Running successful and effective virtual meetings

With at least 70% of professionals telecommuting at least one day a week, it’s no secret that remote work is a key feature of the modern workplace. What are the ground rules when facilitating collaboration in the digital space? We’ve done the research for you. Read on for our top tips on how to run a successful virtual meeting with your remote teams or clients.

Wait, what is a virtual meeting?

A virtual meeting is conducted in real-time through online meeting platforms (and an internet connection, of course). The benefits? Global flexibility and cost savings. With a simple microphone and webcam, you can host face to face meetings with key members of your team anywhere in the world

However, it’s no secret that it can be challenging to run effective meetings with your team members and clients from afar. With the right approach (and a few of our top tips), the digital space can be an excellent and cost-effective alternative to in-person meetings.

To start, test your technology

Efficient products and services are key to successful virtual events. Before sending out that meeting invite, be sure to test the chosen software ahead of time. This is especially important if external people are involved in the meeting across time zones. Gigacom states that 87% of team members working remotely feel more connected to their team when using video conferencing. As a result, testing your camera capabilities is critical to increased collaboration and productivity.

As a meeting host, a clear connection will help the conversation seem more natural among participants when video calling. Also, make sure your microphone works (and you’re not on mute!). Plus, many experts suggest asking participants to log on at least 15 minutes before the start time to test connectivity and confirm technology is working well for everyone involved. It may also be worth appointing someone to deal with tech issues as they happen. 

The technology you choose is as important as testing it out. Are you managing a project, training, or collaboration? Then, choose the software that best suits your needs. Top tip: try Trello for project management or Zoom for a conference call. If using video conferencing, always offer an audio option as some participants may not have a strong internet connection needed. Also, make sure faces are visible so that participants can see everyone’s facial expressions and body language. You can also request your team to sit close to their webcam to help to replicate the mood of an in-person meeting.

Prepare well

Research shows that a successful virtual meeting requires more upfront preparation than you might expect. You may want to circulate an agenda beforehand so that attendees can get acquainted with the subject matter at hand. Additionally, beyond sending reading materials in advance, some experts suggest encouraging employees to exchange feedback in advance of the meeting in order to streamline communication. 

Keep it short and sweet

Aim to keep presentations to a suitable length. According to the Harvard Business Review, video calls make it easier than ever for team members to lose focus. However, the right technology (and a clear agenda) can help remedy that problem

Be sure to set clear objectives and use a meeting plan to keep the conversation on track. Experts recommend an agenda of no longer than 15-minute increments in order to energise the meeting and facilitate collaboration. 

Breakout rooms? Bring it on. 

Take screen sharing to a new level with breakout rooms. This feature in Zoom and other similar apps allows you to split call participants into virtual “rooms” to have separate group discussions before reconvening. This can guarantee wider engagement in your video conference. Specifically, side conversations can be helpful for discussions that require honesty and allow members to challenge the wider discussion in a safe space.  Be sure to keep these individual groups small with 3-5 participants for about 30 minutes at a time. 

Ok, my software is set. How do you do a virtual meeting?

Once your technology is in order, running an effective virtual meeting is the key to your success.  Follow the below simple steps to get your meeting started and facilitate conversation.  

  • Choose a quiet space to act as your virtual meeting room to avoid background noise and to help focus the discussions.
  • Designate a mediator as it is often more difficult to manage a virtual discussion without one. Also, consider the number of participants involved and how many you can easily manage. Alternatively, to prevent multiple people from speaking at the same time, some meeting platforms offer helpful tools. For instance, Zoom allows users to raise their hands virtually in response to a question. This lets the host see who wants to speak and gives them the opportunity to put their views across.
  • Include a virtual meeting icebreaker. Go around the virtual meeting room and ask everyone there to do a short introduction of themselves. Try to also add a social element for a less formal “people feel” such as plans for the weekend for everybody.
  • Ask for feedback in real-time and prompt attendees to submit questions through a chat function. In the virtual space, body language and visual cues are harder to interpret. As a result, some experts suggest using a phone-based mobile app survey tool like Poll Everywhere to collect instant feedback from employees on specific topics. 
  • Avoid the mute button whenever possible. You need to be prepared for lively, interactive discussions and you may forget that the mute is on.

Are you deciding whether to step into the digital world of virtual meetings? Whether you’re a seasoned telecommuter or experimenting with online tools, a little advanced knowledge goes a long way to successfully collaborating online.

Virtual meetings require different planning and communication strategies compared with face to face discussions. Choose the best software fit for the type of meeting and test your technology ahead of time. It may be beneficial to appoint someone to deal with any tech problems as they arise. 

Remember to prepare upfront, keeping meetings as short as possible and try to avoid background noise. It can help to elect a mediator to keep everything on track and to aid collaboration, giving everyone on the agenda time to contribute. Follow these steps and your virtual meetings should run smoothly and effectively.

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Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.

Your complete business toolkit

Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.