In an ideal world, all meetings would be in-person, as discussing important matters face-to-face is easier and more effective than over the phone or video chat. In today's world, however, having all of your stakeholders in one place is sometimes impossible, as more companies expand globally, increase work from home polices, and hire more remote employees. As a result, more and more organizations are relaying on the virtual meeting to keep everyone connected.
But while a phone or video conference platform is overall a powerful and invaluable tool, it's not without its disadvantages. Faulty tech, a weak audio or video connection, and distractions can all be killers to productive virtual meetings, but keeping in mind a few simple rules or techniques can make all the difference.
Whether your next virtual meeting is for 10 or 100 people, check out these tips to make the experience more engaging, fun, and, most importantly, successful.
1. Be Prepared
This is a good tip for any meeting, virtual or not, but it's a top one nonetheless. Consider creating an agenda or talking points for your virtual meeting and send it out beforehand (or include it in the calendar invite). If it's a new meeting platform you're using, test it out for any connectivity issues. Be considerate of attendees' different time zones. It's the little things, but by taking these extra steps, people will be more prepared.
2. Give Everyone a Role
Make everyone feel valued and more engaged by giving your virtual meeting attendees each a job or task during your 30-60 minutes together. Some basic roles to consider are producer, notetaker, Q&A moderator, tech support, etc. For larger meetings, consider asking everyone to come to the meeting with something to discuss or give them a talking point to take the lead on. This will lead to more attentive and focused participants.
2. Make a No Laptops/Devices Rule
It's no secret that the top distractions during any meeting are laptops, phones, email pings and chat messages. Easily kill those distractions by simply asking attendees (especially those at your office) to leave their laptops and phones at their desks or in another room. For remote attendees, require them to turn their web cams on (which leads to the next tip).
4. Embrace Video
If you typically just rely on your virtual meeting's conference call capabilities, start using video primarily instead. Seeing everyone on screen together not only holds everyone more accountable, but helps people feel a bit more connected than just hearing someone's voice or staring at that blank white video conference screen.
5. Include an Ice Breaker
Whether it's a group of people who are "meeting" for the first time, or it's your weekly global team catch up, start off with an ice breaker or fun question to get everyone to focus and start the meeting off on a positive note. Ask everyone to share one fun thing they did over the weekend, what their favorite food is or what football team they root for; mix it up! This also allows increases camaraderie and eases everyone into the main conversation.
6. Make it a Point to Engage with Remote People
Working remotely comes with a lot of benefits, but it can also feel isolating, especially if these team members don't come to the office a lot. Consider asking any remote members of your team to speak first or give them one of those important roles mentioned earlier to make them feel included and valued.
7. Use Interactive Presentations
If your standard PowerPoints with bullet points are starting to feel dull during your virtual meeting, try making them interactive. It's easy to add animations and graphics, or you can take it a step further by incorporating video or something like Prezi to keep people engaged and focused throughout the meeting. These are great tips for any presentation in any format, but they apply to your virtual meetings too.
8. Find More Interactive Tech
Take time to reexamine your virtual meeting platform of choice. Are you utilizing all of its features or does it even have everything you need or what to enhance your meetings? If not, look for something with tools such as chat boxes, Q&A features, screen sharing, polls, annotation, and more. Bonus if it also includes tracks participation data to see how effective it is for your team or attendees.
At the end of the day, virtual meetings don't have to be boring or something people dread. By taking these steps, you can make your next virtual meeting a fun and engaging way to bring your stakeholders together.
What virtual meetings platform do you use? What do you do to make virtual meetings more engaging and productive? Share in the comments below!