People are becoming more used to running or joining virtual meetings, switching on Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or whichever software we’re using. Once users have got over the novelty of seeing into our colleagues’ and customers’ homes or offices, it’s important to make sure that these meetings are actually valuable.
There has been quite a lot written about the fact that virtual meetings can be more tiring than meeting in person, and with some people spending their entire day – and most of their week – in virtual meetings, it’s time to see how we can make sure they are planned and run to give the best experience and the best outcomes.
Don’t forget that, even though you may be experienced in online meeting etiquette, you will still be talking to people who may be relatively new to video meetings – perhaps a new hire who hasn’t participated in meetings like this before, or a new customer who is used to meeting face-to-face. Follow our business meeting planner tips to get the most out of your calls in the long term:
Instructions – put together some simple instructions that you can send out with your meeting invitation. This can just be a quick checklist to remind people about how to prepare for the meeting, including where to set up the monitor and camera so that people can see each other clearly, and how to turn on/off microphones and cameras. You may also want to include guidelines on dress, to avoid unnecessary embarrassment!
Agenda – you want to keep your meeting on track, so whilst it’s good to start with pleasantries and a catch-up, you don’t want to spend 20 minutes chatting; you want to get on with the substance of the meeting. All professional meeting planners will tell you that a good agenda helps to dictate the pace and the outcomes of the meeting. Even for short meetings, it’s good to say in advance what you will cover and why.
A clear leader – always have one person who is leading the meeting. Others may be enabled to share screens or give presentations, but having one person leading the meeting will help to move the agenda on. It also helps to avoid difficulties with everyone speaking at once and it allows the meeting to run smoothly.
Keep it simple – the things that disturb virtual meetings are background noises and computer interruptions. For this reason, it’s simplest to keep everyone on mute except the person who is talking, and just allow participants to un-mute themselves when they have something to say. This avoids unwanted noises, stops people talking over one another, and reduces the likelihood of pings and sounds when emails or other notifications come through. In fact, you could ask participants to turn off or mute notifications, if it’s possible to do so on their device, during the call as this can be highly disruptive.
Consider outsourcing – setting up and managing online meetings can take a disproportionate amount of time out of your day. Where you were once just booking a meeting room, you’re now having to schedule a meeting, send invites to participants and do more preparation. By working with someone like a virtual assistant for business meeting planning, you can just turn up at the meeting, saving yourself a great deal of time and hassle.
Remember to stay secure – this is particularly important if you are sharing your screen during a meeting. Be aware that participants can see exactly what is on your entire screen, so any tabs that are open in your browser and any other documents that might be minimised. You need to protect not just your own personal data but that of any customers or employees, so close down any windows that are not directly applicable to the meeting.
An experienced online meeting organiser may also advise you to use more than one screen, if you can, to help you manage chats or Q&A sessions without having to hop between applications on your meeting screen. If you are considering using break-out sessions within your meeting, a second screen would also be useful to help keep things separate.
To get the most value, you will need to make sure that your virtual meetings are well-managed, efficient and productive. Limiting the time that meetings take will help to reduce ‘virtual fatigue’ and make all our working days easier.
If you’re short on time and need help with organising online meetings, feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or use our contact form in the menu above.