Virtual meetings are a practical solution to location-based attendance issues and facilitates that meeting when invitees are working remotely. They provide a great way to collaborate from afar.
More recently, with the outbreak of COVID-19, a.k.a the coronavirus, businesses are having to consider ways to limit physical interactions and prevent the spread. Thankfully, virtual and remote meetings can take the place of meetings that would have been held in person.
Technology is key to these virtual meetings. Conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet, Zoom, Whereby and others provide simple ways to connect over the Internet with people in multiple locations.
In our last article, we shared details on some of the conferencing tools and software that you can use for virtual meetings or calls. Once you’ve selected the tools, using these best practices will ensure that you get the most out of the remote meetings.
Here are our top tips for keeping virtual meetings focused, collaborative and productive.
Always set an agenda and share it
Many conference calls suffer from a lack of clear structure or purpose and an agenda can help maintain the focus. To establish the intention of the virtual meeting, circulating the agenda beforehand is essential. It gives participants the opportunity to raise any extra questions before the meeting and for organisers to evaluate whether the time allocated will be sufficient to cover the topics intended for discussion. During the meeting, the agenda helps to keep conversations on track and focused on solutions or answers.
A good facilitator is essential
The facilitator of a remote meeting is arguably the most important person in that virtual space. They are responsible for keeping the conversation flowing, for asking the right questions and often for converting the thoughts of everyone involved into actions. The facilitator has a significant influence on the atmosphere of the virtual meeting and they are instrumental in creating and maintaining a constructive and collaborative environment.
As well as ensuring the meeting follows the agenda and keeps everyone focused, the facilitator can be influential in encouraging participation from those that are more hesitant to fully engage in virtual conferencing. As the voice of the meeting, they can help to identify and resolve any technical or audio issues that might be affecting the audio of the meeting, such as background noise.
Keep cameras turned on
Everyone in the meeting should have their camera turned on. It has been said that 55% of communication is body language, so it’s an important way to observe reactions and capture responses to presentations or discussions. Additionally, it can be a key factor in encouraging engagement and active participation.
Prepare a plan B
The only way to know the problems that you’ll face when trying to video conference for the first time is to test the tools internally beforehand. However, even after testing it you may face a setback with the conferencing software at the time of the meeting. Don’t panic. Always have a fallback plan to ensure that if one conferencing tool or software is not working for you at that time, you can try another.
Keep it brief
Video conferencing is an intensive way to interact with clients or team members. It is surprisingly exhausting for everyone involved, so it is best practice to keep remote meetings as brief as possible. The optimum meeting time for a virtual conference is 1 hour. If more time is required, we would recommend that you allow for a brief comfort break to keep everyone focused and engaged.
Record your conversation
In order to accurately capture all elements of the discussions and points raised, we recommend using an audio recording tool, such as Piezo. While it is always useful to have a member of the team taking notes during the meeting, an audio recording ensures that crucial comments aren’t missed.
Facilitate the use of smartphones and tablets
To accommodate participants in a variety of locations and situations, smartphones and tablets can be invaluable. Most virtual conferencing tools include smartphone capability, but it’s worth checking that the one you choose has this option. It can open the meetings up to those without access to their desktop or laptop.