In the pre-covid era, we had two options to conduct business meetings. One was face to face in person meet & another was virtual meet. However Covid19 forced us to end in person meet and go virtual. Sales of webcam went high, microphones, laptops got sold like hot cakes. With vaccination drives being conducted all over the world, things are slowly trying to crawl back to normal although seems distant. Some business owners are trying to get people back on the floor and others who can afford to continue working from home are playing the waiting game. However truth remains that in person meetings are way more effective than any virtual meets but irony is virtual meet has saved many and is definitely in for our future.
Virtual meetings has it's pros & cons. Some of the pros are explained in this picture below.
However there are more factors than pros which are responsible for making virtual meets ineffective compared to face to face meets, let us look at those.
So it is very clear that these 4 factors ( Engagement, distractions, vision & Focus ) is what makes virtual meets ineffective. So if we want to make virtual meets successful and although it cannot ever replace face to face meets and it's advantages but if we can make it somewhat effective then we can enjoy it's benefits today and in future.
Let me share with you 8 things that you can do to make virtual meets effective and somewhat overcome the above challenges. I have personally tried this and still do whenever required & it has given me good results. So you can try and let me know how it works for you.
1. Attempt to join before 5 mins – this will help you get over technical challenges at times and you will be able to cover the agenda within planned time.
2. Set some ground rules at start – like no multitasking & ask for permission under emergency, phones in pocket and not on table, no people on mute unless someone is producing a lot of background noise ( this will discourage people from talking to someone else on mute & they will remain focused on the meeting )
3. Try to go Visual – either do a video call or open a white board or have a presentation or some writings up there etc to keep peoples focus on the screen.
4. THE PRE MEETING PREPARATION TIME NEEDS TO BE MORE IN VIRTUAL MEET THAN IN A FACE TO FACE MEET, SO THAT THE MEETING IS SHORT, CRISP, TO THE POINT AND DOES NOT DRAG A BIT. A GOOD IDEA IS TO WRITE DOWN YOUR TALKING POINTS SEQUENTIALLY SO YOU DON’T GO OFFTRACK AND MAKE THE MEETING LONGER. REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE LOSES FOCUS AFTER AROUND 10 MINS IN A VIRTUAL SET UP SO MAKE IT CRISP.
5. Engage participants in tasks, like you can keep someone a timekeeper, someone should take notes on whiteboard etc.
6. Keep people on their toes and maintain their focus and attention, you can do this by calling out names every now and then, instead of asking team what do you think guys ? ( which generally produces silence ) Go round the room and ask individual directly. This is a very crucial exercise and habit to make virtual meet successful since no one would want to repeatedly state the same line of “sorry I missed out can you repeat” since ground rule of no multitasking was set before. So start calling out names.
7. If the meeting is long - Use humor every now and then to help people relax and maintain focus.
8. Post Meeting try summarizing what has been discussed and agreed or understood.
Now it is definitely possible that you might be following some these practices already and reaping benefits. If not then you may try. You might not be able to do all of these in every single meeting but as long as you are aware of these tactics you can decide for yourself which one to apply when. I wish you all the best, also if you are following any other practice which has worked for you please let me know in your comments below as I am always looking for different perspectives.
Recommended Article - "How to make your meetings Inclusive" - CLICK HERE to read.