ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz is the founder and principal of the architectural firm Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón, with offices in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Virtual meetings are here to stay.
With companies suddenly switching to working remotely in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, it can be challenging both technically and emotionally. For many people and business owners, this is the first time implementing these home tools and new strategies. For this reason, we’re sharing some best practices and what’s been working for us.
KNOW THE TECHNOLOGY
Make sure that everyone knows how to work with the technology that’s going to be used to conduct the virtual meeting. Check in with the team prior to the meeting in case someone needs help setting up the meeting platform and confirm that everyone has tested the technology beforehand. This way you can avoid unnecessary anxiety, technical difficulties and potential interruptions during the meeting.
CREATE AN AGENDA
Create a meeting agenda so you don’t forget important topics you need to discuss during the virtual meeting. Include a meeting structure in the agenda that outlines the purpose, objectives, and key talking points of the meeting. The agenda will help keep virtual meetings on track.
AIM FOR VIDEO
Try using video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Google Meet for virtual meetings instead of traditional phone conference calls. This can make meeting participants feel more connected and engaged with one another. All these platforms have mobile phone apps. If your computer doesn’t have a camera, you can use your cell phone to log on. Also, even if you are connecting using video conferencing, provide an audio option as a backup for people who for whatever reason can’t use that option.
KEEP IT SHORT
People working from home will most likely be surrounded by multiple distractions (think kids homeschooling) and be more likely to lose focus because of them. Keep it short and to the point. Respecting people’s time and managing it efficiently is essential for every virtual meeting.
BREAK THE ICE
Kick off virtual meetings with a fun ice breaker or introduction. If there are new guest participants, ask them to introduce themselves! A good icebreaker is asking your team members to share a fun fact about themselves. Ice breakers and introductions add a social element to the meeting, help lighten the mood, and strengthen the team’s relationship.
HAVE A FACILITATOR
Select a facilitator to make sure the virtual meeting runs smoothly. Facilitators can be the leader of the meeting or can be assigned by the leader to guide the conversation and help stick to the meeting’s agenda. They can also moderate and answer questions during the meeting.
Avoid distractions and noises that surround you. Find a space in your home with the least amount of distractions and use headphones. If you can’t block out all distractions, hit the mute button when you’re not talking. Muting your microphone will ensure that distracting noises around you don’t disrupt the meeting.
KEEP PEOPLE ENGAGED
Engagement plays a huge role in any successful virtual meeting. Having a presentation always helps with team engagement and helps guide the conversation. You can also engage participants by sharing your screen, adding visuals, calling on them for their input, or asking them to send questions via chat. Frequent interaction during the meeting will increase engagement and create productive virtual meetings.
PRACTICE VIRTUAL ETIQUETTE
It’s important to act as if you were in an in-person meeting. This includes having the proper etiquette. Do not use your phone, do not eat, do not interrupt other speakers, do not move around and do not have side conversations with others. Respecting your co-workers is part of basic virtual etiquette.
BE CLEAR & FOLLOW UP
Before ending a virtual meeting, let participants know what tasks they need to work on after the meeting. Make it clear for everyone what the calls to action and deadlines are in order to avoid any confusion. After the meeting, consider assigning tasks via e-mail or planner or send a follow up survey asking participants for feedback and suggestions about what can be improved.
Running the perfect virtual meeting doesn’t have to be complicated. Being prepared, communicating with your team, being mindful of people’s time, and creating a safe and positive meeting environment will make all your virtual meetings a success! Good luck! You got this!