How to Conduct Virtual Meetings
The daily team pow wow has been abruptly and digitally transformed into a virtual meeting
Score one for technology but prepare for some participant strikeouts. COVID-19 has made it necessary for many to use the old standby of conference calling for team communications. It’s resurrected concerns from a 2014 study showing that 65% of respondents said they were doing something other than paying attention to the call.
Virtual meetings with video conferencing were already seeing explosive growth before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it’s the new normal.
You’ll likely engage prospects and customers this way. It’s also how you’ll provide leadership to your team now that they’re working from home (just like you).
In a perfect world, technology seamlessly removes physical distance, and all your team is present in a virtual meeting. The only thing you can’t do is pass around the box of donuts you bought for them on the way to the office. Cloud-based communication platforms and mobile apps make it easier – but there are still some best practices to follow. Here’s what you need to know.
As the virtual meeting leader
Companies with remote workforces, from Slack to Google, recommend that as a leader, you will build a foundation of success when you first lay the groundwork for how your virtual meetings will transpire.
This goes beyond an agenda (because you already do that, right? Kick your agenda acuity up a few notches with this advice from Slack).
Frederick Pferdt is Google’s chief innovation evangelist. He believes it’s important to inject ritual into virtual meetings because it helps us remember and reconnect. It’s why he starts his weekly virtual team meetings with having each participant share a personal or professional failure and what they learned from it. “Exploring new possibilities starts with a question, not an answer,” he explained in a recent article for Google.
Pferdt believes that it’s up to you as a leader to help each member on your team enter the mindset that makes them fully engaged and excited to participate in a virtual meeting.
Using video – rather than an audio-only approach – also helps you as a facilitator gauge the level of team member participation. You and your fellow participants need the potent combination of audio plus video to help replicate the level of communication you had with your meetings back at the office.
More than half of communication is nonverbal, while up to 38% is conveyed by tone of voice.
- Acknowledge that video is going to be awkward at first. Encourage everyone to laugh along with the bloopers.
- Make interactivity easier by working from a shared live document where people can add their own notes.
- Be mindful of the introverts on your team. They may not volunteer to offer input unless you call upon them. The irony is that they may feel left out, even though they don’t offer much. It’ll increase their temptation to check out.
- Working from home adds the dimension of stress from family dynamics. Casual conversation is often an antidote for people. Lead with it and help your team both decompress and prepare for focus.
These virtual meetings may become the cornerstone of your project management and team leadership. They’re key to gathering and disseminating information, and they’re just as effective for one-on-one meetings with members of your team.
Along with asynchronous online communications like Slack, they’re ways to virtually create opportunities for social engagement. They’re not distractions. They offer a way to relax and converse, which facilitates team cooperation and productivity.
For your team members
Not everyone will become enchanted with virtual meetings. It’s not uncommon for people to initially be discouraged by the self-consciousness that being on camera causes. Knowing that you’ve got a plan can go a long way toward deepening your team’s comfort levels and accelerating participation.
Nobody appreciates a meeting Nazi, but some members might be grateful for general tips on how to effectively set up and participate in a virtual meeting. Offer them these tips.
- Participate from a quiet, carpeted room. The technology has gotten better, but it remains difficult for your laptop to compensate for the harsh acoustics caused by hard surfaces. It’s one of the reasons why – love them or hate them – cubicle walls are covered with rough material.
- You’ll be tempted to use your smartphone but use a laptop instead. The video conferencing solution you use will allow you to take advantage of productivity-enhancing bells and whistles such as virtual whiteboards and document sharing. A smartphone’s small screen can’t take advantage of these and might not even support it.
- Position the camera at eye level. Often, our laptop is on the desk surface. It means we’re probably looking down at the screen, so our fellow video conferencing attendees might be getting the off putting vibe of you towering over them (not to mention an unintentional camera shot right up your nose).
- Most laptops come with a quality built-in microphone and passable speakers. Video conferencing platforms continue to struggle with echoes and feedback when these built-in options are used. There’s no need to require everyone to invest in an external desk mic. Instead, consider asking your team to use the earbuds that came with their smartphone. It has a mic positioned perfectly to capture voice, and the sound from the call routed through their earbuds will add more quality and clarity to general audio.
Think back on the most successful meetings you’ve had with your team – back when they happened at the office. Stuff got done because everyone was free from distractions and prepared to participate because they knew what to expect beforehand. Everybody got to be heard, seen, and acknowledged for their contributions.
Technology wasn’t responsible for that accomplishment. It was your ability as a leader to set expectations and facilitate productivity. Now you’re going to do it with video conferencing software. As Google’s Frederick Pferdt says, “Innovation is just an experiment away – go explore.”
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