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Optimizing Your Virtual Meeting

Last month, in our first virtual meetings Tip, we discussed that one of the best practices for virtual meetings is that half of your time should be spent in the planning before the meeting even begins. In part two of this series, we introduce you to the best practices for the actual meeting portion.

In May, we shared the importance of planning and preparation (if you missed it, click here). Once you’ve created and shared your plan with meeting participants, facilitating the meeting is equally important. When well done,allocating 20 percent of the time to this stage should be adequate. 

Are you surprised? Some may find this number to be lower than expected. After all, isn’t the purpose of meetings to, well, meet? Yes, but virtual meetings are different.

In virtual meetings, the differences in time, distance, technology and culture are magnified. Based on research, here are some illustrations of these differences.

  • 30% of employees believe their team does not have the right technology to communicate and be productive.
  • 49% of employees have a team leader that does NOT ask for input to gauge all members’ moods and thoughts.
  • 70% of virtual team members and leaders rated team communication, better listening (63%), and building trust (50%) as most important.

The idea behind well-planned virtualmeetings is to spend lesstime in the meeting itself, in order make them effectiveand moreefficient. This means that everyone on the team comes to the meeting prepared and focused on the topics requiring input and decisions. This increases engagement and reduces multitasking. 

It also means that meetings are facilitated in a way that encourages all members to speak up, ask questions, and collaborate on key initiatives. Status reports should NOT be the focus, but rather agenda items that apply to all members. And always have a backup plan ready in the case of unexpected interruptions, like technical difficulties. These kinds of inefficiencies are costly and cause lost time and lowered engagement.

Here’s a Tip:

Here are some tips to help you make your virtual meetings more engaging and lead to better results.

  • Begin with a question to warm-up and engage. Have members say their names when speaking.
  • Recap the meeting purpose, time, and expectations.
  • Ask participants to close all other PC and phone applications and to focus on the meeting.
  • Vary your voice to tone and pitch to engage participants and gain involvement.
  • Use a “parking lot” for any items that are important but outside of the agenda.
  • One question at a time—wait 10 seconds to members to respond.
  • Listen for voice tone and word choice to understand the meaning behind words.
  • Don’t allow anyone to dominate. Solicit input from members who are quiet. Do not assume that silence means agreement.
  • Use technology to allow for anonymous feedback.
  • Before closing the meeting ask team members to rate the effectiveness of the meeting on a scale of 1=low to 5=high. Incorporate any feedback into the next meeting.
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