule 1 – Be Prepared
Preparation will vary depending upon the type and purpose of your meeting. To determine the correct platform to use and materials to prepare in advance, ask yourself a few questions:
- What type of virtual meeting am I running? The type of meeting will drive which platform to select. Internal team meetings are effective with video. Sales calls require dependable and clear audio. Training works best with screen share options or virtual training labs.
- What is the purpose of the meeting? Avoid having a meeting just to have a meeting. Consider presenting a business challenge your team or company is facing. Use this virtual meeting time for meaningful collaboration.
- Which materials should be shared in advance? To avoid attendees reading slides to one another, share that kind of material in advance. Doing so drives productivity.
- Does the meeting require technical support? When conducting virtual meetings with sales prospects or large groups, call for backup. Having the expertise of your business’s technical team on stand-by will provide peace of mind.
Rule 2 – Use Video Whenever Possible
office phone systems are useful for day-to-day business.
For meetings, use video.
Using video makes virtual meetings more effective for many reasons. Being able to see one another:
- gives the meeting a more personal feeling
- improves engagement throughout the meeting
- enables you to gauge reaction and redirect when necessary
You may face resistance as a study found that only 12% of employees feel as comfortable on video calls as they do on audio calls.
But you can lead by example. When leading a call, set the tone by turning on your camera. Others will likely get the message.
Rule 3 – Eliminate Distractions
Distractions can kill a virtual meeting. 15 minutes of the average 38-minute call are wasted simply getting started or dealing with distractions. Rescue your virtual meeting from distractions by doing the following:
- When possible, use video. Meeting attendees are less likely to become distracted or be tempted to multi-task when on camera.
- Drive engagement. Create an environment where attendees are encouraged to participate. As you lead the meeting, call upon a few of your co-workers for insights.
- Ask those not speaking to hit mute. With these meetings taking place from home, the barking dog and the crying toddler are bound to be heard, but a quick announcement at the beginning of the meeting helps keep things on track.
Rule 4 – Mind Your Manners
When preparing to conduct a virtual internal team meeting, set the expectation for team members that preparedness is everyone’s “ethical” responsibility. Being prepared demonstrates respect for our coworkers.
Some of the following reminders may have been less necessary back in 2019. However, as we spend day after day without socializing in person, these reminders might help:
- Be patient. When asking a question, be comfortable with a bit of silence. This allows others to process the question. Allowing for a longer pause than usual will encourage participation.
- Look into your camera when listening and speaking. And smile once in a while!
- Don’t forget that your reactions and body language are visible.
- Avoid interrupting.
Rule 5 – Be Human
Let your humanity lead the meeting. Remember what a difficult time this continues to be. Check in with the people in your meetings about how they and their families are coping.
Virtual meetings are important for conducting business. They come with a very important and valuable extra: Connecting with others in times of isolation.
This crisis will pass. When we come out of this, corporate culture is going to be transformed and the virtual meeting will be used in an entirely new capacity. Keep finding ways to improve its effectiveness and your business will be better for it.