December 15, 2020

5 Top Tips to Get the Most Out of Virtual Meetings

Since the COVID pandemic, virtual office meetings have become an inevitable challenge to contend with. From forgetting your mic’s on mute to pets that want in on the action, there are countless opportunities on offer to commit a social faux pas.

While you can’t control these variables, you CAN ensure the meeting is as inclusive and interesting as possible.

With the above in mind, here are five top tips to make the most of virtual meetings and prevent Zoom fatigue from disengaging your list of attendees…

Top Tip No.1: Create a Clear Agenda in Advance (and Solicit Feedback Beforehand)

As with most things in life, planning is key to success – and virtual meetings are no exception! After scheduling a meeting, you should include a link in the invite to a doc that lists the agenda. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules on the structure, a stage-by-stage breakdown of the meeting ensures everyone’s on the same page. Within this document, it’s important to include hyperlinks to other pages of interest – especially if certain attendees are expected to add to these sections. If you’re seeking specific feedback, highlight the relevant sections to encourage attendees to comment. Time permitting, you can touch on these points in the meeting, enabling others to expand on these insights.

Top Tip No.2: Encourage Inputs From Introverts by Appointing a Moderator

When it comes to virtual meetings, encouraging everyone to participate can feel like an uphill battle. Despite setting a clear agenda, extroverts can quickly dominate discussions leaving others feeling unheard. To prevent this, consider appointing a moderator. Rather than leaving things to chance, a moderator encourages attendees to contribute, whilst preventing more vocal members from permanently holding the floor. Additionally, a moderator can help quieter participants to make full use of the chat. This allows them to voice their suggestions or ask burning questions that the moderator can answer directly.

Top Tip No.3: Remain Attentive to Physical Cues that can Help You “Read the Room”

Unlike face-to-face meetings, where you can suss out the state of play, virtual video calls require extra vigilance. Tone, expression and body language are far harder to read through a screen, making it crucial to look for cues that signal an interjection. If an attendee shifts in their seat or takes their mic off of mute they will likely be preparing to talk. Natural lulls in the room can also be misconstrued. Instead of signalling an awkward silence, they may simply be purposeful pauses where the speaker is gathering their thoughts. Alternatively, you may spot a subtle shift in overall levels of engagement. If this happens, it’s generally a surefire sign that someone’s gone off at a tangent (rather than following the agreed-on agenda.) By reading the room in this way you ensure the time available is as focused and fruitful as possible.

Top Tip No.4: Avoid the Tendency to Multi-Task and Offer Your Full Attention

Whether you’re frantically playing catch-up, or working through an endless to-do list, perfecting the art of multitasking can help you remain on track. Although this is true to a certain extent, extending this practice to virtual meetings is practically asking for trouble – with surreptitious attempts at typing easily caught on camera.  Even muting your mic will fail to cover your tracks; on video, inattentive listeners are obvious with the lack of eye contact on-call an instant giveaway to others. Moral of the story? Avoid the tendency to multitask and offer your full attention. That way, you’ll be able to draw out more insights from others (and avoid embarrassing moments that force you to request a recap.)

Top Tip No.5: Summarise Key Takeaways and Schedule Follow Up Actions

So…you’ve held the meeting, inspired some lively discussions -and now it’s time for the follow-up! Once you’ve wrapped things up, it’s crucial to ensure that attendees are aware of action items and who’s responsible for what. Depending on the size of the meeting, you can create breakout groups to discuss each takeaway and devise a workable strategy to put these plans into action. Rather than committing these points to memory, it’s worth putting them in writing to ensure everyone is on the same page. A shared Google doc is ideal for the purpose, enabling attendees to collaborate on action points and update their progress in real-time before the next session begins.