5 tips for hosting effective virtual meetings

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Is it your team’s first time to meet virtually? Here are a few tips to help you get you started:

  1. Choose the right tool

    Choose a video conferencing app or software that has features and tools that you’ll need. This will depend on the type of meetings you intend to have as well as your goals. For example, if you’re planning on making a presentation, choose an app that has screen sharing capabilities so you can show slides, graphs and other materials. If you’re hosting a brainstorming session, you may need one that allows you to go into breakout rooms for group discussions or planning.

    Take into account the capacity of your equipment when choosing an app. Check system requirements to make sure that it will run in your laptops or PC. Also check the app’s capacity – will it be able to accommodate everyone in your team? For instance, WhatsApp can handle only four to eight people at a time while web conferencing tools like Zoom and GoToMeeting can accommodate up to 100-250 participants. Another issue is security – if you intend to discuss private matters or if your staff is sensitive about how personal data is collected, choose an app that allows encryption and other security tools.

  2. Set the meeting right

    Schedule a meeting time that works for everyone. Be mindful of time zones if you have team members in other provinces or countries. If possible, send a meeting notice (calendar invitation) that would send them a reminder near the start of the meeting.

    Be as clear as possible in your meeting invitation. Reiterate that date and time, as well as the duration. Set your agenda and inform invitees if you have requirements (for example, have survey results, team suggestions/comments/complaints, sales figures, etc. on hand) or if there are expected outcomes or specific meeting guidelines. Give clear instructions on how people will join. Include support information for those who may experience internet connection or audio and video problems. You can also suggest that they test their equipment before the meeting especially if your team hasn’t used the technology before.

    If you are hosting a small group, require video. Seeing the participants will help them stay focused. It can also ease the feeling of isolation for remote workers or those new to the team.

  3. Be a good host

    Be online five minutes early. This will give you a bit of time to set-up, check your audio and video, or help someone troubleshoot problems. This can save valuable meeting time.

    It can be awkward at first, so start with some small talk to put everyone at ease. Check up on how everyone is doing. You can also introduce the attendees and provide a short description of their roles (or ask them to introduce themselves). If it’s a small team and everybody knows each other, acknowledge each team member by greeting them as they join the meeting. Friendly interaction is doubly important in a virtual meeting because of limited visual cues.

    As the host, attendees will look to you to set the meeting’s pace. You should direct the discussion and moderate the proceedings. This can be tricky in online meetings – it’s harder to sense if someone is gearing up to speak so attendees may start speaking at the same time or talk over one another. You will need to step in. This also goes for participants who tend to talk too much or those who bring up topics that are beyond the agenda. Make sure that everyone has a chance to speak and contribute, but be tactful when doing this. You may ask them to email you regarding additional issues or set a separate meeting with them to address their concerns. Remind everyone about the limited time to keep the meeting moving along smoothly.

  4. Expect glitches and technical problems

    We will all deal with choppy audio, pixelated videos, or slow connections at some point. Technical problems are a given. Don’t panic. It may just be a matter of waiting or restarting your device. If you’re the type who wants to be ready for anything, consider having a back-up device like a mobile phone or a tablet in case the issue persists.

    Allow a bit of informality in virtual meetings. Surprise sightings of kids or pets, as well as interruptions like household noises (sounds of flushing, dog barking, door bell ringing, etc.) can happen especially if your staff is working from home. Everyone eventually learns how to handle these disruptions better as they get used to the technology. Things like muting the microphone when not talking, using a headset, or checking system settings will become second nature to you and your staff with time.

  5. Reiterate important points

    When it comes to virtual meetings, over communication is the norm. Lack of body language or technical glitches can prevent participants from fully hearing or understanding messages. Ensure that team members are clear about:

    • Deliverables and next steps
    • Who’s responsible for which item or task
    • When the deliverables are due
    • When the next meeting or check-in will be
  6. Make it a point to summarize important points before ending the meeting. Draft minutes (or have someone else draft it) so that everyone will have a document that they can go back to for reference. Email the minutes of the meeting to everyone concerned.

    Always ask for feedback and have an open line for questions or follow-ups. They should be able to call, email, direct message or chat with you if they have concerns or updates.

 
Sources: 12 handy tips for running better remote meetings, Lindsay Kolowich of Hubspot, The Muse; and The ultimate guide to remote meetings in 2020, Deanna deBarra, Slack. Accessed June 12, 2020.

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