Nobody likes awkward meetings.
Thing is, virtual meetings are becoming a reality for people in the workplace in all sorts of roles. Technology has cut the distance between business partners, while remote work calls for ways to keep all the team on the same page.
Unproductive meetings are already a plague that’s stealing away so much time on the workplace. Since virtual meetings and remote working are here to stay, here are a few tips on how to conduct virtual meetings like a pro (as in, “productive person”).
First of all, make sure to set up in advance a date and time for the virtual meeting that works for everyone.
This should be like a no-brainer, but when you have to arrange a meeting for people in different locations, and sometimes in different timezones, things get complicated.
“Can you hear me?”
“Hello, can you hear me now?”
“The screen just froze”
How many times have your virtual meetings gone unbearable due to technical difficulties?
To make things less embarrassing as possible, and to save you time, make sure to properly check the settings and equipment of your meeting.
Book a meeting room and verify it has a reliable internet connection, cables, and all the equipment you need for the meeting. Including, but not limited to a door that you can close to avoid background noise or unexpected interruptions.
Lastly, use a computer that is reliable and keep an eye on battery life – I can’t begin to describe the embarrassment of having one of my calls cut off short because I forgot to plug in the power cable. *sighs*
Like any other productive meeting, a virtual meeting should be clearly planned out.
That is essential if you have attendees who are physically far away and don’t belong to your organization.
Make sure to share the agenda in advance, and prepare all the documents and files you need before the meeting. This will cut off the meeting’s duration and you won’t waste time shuffling around papers and looking for lost files in your computer.
The most difficult part of any meeting: not letting it go off tracks.
It’s not enough to have a meeting agenda with the key points, you also have to make sure everybody sticks to it. It’s not to get over it as quickly as possible (OK, maybe just a little because of that), but mainly to avoid sitting through hours of people talking over one another, and completely go off track, making the meeting useless.
Conduct the meeting politely but firmly, and do not allow talking over one another.
To compel all parties involved in staying on topic, give the meeting a time limit and stick to it.
One way to do that is to start a timer at the beginning of the meeting. This is were a time tracking that integrates with Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar can be useful.
It’s easy to forget all the points that are discussed and decided during the meeting, especially when there are many parties involved.
You can use note keeping apps to write down your notes as you go, so when the meeting ends, you can wrap up the conversation with a summary. Here’s a script for closing a virtual meeting:
“Nice call, everyone.
We have decided to [list of the key points].
I’ll have [name of the person appointed] work on that by [estimated deadline], while I’ll [task you have for yourself].
Regarding [point of discussion that wasn’t solved] I’ll verify with [person]/dig in some research for you and get back to you with an answer by [deadline]. I’ll make sure to send you a the meeting notes with a summary of the key points by noon/this afternoon/ today.
We’ll adjourn on [date].”
As shown in the script example above, it’s best to follow up immediately after the meeting with the parties involved via email. If the participants of the meeting are scattered around the country or the world, this point is even more crucial.
Make sure to send the notes and to repeat all the key points and decisions made.
Do it immediately, or the next day at the latest, or there will be a risk of you or the attendees forgetting what was decided. This could lead to misunderstandings (“No, but we said…” “I thought we agreed on…” “You didn’t mention that…” ) and tasks left behind, and you may need another meeting (oh, no!) to fix that.
Most workers hate meetings in the first place, and virtual meetings can definitely be awkward or a source of anxiety for some people. There are many ways to make meetings useful and productive, and virtual meetings are no exception. In the end, you can even laugh about them – like this hilarious conference call in real life video.
Did you like this article? Share it with your colleagues before your next meeting!
This article was edited after publication. Last edit on April 2019