By Kat Harmon, Creative Director, Fall 2020
None of us are strangers to virtual meetings. If anything, we are all too familiar with video freezing in the middle of an important comment, screenshares not showing what we need, or looking out into the silent sea of “muted” icons after asking everyone a question.
Virtual meetings have become an integral part of our workday, but often they aren’t as effective as they should be. I was once in a 30 minute virtual meeting that was so unorganized and ill-planned that immediately following it, my team and I spent an hour listening to a recording of that meeting, trying to decode what happened during it. This should never happen. Your virtual meeting should put you two steps forward, not two steps back. Here, are five tips on how do just that:
Send Out Agendas in Advance
Always make sure you have a game plan before going into a virtual meeting. Doing so gives the meeting a defined purpose and allows everyone involved to prepare their thoughts and ideas beforehand. An agenda is like having guardrails. If you find the discussion is veering away from the main topic, an agenda pulls you back in and keeps you on track.
Start Every Meeting by Breaking the Ice
Zoom is awkward. The natural flow of conversation is completely disrupted. The chance to casually chat with the person next to you before the meeting is gone. As a result, workplace relationships suffer. You can avoid this by taking time at the beginning of every meeting to go around the group and have everyone share something that’s going on in their life. Ask about any new movies they’ve watched, fun foods they’ve cooked, etc. Not only does this help maintain workplace relationships, but it also warms people up, making them more comfortable and willing to share their thoughts throughout the rest of the meeting.
Focus on 2-3 topics and Keep the Length of Meetings Reasonable
Fine tune what you are going to discuss. It takes more energy to focus in a virtual setting, meaning people are going to zone out faster than usual. Limiting what you talk about ensures people will catch everything that’s said, and therefore, maintain the meeting’s efficiency and purpose. For the same reasons, make sure your meeting is no longer than an hour. If you need to discuss more topics, or go over an hour, make sure you are offering 5-10 minute breaks that allow everyone to recharge and regain their focus.
Call on People
Virtual meetings are often dominated by the same two to three people. They’re comfortable talking, and everyone else is comfortable not having to break daunting silences. Unfortunately, this compromises the diversity of thoughts shared in the meeting. You can avoid this by offering people the opportunity to share their thoughts by calling on them and asking a direct question. Enabling the chat box is also a great solution to help those who aren’t comfortable jumping in to the conversation, but who still want to share their ideas.
Recap and Agree on Next Steps
At the end of every meeting, quickly recap what has been covered and clearly articulate your expectations for moving forward. What projects should everyone be working on? What is the timeline for these said projects? Everyone should leave the meeting knowing exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it by.