Virtual meetings are here to stay.
The technology to hold virtual meetings has been around for a long time. If you compare the last 18 months to the previous decade, the increase is phenomenal. The pandemic triggered an instant shift to remote working. Overnight, businesses all over the world were compelled to switch to something many had been resisting for years; working from home.
Take the video conferencing platform, Zoom for example. It’s reported that sales in the last three months of 2020 were up 370% compared to the same period in 2019. Step back two years and many people had never even heard of Zoom. There are others of course.
I think its fair to say that many of us have participated in virtual meetings in the last 18 months.
Do virtual meetings work?
Everything in life has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Virtual meetings are no exception.
– Not having to worry about room or space availability.
– It’s often easier for people not in the office that day but could still meet virtually.
– Virtual meetings can offer substantial cost savings – people don’t have to travel.
– It’s easier to remove small talk, get to the point and speed things up.
– The pressure to decline attending virtual meetings doesn’t seem so great.
– You’re on one and don’t like it, it’s easier to leave or multi-task.
– You don’t have to take minutes if you don’t want to. Just share a recording.
– Virtual meetings can be more productive as it encourages focus.
– Reducing our carbon footprint is a major benefit.
– We lose the face to face connection which is important to many.
– Technology can present an issue for some with unreliable internet connections, etc.
– It’s sometimes less easy to interact dynamically with others.
– If you have a product or prop you want people to touch and feel, it doesn’t work.
– There are far more distractions, especially if you know you’re not visible.
– Space, lighting and sound at home can present a challenge for many.
– For some people virtual meetings don’t feel as important as in-person.
I have just shared a few of the advantages and disadvantages of holding virtual meetings; I’m sure you can think of many others.
Virtual meetings are here to stay
With that in mind, here are 12 tips to help you to make them work more effectively.
Tip 1 – Talk to the camera
Have you noticed that in virtual meetings, many people stare at the screen. It could be up, down, to the left or right. In other words, they look at where everyone’s faces are positioned on the screen. When you do that it’s easy to believe that you are making eye contact with the audience.
The reality is, that isn’t the case.
Look into the Camera, Not the Screen
Tip 2 – Ask the audience
Make a point of asking your audience or team:
– How they feel
– What’s on their mind
– For their opinions
– To share updates
-Whether they have anything to add
– If they need help in any way
– What they have to share that could help others
Tip 3 – Avoid the mobile phone
As advanced as mobile phones are, they are not the best for virtual meetings. Using a laptop or desktop is still the best way to participate in online meetings. Generally speaking, they have better bandwidth, audio and visual support.
Tip 4 – Invest in a microphone
Poor sound in a virtual meeting or presentation can compromise your reputation and credibility.
Invest in a high quality, external microphone that will filter distractions and ensure you are heard clearly.
Tip 5 – Prevent distracting pop-ups
Pop-up and notifications appearing on your screen during a virtual meeting can be really distracting. Before your meeting, make sure that you turn off your notifications. Ask your team or audience to do the same.
Tip 6 – Don’t multi-task
It’s very easy in virtual meetings to try to multi-task. Writing or checking email, looking at LinkedIn or Facebook are big temptations. The odds are that if you are doing it, other will be too.
Avoid the temptation and ask others to do the same thing.
Tip 7 – Ask for videos on
If it’s within your gift and appropriate, ask everyone to turn their videos on. The spoken word elicits a much greater effect when aligned to our body language.
Facial expressions help to turn virtual meetings into human conversations.
It’s not always possible but wherever it is, ask people to keep their videos on.
Tip 8 – Involve and encourage everyone
Use polls, chat, whiteboards and break out rooms. Give everyone an opportunity to get involved.
Ask people to stay unmuted where appropriate. Ask people directly to comment individually wherever you can. Elicit their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Tip 9 – Make a promise
Make a promise that you can comfortably keep by the end of the meeting. How you want people to feel. A decision point you would like to get to or understanding everyone’s view.
Tip 10 – Set a goal
Be clear on the reason you have called everyone together online. Make it clear the reason for the meeting and what you hope to achieve by the end of it.
Tip 11 – Lights, camera, action
Check everything before the virtual meeting. Ensure that you are comfortable with the video conferencing platform. Check the lighting, sound, screenshare. Check everything in advance.
Tip 12 – Make yourself look good
Dress appropriately. Make sure you have a suitably professional or neutral background.
Ask your team to join your meeting in a space which is free from visual distractions wherever possible. Lead the way and do the same yourself.
Tip 13 – Prepare thoroughly
Spend as much time as you can preparing for the meeting in advance.
– Get to know your audience. Who are they, how much do they know and what do they need?
– Set a clear objective – what you want to achieve at the end of the meeting.
– Set a clear intention – what you want your audience to feel at the end of the meeting.
– Share as much background information as you can before the meeting.
– Tell them in advance what you are hoping to achieve.
Tip 14 – Introduce features
Don’t assume that they know how to use Zoom, Teams, etc.
Send out clear functional instructions in advance of the meeting.
Explain how the platform works and functions you will be using at the beginning of each meeting.
Tip 15 – Break regularly
Keep your meetings short so everyone can stay focused. Remember, long meetings can be perceived as boring and arduous
Break every 15 to 20 minutes to allow your team to breathe and reconnect.
Tip 16 – Expect challenges
Have a back up plan by preparing in advance for what could go wrong.
– Technical issues – Audio, visual or screen share problems. What will you do if something goes wrong?
– Discomfort – Either you or your audience may feel nervous about virtual meetings. Prepare for this in advance. How can you put both yourself and your audience at ease?
– Distractions – make your meeting content rich and highly interactive.
Tip 17 – Switch perspectives
Put yourself in your team or audience’s shoes. What do you dislike most about virtual meetings? What would it take to connect with you to keep you interested and involved?
Tip 18 – Check in frequently
Make point of asking people what they think and how they feel. Ask them, what’s working well and what needs to change.
Tip 19 – Variety is the spice of life
Take the time to make your meeting an emotional as well as intellectual experience. Use all of the tools and resources available to you. Poll’s, chat, white boards and break out rooms.
Include humour, stories, thought provoking questions and challenges,
Tip 20 – Make it fun
Relax, lighten up and don’t take yourself too seriously. Encourage others to do the same.
If you need help making your virtual meetings work:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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