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How to run more productive virtual meetings
With the advent of remote work and global business, virtual meetings have become essential for communication and collaboration. Virtual meetings can be just as effective as in-person meetings. All it takes is the right preparation, facilitation, and communication skills. But let’s say you don’t have the right tools and techniques. Then virtual meetings can quickly become disorganized and unproductive. Unproductive meetings take up an average of 31 hours per month, and you already have enough on your plate.
This post is for remote workers, managers, or business owners. Here, we'll explore the importance of virtual meetings and share tips to help you get the most out of your virtual meetings. The insights in this post will enable you to improve your remote meetings and drive productivity for your team.
The importance of virtual meetings
Virtual meetings have become increasingly important today. They allow people to communicate and collaborate with others who may be located in different geographic locations or time zones. As companies become more distributed, virtual meetings become more critical to maintaining relationships and getting work done. They help improve productivity in problem-solving, decision-making, and brainstorming.
Virtual meetings are cost-efficient. Companies leverage virtual meeting capabilities to avoid costly air travel, accommodation, and other expenses. Instead, executives only need a computer, webcam, microphone, and internet connection to connect with people in different parts of the globe. Additionally, virtual meetings save time, and being able to meet virtually means that companies can reduce the time spent preparing for in-person meetings.
Another significant benefit of virtual meetings is that they offer increased flexibility. Remote workers or employees who work in different offices can participate wherever they're located, at any time of day or night. Virtual meetings have no geographical limitations, making them accessible to people regardless of their location. This has been an advantage in the wake of the pandemic, where most companies had to enforce work-from-home policies to limit the spread of the virus.
Virtual meetings also provide an opportunity for real-time collaboration. Collaboration is critical to the success of any organization. And virtual meetings offer a platform for individuals to work together on important projects in real-time. Virtual meetings can incorporate features such as screen-sharing, file-sharing, and interactive whiteboards to support real-time collaboration. This makes virtual meetings an effective platform for brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Preparing for a successful virtual meeting
Virtual meetings allow individuals who are not in the same geographical location to come together and achieve a common goal. By using virtual meeting tools such as video conferencing, team members can connect from anywhere in the world and collaborate effectively.
Prepare ahead of time
To ensure a successful virtual meeting, it is crucial to prepare adequately. This includes understanding the objective of the meeting, inviting the right participants, creating an agenda, and sharing it with the participants. Before the meeting, it is advisable to test the tools and technology to be used during the session. This lets you check if there are any technical glitches. The right preparation helps to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly, with minimal disruptions, and that the desired outcomes are achieved.
Another aspect of preparing for a successful virtual meeting is to allocate specific roles to the participants. The participants could be assigned various roles depending on the size and purpose of the meeting. You could assign people to be the facilitator, timekeeper, secretary, or even moderator. Doing so helps manage the meeting efficiently, and this ensures that each participant stays engaged throughout the session. It also streamlines the decision-making process and prevent information overload.
It is also essential to set virtual meeting etiquette, such as meeting time, dress code, and expected background noise. This helps to maintain professionalism and discipline during the virtual meeting. Creating a conducive virtual meeting environment that everyone can follow ensures that the discussion stays on track and that everyone is participating effectively. Preparing adequately for a virtual meeting helps ensure that it is productive and that everyone stays focused throughout the session.
Facilitating a productive virtual meeting
Virtual meetings allow for seamless communication across geography, time zones, and cultures. But for virtual meetings to be effective, someone needs to take the lead and facilitate them. A facilitator with excellent communication skills is critical for managing the time, controlling the agenda, and ensuring that everyone in attendance has a chance to contribute.
A productive virtual meeting requires a facilitator to be organized and prepared. They should plan the meeting agenda ahead of time and share it with all attendees. A well-organized agenda allows everyone to know what to expect. Additionally, the facilitator should ensure that all attendees have the necessary materials and technology to participate in the meeting. A tech check before the meeting can identify any potential issues and avoid disruptions during the meeting.
During the meeting, the facilitator should monitor participants' engagement levels and adjust their communication style accordingly. They should ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate and that the conversation stays focused on the agenda items. The facilitator should also manage the time and keep the meeting from running over the allotted time. They should make sure that everyone leaves the meeting with a clear understanding of what was discussed, what decisions were made, and what actions need to be taken.
Effective communication in virtual meetings
Effective communication lies at the heart of successful virtual meetings. With physical cues missing, attendees must rely solely on visual and auditory communication, which makes it essential to ensure that communication happens effectively.
