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Work Better Part 5 | Effective Virtual Meetings

The fifth part of our Work Better series.

  • The Future of Teamwork – Part 1
  • Team Motivation – Part 2
  • Teamwork – Part 3
  • Remote Working – Part 4
  • Effective Virtual Meetings – Part 5
  • Freelance vs Teamwork
  • Optimal Tools for Optimal Results
  • How to achieve ten times more

I am using an American stat because it’s easier to get accurate data in the States than in South Africa, be that as it may, currently 2.9% of the entire U.S workforce, work from home at least half of the time, according to the State of the Remote Job Marketplace report from FlexJobs. This figure is growing rapidly fast and it is predicted that within the next decade 38% of full-time staff will be working remotely. I don’t think South Africa is far behind if we exclude blue-collar workers and only look at small medium and large enterprise companies.

Why is this important for you to know?

If you haven’t prepared your team to operate optimally in a virtual world, which includes running effective virtual meetings, you are not prepared for a future that is rapidly becoming the present. It is critical for companies to start preparing their teams for meetings and operations without geographic boundaries and obstacles.

So how do you do this and where do you start?

 

Plan your virtual meeting.

Unless you’re having an informal check-in with a team member or an introductory call with a prospective client, you need to do a little planning in order for your virtual meeting to be effective by taking the following steps:

  1. Hopefully, everyone in your meeting is tech-savvy, which they should be since they most probably work remotely. If they are not, it might be a good idea for them to have someone assist them in order for the meeting to be successful. Having an agenda that defines the purpose of the meeting is key to keeping them logged-in, connected and engaged.
  2. Geographical boundaries might not be a problem for virtual meetings, but you can’t get around the issue of time zones. Take the time zone of your participants into consideration and make sure your time suits everyone.
  3. Choose the right platform to host the meeting. Although Skype, Business, Webex and GoToMeetings can get the job done, using the new conference feature in ydox will give everyone access to files that might be needed for the meeting. All participants will be able to open the file and see edits everyone is making to the file in real time. An additional added value is having access to a shared ydox note for everyone to make their notes during the meeting and share it afterwards with important stakeholders. The call can also be recorded and stored in the client or participants’ folder, giving everyone access to the recording for future purpose. ydox keeps everything of your meeting – files, notes and recording in one secure place.
  4. Your meeting might be virtual, but choosing a quiet remote setting will free you from distraction and background noise or interference.
  5. In ydox, you can set an early reminder or notification about the meeting. Scheduling the meeting in advance will automate this process.
  6. Test all of your tech and connectivity prior to the meeting so that you can resolve any issues beforehand.

In my experience, it is good to establish roles during such meetings such as facilitator, note-keeper and time-keeper to keep things organised and on track.

 

Running an effective virtual meeting

Now that your meeting has been scheduled and planned-out, how can you be sure that it will run smoothly?

  • Allow everyone to make introductions. This helps build cohesion, but more importantly, if it’s an audio meeting, gives everyone a chance to learn each other’s voices.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Sure. Long periods of silence can be awkward. But for virtual meetings, it can be useful since it prevents others to speak over each other and it also allows time for processing what was said.
  • Keep everyone engaged. Give everyone a chance to share their ideas and opinions so that they won’t get bored or feel left out — which may cause them to zone out. You could also invite guest speakers, encourage spontaneous discussions, or use techniques like gamification and polling to energise the meeting.
  • Keep everyone on-track. I’ve mentioned this several times, but it’s key when running a meeting. As a facilitator, you need to make sure that the meeting remains focused. If someone goes off-topic it’s your responsibility to politely intervene and reel them back in.
  • Be a positive leader. Keep the meeting positive by being enthusiastic, respectful, and even a little humorous to all attendees. Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean you have to be imposing.

I’d also add that you set an example by following the rules of etiquette and engagement, such as:

  • Putting your phone on mute so that others won’t hear any background noise.
  • Being present by not multitasking. Constantly asking someone to repeat a question is disrespectful and causes the meeting to run longer than scheduled.
  • Read all pre-work and have any relevant materials readily available for the meeting so that you can actively engage in conversations. You should also take notes so that you can easily summarise the meeting.
  • Prevent distractions by letting your team know you are in a virtual meeting.

 

Take stock after the virtual meeting.

Allocate five to 10 minutes after the meeting to ask attendees what they found valuable and what they would like to start, continue, or stop. You also should see how well the meeting lined-up with your agenda and ensure everyone got what they needed from the meeting.

Both of these steps allow you to make improvements for your next meeting by determining if every participant was essential, how to better use time, and what could have been handled differently.

A big benefit of virtual meetings that lack in face to face meetings is keeping it short and to the point. In face to face meetings, people generally waste plenty of time with off-topic, non-work related discussions. Virtual meetings tend to be much faster and also cuts out on travelling time. I have found often that travelling for a meeting could take up to 3 hours for travelling there and back, including the actual meeting time, whereas a to the point virtual meeting could be wrapped up in 20 to 40 minutes.

Winston Churchill once said: ” No matter is so great that it could not be resolved in 20 minutes “, which is why most of his meetings were standing and no longer than 20 minutes. I feel the same about virtual meetings.

 

written by Carl Wallace

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