More and more businesses and organizations are holding meetings virtually. In fact, from 2020 to 2022, virtual meetings rose from 48 to 77%, according to Quixy.

However, effectively leading virtual meetings requires a special approach to

  • ensure productivity,
  • engagement and
  • seamless communication.

Here are some things I do in my executive coaching practice to ensure successful virtual meetings.

1. Set Clear Objectives and Agendas

Before scheduling the virtual gathering,

  • define your objectives and devise a well-structured agenda.
  • Then share these with participants well ahead of the meeting so everyone can prepare accordingly.

2. Choose the Right Collaboration Tools

There are numerous platforms available, such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, each offering unique features and functionalities.

It’s important to consider the needs of your team and select a platform that enables

  • seamless communication,
  • screen sharing,
  • document collaboration and
  • video conferencing.

Familiarize yourself with the chosen platform before the meeting to facilitate a smooth experience.

3. Create an Engaging Virtual Environment

Maintaining participant engagement is crucial during virtual meetings. It is easy for people to check out.

  • Encourage interaction by using features like polling, chat functions and/or breakout rooms.
  • Move beyond the traditional presentation format and adopt interactive elements to maximize participation.
  • Consider incorporating visuals, videos or interactive documents that encourage attendees to get involved rather than just observing.
  • Have 5-7 minute breaks every 35-40 minutes. Ask participants to get up, look away from their screens, stretch and move around.

Engaged participants are more likely to contribute meaningfully and retain key takeaways.

4. Set Norms for Effective Communication

In a virtual setting, where non-verbal cues are limited, it is essential to establish clear communication guidelines. Encourage all participants to use their webcams, as seeing each other’s faces can foster a sense of connection and attentiveness.

Establish ground rules for muting and unmuting microphones to reduce background noise and promote focused communication. Encourage active listening and provide opportunities for everyone to contribute, ensuring that even the quieter team members have a chance to share their thoughts and insights.

5. Start and End on Time

Virtual meetings can quickly become unproductive if time management is not effectively implemented:

  • Allocate fixed time slots for each agenda item as part of the meeting structure.
  • Stick to these time limits to ensure discussions remain focused and relevant (a facilitator helps).
  • Be mindful of participants’ time zones and availability.
  • Consider scheduling shorter, more frequent meetings instead of long, exhausting sessions to maintain energy and productivity. No meeting should go more than two hours with at least two breaks.

6. Follow Up

To ensure accountability and provide a reference point, it is important to follow up after virtual meetings. Share meeting minutes, action items and any relevant documents promptly with all participants. Transparency and clear communication foster an environment of ownership and accountability, enabling team members to track progress and stay aligned with defined objectives.

Tips for Participants

  1. Don’t try to do anything else during the meeting.
  2. Turn your camera on.
  3. Make sure you have the right gear.
    Invest in a quality webcam and microphone so you’re putting your best foot forward. Built-in webcams and microphones aren’t the best quality. Take a look at web-cams and microphones on Amazon. It’ll be money well spent–specifically if your role is remote.
  4. Set up your workspace before the call.
  5. Speak clearly and slowly.
  6. Be thorough and descriptive.
  7. Share your screen to illustrate your points.
  8. Complete your to-dos in a timely manner.

Done right, remote meetings can be more productive than in-person gatherings.

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