Once upon a time, working from home was a dream that many had but only a lucky few lived. That is, of course, until the recent coronavirus thrust the world on its head and gave many companies no other option than to let their employees work remotely. In order to stay in touch and to keep communication at a high level, virtual meetings have gained popularity, and while most of us have some experience with them by now, here are a few quick tips for better virtual meetings.
Use Collaborative Agendas
Agendas are great tools that, while perhaps not used as much in face to face meetings, are essential to an effective online conference call. Since everyone is in their own home, things can quickly go off the rails leading to confusion which will not only prevent you from working but will likely also frustrate everyone involved. To avoid this it is important to have a rough plan of why the meeting is being held, what you want to cover in said meeting, and the overall goal you want to achieve by the end of it. Using collaborative agendas means that everyone will have access to it and will be able to stay on track and up to date at all times.
Set your Goals Early
As we just mentioned, having a set goal that you want to achieve from the beginning of the meeting will help keep everyone on track and moving forward. Whether you want to have a shared goal as a group, or if everyone has independent goals they want to achieve, it’s important that they are relayed to the group as early as possible to get things kicked off to a productive start.
Virtual meetings have a few downsides and one of the biggest is that people who would usually be talkative may feel as though they do not want to interrupt and will stay quiet at times that they would otherwise interject. Whether you are hosting the meeting or not, it is important that somebody has the job of maintaining the overall engagement of the group. This means keeping an eye out for anyone who is being quiet and either asking them a question or for their opinion on something. This will not only help to keep them engaged, but it will also make them feel like a valued member of the team, something that can quickly be forgotten when working alone at home.
Don’t Go on Too Long
Meetings are inherently boring affairs and when you take everyone out of a conference room and put them in the comfort of their own home, they tend to get distracted or bored far more easily. Zoom fatigue is also a very real thing that is caused by being stuck in online meetings for hours on end every day. To avoid a severe drop in productivity, try to keep any meeting around 30 minutes and under 45 minutes long. In the event where you are forced to go over 45 minutes, make sure you take plenty of breaks to keep everyone fresh, but as a rule try to keep your meetings as short as possible.
Be Sure to Break The ice
Joining a video call with your co-workers is very different from arriving at the office in the morning and saying hi over a cup of coffee. Unless you are very good friends with your co-workers, things will likely be a bit awkward at first. In this case, it falls to either the host of the call or the manager of the group to break the ice and kick everything off. This can be done in a variety of ways, for example, asking everyone a simple question when they join, presenting an opening graphic, or gathering opinions. It may sound simple and unnecessary, but it will definitely help to get things rolling smoothly rather than being awkward at first.
Remember Online Etiquette
Since body language is extremely hard to communicate over a video call, it is important that you do everything possible to show whoever is speaking that you are paying attention. Try to look directly into the camera as it makes it feel as though you are liking directly at them, whereas looking at them on your screen will result in your eyes pointing downwards and can make it seem like you are not listening.
Consider Recording your Meeting
Recording your meetings is not only a great way to take notes, but it is also extremely helpful for anyone unable to attend it. Instead of relying on other people to relay what happened, they can simply watch it and keep up to date with everything that was covered.
Use the Technology Available
Since you are online, make use of the technology available to you, a great example of this is to use virtual backgrounds that can help to reduce distractions and maintain your privacy by hiding anything behind you. Our favorite is Hello Backgrounds virtual backgrounds: full feature set that includes hundreds of options to choose from to ensure you can find a suitable background for any occasion. There are also other tools like virtual whiteboards and screen sharing, both of which allow you to effortlessly share information and ideas, sometimes even better than if you were all in the same room.
Finally, while virtual backgrounds can prevent distractions like people walking around behind you, it is important to remember the simple things, like muting your notifications and not browsing social media while you are in your meeting. This is common sense for ordinary meetings but being behind a screen can make it easy to hide, in order to keep moving forward swiftly, make sure everyone stays focused and avoids outside distractions for the duration of the meeting.