Virtual meetings have gradually become more popular over the past few years; however, there is no ignoring the explosion of use following the global pandemic. Businesses have come to rely on virtual meetings as their go-to way to communicate, being useful for everything from a quick catch-up to a presentation with a client.
Due to the rapid adoption of conferencing technology, many are still getting to grips with the various platforms. As with other prior forms of technology, there is a tendency to act like the new medium is the same as what came before. For instance, early TV presenters who spoke and treated television as if it were radio with pictures.
Yet, to treat virtual meetings as the same as their real-life counterparts ignore the challenges that arise and the opportunities available. Therefore, to help you adapt, we’ve put together a short guide to making your virtual meetings more productive.
The importance of an agenda
All meetings work better with a plan; the same is true for virtual meetings. However, in real-life, the presence of everyone in one room creates a social pressure that drives a meeting forward. Conversation can flow naturally, with one point leading onto the next. With a virtual meeting, you lose a dimension to the discussion, leading to a stilted or meandering meeting.
Instead, come prepared. Create an agenda for the meeting, with a list of goals you need to complete. By giving everyone a goal, it can help focus minds on the task at hand. Plus, with an agenda of points, if the meeting does venture down a rabbit hole, you can bring everyone back to critical topics.
On the agenda, ensure to list everyone’s roles and responsibilities; as well as any pre-meeting research or jobs that need to be completed.
Keep it simple
Even regular meetings can go on too long. Though there is a social stigma against getting distracted, you have to look engaged. However, in your mind, you wander off, wondering what you’re having for dinner or what you’re doing that weekend.
In a virtual meeting, people can begin to look at their phones. They zone out or start working on another task. Therefore, while it is vital to have a goal, give yourself a set time to complete the task. Try to keep things under 40 minutes. Trim the chatter and focus on the purposes of the meeting. However, if you only have one or two points, keep the meeting short – say 10 to 15 minutes. No one will need to get distracted, and the meeting can stay on-point.
Use the tools available
With the tools available through most video conferencing platforms, don’t treat a virtual meeting as a regular meeting. Use the tools at your disposal. Screen sharing will let multiple people take the reins of the meetings. You can share work, demonstrate a new product, or show a video or piece of media applicable to the meeting’s theme.
Virtual whiteboards are like their real-world counterparts, only better. Sketch out your ideas, brainstorm through a problem, or take notes as the meeting progresses. You can draw diagrams, tables, pictures. You can even use it for a quick game of hangman.
Meanwhile, if you want to give your meeting a fun theme between friends or a professional background for Zoom meetings with clients, use Hello Backgrounds. They have hundreds of different HD photos and high-quality videos from which to choose. So, whether you prefer a stunning natural scene or an expensive-looking apartment, you’ll always be able to look your best.
As mentioned, when you’re working from home, it’s too easy to get distracted: playing on your phone or catching up with other work. However, these distractions decrease the efficiency and engagement of a meeting. The meeting becomes boring because no one engages, and no one participates because the meeting is boring. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Therefore, ban the use of phones in meetings and if you are hosting, encourage people remaining silent to engage with the meeting. Perhaps ask them a question.
Additionally, the background noises from your home or backdrop can cause distraction. Remember to mute yourself when you’re not speaking and use a virtual background.
Finally, taking regular breaks in a longer meeting can give people a chance to reply to a message, nip to the toilet or make a hot drink. Plus, it’s nice to stretch the legs. Everyone will return to the meeting in an improved and more focused mood, increasing your overall efficiency.