5 Tips for Leading Effective Virtual Meetings

The world is wired, and that’s wonderful for business!  You can talk to anyone anytime in nearly any location using many methods.  However, remote communication can also present many challenges.

Have you ever been in a staff meeting that seemed like a pointless waste of time?  Now imagine that same meeting is happening via conference call.  It would be even more difficult to stay engaged and sort through the information.

That’s why when you’re leading virtual meetings, it’s critical to ensure they’re effective and engaging.  You still need to capture your audience’s interest, but now you have to overcome challenges like people multi-tasking, talk-over, and background noise.

So how do you ensure your call doesn’t become a Dilbert-like nightmare?  Some tips for keeping your calls on track are “no-brainers,” like having an agenda, starting on time, and keeping the meeting on-topic.  But to really make your virtual meetings magnificent, we’ve compiled 5 power tips from experts on running high performance meetings.

See if everyone just doesn’t get more engaged and in tune with your objectives by adding these expert tips to how you conduct your virtual meetings. Wouldn’t that be music to your ears?

Set Explicit Ground Rules

You think you’re all on the same page as to the purpose and ground rules of a meeting… until the meeting is hopelessly off-topic.  Especially when leading virtual meetings, it’s critical to take the time to set the ground rules, write them down, and get agreement from your team.  To avoid confusion over who might be speaking, one of your rules could be that everyone begins with their name before making a comment (the effectiveness of this depends on the size of the call).  In her post Top 6 Best Practices for Managing Virtual Teams, Star Dargin of Star Leadership suggests that one of your explicit rules be “No monologues – no more than three sentences before forcing an interaction.”  Wouldn’t it be great if all meetings were monologue-free?

Let Them Hear!

The technology used to meet virtually can make all the difference in how effectively your team engages.  For example, if all participants can use a headset with microphone, you’ll drastically improve their chances of being able to hear what’s going on, while minimizing background noise and improving the likelihood of engagement.  As Michael Watkins of Genesis Advisers says in his post Making Virtual Teams Work: Ten Basic Principles, remember that “selecting the ‘best’ technologies does not necessarily mean going with the newest or most feature-laden.  It’s essential not to sacrifice reliability in a quest to be on the cutting edge.”  If people struggle just to operate the technology, you’ll be losing ground instead of gaining it.

Get Participants Engaged

According to Julia Young, Vice President and co-founder of Facilitate.com, “engaging participants consistently comes up as the number one challenge in running effective meetings.”  Luckily, she also offers many suggestions for resolving this concern in Six Critical Factors for Running a Successful Virtual Meeting, such as assigning everyone a role (timekeeper, scribe, etc.).  Another great suggestion she offers for leading virtual meetings is to encourage discussion more often by asking questions, using names, and ensuring no more than 3 slides go by without some engaged interaction.

Take Notes!

The point of having a meeting is to move forward, whether in trying to gain understanding, get buy-in, or develop an action plan.  Meeting minutes play a critical role in helping team members remember what was said and what’s next.  One smart method called Minutes-On-The-Go is offered in Leading Virtual Teams by Arvind Malhotra, Ann Majchrzak, and Benson Rosen.  Someone takes minutes during the meeting, preferably on a shared screen.  This allows you to summarize action items and due dates more easily.  Using this method also helps ensure the minutes are concise, limited to decisions and pertinent discussion.

Use a Template

Can you believe this tip made the top 5?  Well, it did!  Using a template gives you many more benefits than you might expect.  As Jack Straw of Acting Smarts notes in Staff Meetings: “All for One and One for All!” using one standard presentation, but assigning a person to “own” 2 to 3 of the template’s slides, helps keep everyone on track and limits information overload.  Standardizing also cuts down on prep time, making updates faster and more efficient.

For as many challenges as there are in leading virtual meetings, there are also solutions.  We think these 5 expert tips are very helpful for ensuring meeting effectiveness.  If you want to make your meetings beyond magnificent, though, all of the linked posts are worth reading in their entirety, so go check them out!



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