You would think by now that following virtual meeting best practices would be the norm, just like the virtual meetings themselves are. But over the past year (and change), we’ve all sat through screen meetings with people showing up late, talking over each other, and more. A bad virtual meeting can quickly demonstrate which virtual meeting facilitation tips are most important. This blog will go over some key virtual meeting best practices to benefit you and your audience.
9 Tips for Running a Virtual Meeting
Every day, the American workforce conducts 11 million meetings. That’s 55 million meetings a week and 2.5 billion meetings every year. Since 2008, the statistics show that the amount of time we spend in meetings has gradually increased by an average of 15%. Middle managers spend more time in meetings than that; about 35% of their week is spent meeting, meeting, and meeting again. Upper management has a higher figure still, at about one-half their work week.
Then there is the time spent prepping for meetings, which the data says is another four hours a week. Think you have too many meetings? You are obviously not alone. Surveys show 67% of employees say meetings make them less productive.
Part of the problem may be that our meetings are inefficient. Much of the workforce would probably agree. This phenomenon isn’t new, but as we’ve moved to a new norm of remote, virtual meetings, some facilitators may lack the virtual meeting best practices they need to improve the efficiency of the experience. That’s why we decided to compile our top 9 virtual meeting facilitation tips to help you get in and get out of meetings faster and more efficiently.
Tip 1: Follow meeting etiquette. Every meeting attendee should be reminded to arrive on time and be prepared for the meeting, just as they would an offline meeting. This requires the meeting facilitator to send out the meeting agenda in advance. While you can be understanding of situations that arise, you owe it to the people that follow the rules and arrive on time to start the meeting on time.
Participants should check their equipment before the event and make sure they can log in with no problem. As the meeting facilitator, it is your responsibility to follow standard meeting protocols of sticking to the agenda and accomplishing the tasks you’ve assigned.
Tip 2: Have a backup plan. What happens if your internet connectivity goes down? What happens if there’s a technical issue, or you have an urgent client call or some other emergency? Do you have a backup facilitator or can the meeting be rescheduled? If you have a second person on the team who can provide technical support, make sure they’re empowered to handle troubleshooting. Alternatively, make sure you can get assistance from the vendor who provides the video conferencing solution.
While this may not be as important during a regular internal meeting, what if it’s a client meeting, a sales pitch, or a big webinar with 100 (or more) participants? You know the expression, “failing to plan is like planning to fail?” For critical meetings, have a support person on standby to help you monitor the technology as well as chat comments, Q&As, or even timekeeping to be sure you end on time.
Tip 3: Tie the group together. At the beginning of the call, especially if this isn’t a regular meeting, either allow people to introduce themselves (if it’s a small meeting) or otherwise acknowledge participants. During this process, make sure the expectations are set that you want participants to use their video cameras (or don’t, if that’s your preference). Whenever possible, it is a good idea to allow participants to use their cameras, as being face to face allows for nuances of expression that will help people bond together, especially during a virtual event.
Tip 4: Make sure you understand the collaboration tools found in the software you’re using. Each video conferencing vendor is different. As the meeting facilitator, you should be an expert in how to use yours. Your vendor may provide you with some training that will help.
One tip for virtual meeting success is to keep in mind that these digital events are different from on-site meetings. Some regular meeting rules apply and some simply do not. For example, sending out the meeting agenda in advance is a rule of thumb for all gatherings. But in a virtual event, you can replace verbal responses with chats and polling in cases where the verbal back and forth is causing disruption to the meeting. Be sure you’re familiar with all the options available.
Tip 5: Do set some ground rules. This is one of the biggest areas where many virtual meeting facilitators fall short. To run a better virtual meeting, we recommend establishing rules so that your participants understand their obligations:
· Arrive and start on time.
· No private chats.
· No multitasking or checking email (petting the dog is okay).
· Requiring video vs. being audio-only.
· Keep external speakers on mute.
· Keep cell phones out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind.
Tip 6: Set expectations for the meeting. This is another tip for a virtual meeting that we often see neglected. Quickly go over the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. State what your goals are and solicit audience feedback for anything you’ve missed that they want to add. This will help engage everyone in the success of the meeting.
Tip 7: Don’t judge silly question or typos. The point is to ensure everyone is engaged. If ideas are flying into the meeting space, why worry about something being grammatically correct? Use your facilitator skills and call on people to let them speak. Talk about how important sharing ideas can be in this process and thank people for participating. Also, don’t let more aggressive participants drown out the voices of the quiet ones. Over 67% of meeting participants say being talked over is one of the biggest challenges during a virtual meeting.
Tip 8: Promote interaction during your virtual events. As the facilitator, you have an opportunity to engage participants in several ways. For example:
· Design your meeting in a way that invites questions and comments.
· Make people feel more comfortable by calling on them by name.
· Whenever possible, phrase your questions as open ended, which will help facilitate more dialogue between attendees.
· Be direct but be careful not to intimidate the speaker.
· Use polling and chat features to engage.
· Allow personalities to assert themselves, but don’t let people dominate the event.
It’s important to recognize that people have a varying capacity and comfort level for communicating via video conferencing. It’s your job as the facilitator to give everyone the tools they need to participate in the process.
Tip 9: Use the right virtual meeting communication tools. The best meeting organizers use Meets by Business Pro for a smooth online experience.
Meets by Business Pro is the vehicle for your next webinar marketing initiative. We offer our clients a feature-rich webinar hosting platform along with our video conferencing service. You can conduct online training, product demonstrations, or other events, record them, and share with your customers in all kinds of ways to benefit your organization. Meets by Business Pro is a 100% browser-based, encrypted and secure video conferencing tool, so no frustrating, risky downloads to slow your customers down.
We are standing by to help you maximize your webinar content. Call on us to find out how we can help your business.