Make the most of virtual meetings so that business objectives are delivered and delegates feel truly engaged.
Virtual meetings have the power to revolutionise the way business is done when people cannot physically be together. But they can also feel disjointed, unfocused and a little awkward if they are not planned carefully.
Here’s how to get the very best value from virtual meetings so objectives are achieved and participants feel empowered.
Set a crystal clear agenda
Particularly important for virtual meetings, having a well-defined agenda is vital. Video conferences require focus, so ensure the meeting has a clearly defined purpose and that each individual knows what is expected of them. Identify the individual who will lead each agenda point and make it clear how decisions will be made. Circulating the agenda and relevant information prior to the virtual meeting ensures everything is in place for productivity to thrive and for ownership to be taken by the relevant person.
Include ice breaker activities
Although video conferencing and virtual meetings have been around for some time, remember that participating in such meetings is not necessarily something everyone is comfortable with. Virtual meetings cannot fully capture the softer side that comes with physical meetings – for example, having a casual chat before an in-person meeting commences helps delegates feel comfortable. Find a different way to ease people into a virtual meeting instead – circulate a list of fun facts about each participant and ask delegates to guess who each fact belongs to, or host a quick-fire quiz where every delegate submits a question in advance. Taking a few minutes to do a fun activity will help people feel engaged and part of the team.
Include an experiential learning activity
If time permits, include an activity that is thought provoking and challenging. Having an accredited facilitator that specialises in experiential learning is key to enrich the experience. This will provide learning outcomes that will enhance the purpose of the meeting. Although this is a relatively new area, we are seeing fantastic results with a high level of engagement.
Choose your facilitator wisely
An experienced virtual meeting facilitator will keep the meeting on track and will effectively steer the conversation back to the subject matter when things go off-topic. In a virtual setting where colleagues can’t read the same social cues, a facilitator will also encourage the relevant participants to engage with each agenda item. Choose someone who is not directly involved in the meeting to facilitate, so they can fully focus on getting the best from each participant, which will help to ensure the meeting aims are met too. A different individual should be assigned to take the minutes so the facilitator is not distracted by having too many tasks.
Define the rules
A virtual meeting using video conferencing technology is a wildly different environment to having people physically together in a room. It may be an unfamiliar way of doing business for some, so it’s important to set some basic rules of how the meeting will run. For example, ask all participants to mute their microphones unless they are speaking to limit background noise. Ask individuals to use the ‘raise hand’ button or to write ‘hand’ in the chat box if they have a question, which will help prevent people from talking over each other. Also use the chat functionality to share questions, links and files that people can browse without disturbing the flow of the meeting. It’s a good idea to set a time limit for how long one person can speak too – one minute in a face-to-face environment can seem like a lifetime virtually!
Circulate action points
Build on the momentum of the virtual meeting by ensuring minutes and action points are circulated to all delegates as soon as possible afterwards. This reinforces the value of the meeting to everyone involved and makes the next steps clear, so participants feel a sense of direction, focus and time well spent.
Efficient facilitation, a clearly defined agenda and using technology skilfully are all elements that set the stage for high value virtual meetings.