First, all participants should be encouraged to speak up and contribute to discussions, which helps maintain engagement. Secondly, there should be an understanding that everyone must listen to each other. People must avoid speaking over one another. This respect for each other's opinions and viewpoints builds trust and rapport, which is essential for productive meetings.
Meeting participants should also use non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures. These can enhance communication and improve understanding. Encourage participants to use webcams during meetings to help in reading non-verbal cues. Conversely, the majority of virtual meetings also include phone or audio-only participants. It is crucial to remember that they are potentially missing considerable non-verbal communication. It is best to use clear and concise language when addressing them, and allowing short pauses before shifting topics goes a long way in ensuring that remote participants can follow the conversation.
Active listening is critical for effective remote communication. Concentrate on what participants are saying and how they are saying it. Encourage note-taking, which can help participants stay engaged, stay awake, and recall important details of the discussion. It also shows the speaker that the attendee is taking an interest and paying attention. Through active note-taking, attendees can compile crucial action items and ensure that follow-up communication happens effectively.
Remote meetings shouldn't be an email replacement for those unable to attend in person. Quite the contrary, creating space to build rapport is far more important when everyone is remote. In an office setting, there is a sense of community without having to force it. But now, you need to facilitate that sense of community. Spend the first few minutes just trying to catch up a bit. Concerns, to-do lists, or talking about how you've coped with remote work – anything that's long-form – can help encourage those working from home to feel a sense of belonging.
Tools and technology for virtual meetings
Having the right tools and technology can make all the difference in ensuring your team is engaged and productive.
Video conferencing software
First and foremost, a reliable virtual meeting platform is crucial. Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype allow anyone to attend virtual meetings. They offer features such as screen sharing, breakout rooms, and virtual backgrounds to enhance the virtual meeting experience. It's also important to ensure that everyone has access to a stable internet connection. This is so you can avoid disruptions.
Another valuable tool for online meetings is a digital whiteboard. This can be used for brainstorming and outlining ideas. Platforms like Google Jamboard and Miro offer online collaborative whiteboards that can be accessed by multiple team members in real-time. Document sharing is also important during virtual meetings, and platforms like Google Docs or Dropbox are useful for sharing files and collaborating on projects.
Project management tools
To keep virtual meetings organized, project management tools like Trello or Asana can be utilized to keep track of action items and deadlines. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and accountable for completing tasks. Additionally, using instant messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams can be useful for quick communication and sharing updates without interrupting the flow of the meeting.
Accessibility and inclusivity
Lastly, it's important to consider accessibility and inclusivity when selecting tools and technology for virtual meetings. Ensure that all team members have access to the necessary tools and that they are user-friendly for individuals with disabilities. Using closed captions, providing transcripts, and utilizing screen readers are ways to make virtual meetings more accessible for all attendees.
Tips for improving virtual meeting productivity
So how to improve the overall productivity of virtual meetings? There are several things you can do as a facilitator or attendee.
End meetings on time
One key tip is to start and end meetings promptly. With many people working from home and juggling multiple responsibilities, sticking to a defined schedule can prevent late starts, disruptions, and prolonging the length of the meeting.
Set clear objectives
Another tip for improving virtual meeting productivity is to have a clear agenda and objectives. This goes for in-person meetings as well but is particularly essential for virtual meetings where distractions are plentiful. Clearly defining what the meeting will cover and what the desired outcome is will keep attendees focused and engaged. It's also important to share the agenda ahead of time and let attendees prepare accordingly.
Building on the importance of preparation, recommending that participants avoid multitasking during the meeting can also improve productivity. With the mute button at their fingertips, it can be tempting for attendees to take on other tasks while in a virtual meeting. Encourage everyone to stay engaged and remain focused on the topics at hand. This will ensure that productive conversations and decision-making can take place.
Test the virtual meeting software
And while technology can make virtual meetings efficient and effective, it can also be a source of frustration when technical issues arise. By testing the technology ahead of time and providing clear instructions for accessing the virtual meeting, attendees will be able to fully participate, without losing time or patience to technical difficulties. This can go a long way in making meetings productive and inclusive for all involved.
Be more productive with online scheduling
Another way to help you stay productive is to implement online scheduling. If you’re a business professional, online scheduling tools allow you to manage your appointments more efficiently.
With B12’s online scheduling, staying organized and keeping track of your appointments has never been easier. Our scheduling software simplifies bookings, reducing the chances of double booking and cancellations. Connect with your clients seamlessly, and get notified on all your appointments. You can even invite your entire team to use B12 and stay organized. Sign up now!
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