Constructive Collaboration: 5 Tips for Effective Virtual Meetings
The Internet and digital technology have forever changed the face of business, making it possible for companies large and small to have employees working from virtual offices – at home, at coffee shops, at hotel rooms or just about anywhere else. This can be a huge win for businesses looking to reduce overhead or to expand into new regions immediately without having to lease new office locations. You can even find virtual offices for rent that can provide address, mailbox and multi-line phone routing services without actual physical office space.
But with all these changes, there are some specific challenges facing virtual office workers, particularly regarding company meetings. But fear not! Virtual meetings are rapidly replacing face-to-face meetings and can be just as productive, if not more so than meeting in person. Below are five tips to make your virtual meetings more productive.
1. Use Quality Video Streaming Technology
It all starts with having the right equipment. It might be tempting to save a few bucks and go with audio-only technology, the truth is that conference calls are becoming a thing of the past. Video conferencing will bring your participants together and improve attention spans due to the visual stimulation and the more personal connection that comes with seeing everyone's faces. Video also improves the quality of communication because it allows everyone to read each other's body language and non-verbal cues, which are essential elements of effective communication.
Using cheap video or networking equipment can be even worse, as loss of connectivity or sound problems can become a huge distraction. Get a system that gets the job done, even if it costs a little bit more than the bargain setup.
2. Don't Show Up Unprepared
For your first few virtual meetings, the technology itself will likely steal much of your attention as you get things set up and learn how to operate everything smoothly. But be careful to not become to engrossed in the technical aspects of holding a virtual meeting. Virtual meetings are just like any other company meeting, and they require a well thought out plan and agenda to keep everyone on track and to avoid wasting people's time.
A day or two prior to the meeting, prepare and distribute a written agenda which states the purpose and goals of the meeting, and include talking points if desired. You might even want to include a timeframe for each section to help everyone keep the meeting moving along at a reasonable pace.
3. Introduce Everyone
If there are new members to the group, be sure to introduce everyone in turn. It's a good icebreaker and helps to get things started on an easy note. Depending on the formality of the meeting and the company culture, you might even want to allow everyone participating to have a few seconds to introduce themselves and their position in the company.
4. Address Most Important Topics First
A lot of people hate it when meetings go longer than the time allotted. This isn't just annoying, it's disrespectful and counterproductive. It's best to end the meeting on time if at all possible, even if it means you need to leave a few things left unsaid. For that reason, be sure to put your most important points and topics at the beginning of the presentation. This will ensure that they don't get left out of the discussion. But by talking about your most important issues first, you also increase engagement and comprehension because the beginning of the meeting is when participants are the most attentive and focused.
5. Encourage Participation from All Attendees
In just about every business meeting, there are people who tend to shrink into the background and don't speak up unless specifically invited to do so, and this is even more likely to occur during a virtual meeting where none of the participants are physically in the room together. To increase participation, be sure to invite feedback from all participants at some point throughout the meeting. This increases engagement and often leads to the creation and sharing of great ideas.
As you begin to incorporate more virtual meetings into your daily operations, keep your meetings on track by using quality video equipment, following an agenda, prioritizing your talking points and inviting all attendees to join in on the discussion.