Effective meeting strategies to incorporate before, during, and after virtual meetings.
A great meeting can set the tone for weeks of productive work while a boring one can steal all the momentum from a team. This is true for all meetings but is especially true as people are meeting more and more in an online environment. That’s why it’s key to have an effective virtual meeting strategy. What we do and how we plan before, during, and after a virtual meeting will decide if the meeting is a launch point or a speed bump.
Meeting strategies: Before
The most important factor for an effective meeting comes long before any greetings or (virtual) handshakes. There are a few things to consider before a meeting is even called. Having the ability to see each other at any time is great, but sometimes it’s not entirely necessary. What is the purpose of the meeting you want to hold? If it is to provide a simple update, some new information, or even just a progress report check-in, maybe a meeting is unnecessary. Email and phones still work. Technology can do all sorts of things that push us forward. But virtual meetings, like all tools, are only useful when used as designed.
Along the same lines, it’s important to make sure to only invite the right people. In a discussion on the Miro blog, they point out that having too many people on the call lowers the expectation of participation. This means that two or three voices can dominate the conversation while the rest sit idly, simply observing. Only invite the people who are essential to voice their opinion if a decision needs to be made that doesn’t require the entire team.
We have discussed tools on the Voltage Control blog before. Take time to review your options and get your team set up with the proper tool(s) beforehand. It can save 20 minutes of headache at the start of a meeting. Additionally, meetings run smoother when you set up some etiquette ground rules for your team. A simple document with some dos and don’ts can go a long way.
A prepared meeting agenda distributed to participants before the start of a virtual meeting is another helpful tactic. Spending time during the meeting to go over an agenda with everyone can be a real room killer. Pre-sending the agenda can make all the difference. Increase the effectiveness of virtual meetings simply by ensuring everyone is prepared and on the same page when they show up.
Meeting strategies: During
Virtual meetings can be intimidating. You may not instantly recognize people you have worked with for months, and the energy of an in-person room is mostly missing. There are a few things you can do to minimize the intimidation factor and get the best collaboration out of your time together.
Use Icebreakers to establish the tone of your meeting. Charisma doesn’t always translate over video the way it does in person. Getting people to “uncross their arms” and engage requires a little more effort than just relying on your energy to stir people up.
Start with small talk. It can be tempting to skip the chit-chat that ensues as people trickle into the virtual meeting space. Don’t! This time is crucial for participant engagement. Consider question prompts on a slide to get people talking as they arrive.
Another helpful engagement tactic is to produce a meeting trailer to get everyone focused and ready to participate. Combine clips from movies or TV shows that are on-topic or motivational. Collect a series of jokes from comedians to help spark creative juices. It doesn’t need to win any awards. Have fun with it! The end-goal is that people are tuned in and geared up.
Keeping everyone involved in a virtual meeting can be especially challenging. One solve is to assign roles like timekeeper and facilitator to keep things focused. Another way to increase engagement is to have a shared workspace or virtual whiteboard available so people can interact with ideas beyond just words.
Ultimately, full participant involvement comes down to having a feedback system.
Without the energy in a room and the diminished effects of non-verbal cues, it is vital to build in times for actual verbal feedback during the meeting. A simple way to do this is to periodically ask if everyone is tracking. Plan strategic questions that push the conversation forward. For example: How have you seen the problem arise? How can we apply this idea to this problem? Have scheduled time to check-in with participants during your virtual meetings.
Virtual meetings can quickly become a series of tasks and checkboxes. These are the meetings that people dread, not to mention they lead to wasted time and loss of motivation. But if we establish meetings as a place for playfulness, we can break down some of the barriers that tiled video boxes create. Focus on actions rather than concepts or products to stir things up. Build a meeting around actions and collaboration to increase creativity and productivity.
Meeting strategies: After
Clicking the red hangup button shouldn’t be the end of your meeting. If it is, you are missing some valuable time to reinforce concepts and activate your team.
After a virtual meeting, it is important to make sure all loops are closed. What items came up in the meeting that need to be assigned? What outstanding tasks need to be completed? A post-meeting checklist and assignments for each participant will help the momentum of the meeting carry forward. Everyone has their own takeaways. Take the opportunity to reinforce the most important takeaways and keep everyone moving in the same direction.
If the only thing that mattered to a functioning team was completing tasks, then a checklist after a meeting would suffice. But we all know that is not the case. Great teams are more than co-workers; they become friends. For that care and trust to build virtually, you need to have effective strategies for virtual team engagement as well. Create a virtual watercooler where people can debrief from a meeting or talk about what their kids are doing at school. Use tools like Slack to organize these employee conversations. Create different channels for different topics. You can also take it further and schedule virtual happy hours or virtual trivia games.
Work is work, but great teams are built on relationships.
Virtual meetings can be an effective strategy for all kinds of companies. Taking the time to prepare before, collaborate during, and take action after will help you get the most out of them.
Looking for a Virtual Meeting Facilitator? We Can Help.
Voltage Control facilitates remote design thinking workshops, innovation sessions, and Design Sprints. Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.