What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting

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Pioneers are the ones with arrows in their back, the rest of us are tourists, but not THIS time. It's ALL new. We're ALL pioneers exploring uncharted territory. Virtually all of our members are distributed, some worldwide. I found this extremely practical list of how to run virtual meetings, even between work-at-home staffs in the same town. I hope you find it useful and good luck 'out there' . Mike

What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting

As companies scramble to protect employees from the spreading coronavirus with travel restrictions and remote work arrangements, there’s a distinct possibility that in-person meetings with teams, customers, or suppliers may be canceled for days — or potentially weeks. (NOTE: or even MONTHS)

Under the best of circumstances, as soon as one or two attendees “dial in” to any meeting, productivity starts to suffer. There’s a long list of reasons. Attendees often interpret virtual meetings as a license to multi-task. Meeting organizers tend to be less careful with the purpose and design of the conversation. And it’s not uncommon for one or two attendees to dominate the discussion while others sit back and “tune out.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Virtual meetings — even impromptu one’s sparked by fears of a contagion — can be run more effectively, using basic meeting best practices and easy-to-use, inexpensive technology.

Here are 12 steps you can take to make that happen:

1. Use video. To make people feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting, use video conferencing rather than traditional conference dial-ins. Technology — such as Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting — helps to personalize the conversation and to keep participants engaged.

2. That said, always provide an audio dial-in option. Video conferencing can work very well, but it relies on a strong internet connection that may not always be available. People need the ability to participate via audio, but make it clear that video-first is the new norm.

3. Test the technology ahead of time. Nothing kills momentum at the start of a meeting like a 15-minute delay because people need to download software, can’t get the video to work, etc. Prior to a virtual meeting, all participants should test the technology and make sure they are comfortable with the major features. And remember, supplier or customer conversations may require your team to familiarize themselves with different software packages.

4. Make sure faces are visible. Video conferences are more effective when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language. Ask individuals to sit close to their webcam to help to recreate the intimacy of an in-person meeting.

5. Stick to meeting basics. Prior to the conversation, set clear objectives, and send a pre-read if appropriate. During the session, use an agenda, set meeting ground rules, take breaks, and clearly outline next steps (including timing and accountabilities) after each section and at the end of the meeting.

6. Minimize presentation length. The only thing worse than a long presentation in person is a long presentation during a virtual meeting. Meetings should be discussions. Background information should be provided beforehand. If someone needs to present, use screen sharing to guide the conversation, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.” But prioritize conversation to maximize the time people are looking at each other. Read More