How Great Leaders Conduct Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings have become the norm in today's society. Most professionals have adapted to this change of pace remarkably well. Even so, managing a virtual meeting is no easy task. A great leader should successfully chair a virtual meeting to ensure everyone feels involved and welcome. However, despite the ubiquitous presence of these meetings, many leaders suffer when trying to control them and ensure participation.
More often than not, attendees see virtual meetings as a way to multitask, not to contribute to the ongoing discussion. Tech Republic notes that as many as three-quarters of employees mentioned multitasking while on a work meeting call. For a great leader to drive interaction and encourage sharing of views in their virtual meetings, they need to approach it from the perspective of an attendee. A great leader who wants to conduct a viable virtual meeting should look at the most critical aspects of the meeting holistically.
Set A Purpose and Make it Clear
In the past, many meetings were scheduled but had no purpose. However, with Zoom and Microsoft Teams limiting the amount of time that users have on free accounts, it's essential that the meeting has a well-defined purpose. Defining the meeting's purpose also allows the manager to avoid keeping the attendees longer than they should.
As TED tells us, Zoom fatigue is a real thing and tends to set in when a video call goes beyond half an hour. Having a meeting that drops concise points and closes off successfully ensures that the leader doesn't lose the attendees' attention. Ideally, the standard length of an online session should not go beyond thirty minutes. The more concise and to the point it is, the better the attendees will feel about it.
Set Up Ground Rules
When engaging in a virtual meeting, the rules of etiquette from real-world meetings may not apply. The manager of a virtual meeting needs to set specific ground rules up so that attendees know what is expected of them. For example, an attendee should be on-time for the conference, although getting there ahead of time is also preferable.
Attendees should also have their audio muted unless they're asking questions, so their background noise doesn't impact the meeting. Laptops should be used over phones since laptops will offer stronger connections and better video.
Ideally, the attendees should avoid distracting actions such as eating or drinking. Many video conferencing software has a function for raising one's hand, and using it in a meeting can help with communication scheduling so that everyone is heard.
Test Technology and Connectivity in Advance
When someone joins a meeting, they want to get into it as soon as possible. For a presenter, testing their connection and the client they're using is crucial to preparing to host a meeting. Virtual meetings depend on technology functioning as expected, so testing beforehand with a mock call can help work out details that might go wrong later on. A company may prefer one tech provider over another. If the team is used to working remotely, they may already be familiar with specific tools, and it may be better to stick to what the team is used to using for their regular communication.
Be Flexible in Your Agenda
If you're looking at a thirty-minute meeting, you should condense your meeting schedule to be more flexible. You should have a few bullet points that outline what you want to talk about. The leader must keep the overall purpose of the meeting as defined above when crafting these agenda points. Break down the overall goal into a few points and use those to guide discussion in the meeting. For a thirty-minute meeting, you should be looking at around four to five points, spending five minutes apiece on them with enough time for introduction and closing. This approach means that the team needs to skip the "admiring the problem" part of a meeting that derails the discussion and drives attendees down tangential exploration. Instead, be concise and focus on what matters for the meeting's purpose.
Keep Attendance Down To The Necessary Personnel
Who benefits from this meeting? Is it necessary for a whole department to be present for their input? When planning the audience for a virtual meeting, these are vital questions to ask. It may be tempting to say "yes" and invite everyone from a department, but this could be a costly mistake. Smaller groups tend to get more out of a meeting than larger ones.
Harvard Business Review tells us this is known as The Ringelmann Effect - the more people attending a meeting, the less responsible each person feels for the success of the conference. Larger groups tend to isolate individuals and make them feel like it's difficult to participate. A great leader can push for the engagement they want from the virtual meeting by keeping the groups manageable.
Cater To Your Audience
Some approaches work better than others when it comes to business meetings. Knowing your audience is a critical part of both marketing and meeting management. Each team has different approaches to their meetings. A finance team, for example, would be more focused on metrics and key performance indicators for the bottom line. The sales team would be looking at their own version of key performance indicators and may have a more relaxed approach to their overall strategy.
Some meetings might work better if conducted in a suit and tie, while others are better in casual office wear. The audience will find it much easier to feel a part of the meeting and engage if it engages them directly. The meeting should also consider the company or team's culture and build around what they see as entertaining and fun.
It's Still a Meeting
While a meeting has to be engaging and grasp the audience's attention, it still needs to accomplish its goals. The purpose defined in the earliest part of the meeting planning helps to keep the meeting on course and avoid it getting sidetracked by another discussion. It's still a meeting with a goal and pertinent points of discussion. Some of those points might spawn discussion for subsequent sessions. However, the overall purpose of the meeting needs to be met. For a great leader to chair a successful virtual meeting, they have to balance the needs of the meeting with the needs of the attendees.