Your remote team is established, your video conferencing software is set up, and you’re ready to meet. What now?
Here are some tips on how to run virtual meetings effectively:
What is a virtual meeting?
A virtual meeting is one where not all attendees are present for face-to-face communication. They can dial in via phone, plug into web conferencing software, or watch the meeting through streaming.
That lack of in-person communication can be difficult to navigate. Signals like body language is much harder to read. But with the right tools and approach, these meetings can be as seamless as any in-person meeting.
Be Prepared for your Video Conference
Of course, your video conferencing software isn’t all you need. Here are some things to check off your list before you kick off your virtual meetings:
- A good internet connection
- A connected microphone and working speakers (duh)
- A plug-in or attached webcam
- Optional: a projector or screen for the whole room to dial in together
Make an Agenda
Any meeting is more effective with a well-thought-out plan. Draft an agenda before you meet so you don’t miss a thing — and you don’t get too off track.
If you can, send this agenda over a reasonable amount of time before the meeting. This “pre-read” will allow your attendees to know what to expect from the meeting, a practice heavily championed by Jeff Bezos. They can come prepared with questions and comments. You can encourage them to submit questions to you beforehand so you can address them during the call.
Here’s a meeting agenda template you can use:
- Meeting Name
- Date | Time | Attendees
- Location or Dial-in Link
- Overview of Topic
- Section 1 (Speaker name)
- Section 2 (Speaker name)
- Section 3 (Speaker name)
- Action Items / Follow-ups
Set up Icebreakers
Meeting over web conferencing software can get … awkward, especially if attendees don’t know each other. Try starting off with a fun (and quick!) icebreaker, like getting your team to share a photo of the shoes they’re wearing (or not wearing) to understand everyone’s work-from-home personality.
For more of a business-minded approach, it’s always a good idea to give each attendee an opportunity to introduce themselves and their role, one by one. Add in a fun fact for a bit of personality—not all business needs to be boring!
Identify Speakers and Establish Rules
Have you ever been in a video call where everybody seems to be talking over each other? Yeah, it’s frustrating. Work around this by setting up rules at the beginning of the call. Start by identifying who will be leading the call and what everybody’s roles should be. It’s helpful to assign a moderator to each meeting to interject if anybody is being interrupted.
Set up handoff terms, such as “raise your hand if you’d like to interject” or “once you’ve finished a point, hold for 30 seconds so anybody can provide input.” This will make the whole meeting run more smoothly and prevent anyone from feeling ignored or interrupted.
Some other rules to consider implementing:
- Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking to prevent background noise, but never mute your video — we want to make sure you’re still in the meeting!
- Keep your focus on the video conference. We can see you, and we can see when you’re working on something else.
- Encourage text chat during the meeting, so a smaller idea doesn’t get dropped, but doesn’t interrupt the flow of the meeting.
Navigating a long video conference and keeping everyone alert can be difficult. You can improve this by optimizing visual elements of the call. One way to do this is by providing visual aids — tables, charts, photos, even a PowerPoint presentation — to keep attendees’ eyes on the meeting and prevent them from drifting off.
Another good visual element is your physical presence. Be sure to have bright lighting on your face — this can be as simple as sitting with your face toward a window or a desk lamp. Never place your lighting behind you, unless you like being a shadowy outline. You definitely don’t need vlogger-level lighting to be well-lit.
And, of course, make eye contact! When you’re speaking, there’s no need for your eyes to be anywhere but aimed at the webcam. This will give attendees a better sense of face-to-face intimacy, and grant you a little extra bit of trust. It will be like you’re right next to each other.
For other tips, use this handy guide by Harvard Business Review.
What tips do you have for running an effective virtual meeting?