With the latest lockdown hitting all of New Zealand, many of us are spending time in virtual meetings again, bringing back memories of 2020. Globally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 6.5 billion minutes of virtual meetings have been attended by individuals - this number growing daily.
As time goes on, many people are becoming tired of online meetings and events that can sometimes seem to drag on much longer than needed. However, if you are leading the virtual meeting or planning on hosting one any time soon, there are some practical things that you can do in order to keep the rest of your group engaged and included.
Below we explore some thoughts around virtual meetings and how to make them as interesting and efficient as possible for you and those you are meeting with!
Choosing the Right Virtual Meeting Platform:
When planning a virtual meeting you want to start with the basis of the entire thing - its platform. Some research from the Project Management Institute shows that choosing the right platform is the key to a successful meeting. When thinking about what platform will suit your meeting best, these are some questions that you might want to ponder:
Can you record meetings? Having the ability to record your meeting is a useful tool if some invited attendees are unable to join the meeting in real-time. It also gives attendees the ability to review the meeting if they want to seek clarification around discussion points etc.
Does it have chat capabilities? Although a lot of online meeting platforms do allow attendees to send messages in a chat box to avoid interruption, some do not. This is a great tool to think about having if you are planning a meeting with a larger group in order to avoid as many interruptions as possible.
Can you personalise the meeting? If you are hosting a meeting with a prospective client you might want to think about giving them the full business branding experience just as they would receive if you were meeting in your offices. Some meeting platforms allow you to insert branding onto the screen and personalise the look to make it feel more like the image your business wants to portray.
Can you edit documents during the meeting? If you are hosting a meeting that involves a lot of collaboration, especially around documents such as budgets, business plans or assignments, you will want to ideally be using a platform that allows you to share your screen to the rest of the group, or even better allow everyone to edit documents in real time during the meeting.
Can you divide the attendees up for discussion? Some platforms allow you to create breakout meeting rooms in order to encourage and include smaller group discussion. This is an important factor to consider if you are hosting a meeting with a large number of attendees and are seeking feedback around certain things you may be discussing. It also allows more individuals to voice their thoughts and opinions.
Some of the most popular virtual meeting platforms now include Microsoft Teams, Zoom Meetings, Google Meet, StarLeaf Meetings and GoTo Meetings. All of these have their differences, but there is definitely one that will suit your needs well. If you are apart of a larger company it is likely that they will have access to a premium subscription of a virtual meeting software that you should be able to utilise.
Create a Virtual Meeting Agenda:
Just as you would do if you were hosting an in-person meeting, it is vitally important to have a meeting agenda in order to keep efficiency at a high and side-tracks to a minimum. Effective planning will lead to effective meetings so we highly encourage you to spend some time thinking ahead in order to keep those on your virtual meeting engaged and to start and finish your meeting on-time.
Here are some things to think about when planning your virtual meeting:
What is the goal? When planning, establish the what you really want to and need to accomplish within your virtual meeting first. From here, you can work backwards through the discussions or decisions that have to be had and made to reach the goal. Even if the purpose of the meeting is to just check in with your team, pick your mission and stick with it!
Who is leading the meeting? Virtual meetings often mean that there are multiple people participating in conversation. With the ability to read body language limited through a virtual context, this can sometimes cause overlapping conversation or the opposite - awkward silence. However, this can be avoided through designating a moderator to keep your meeting on track and on topic. Decide ahead of time who will introduce different topics or sections of your meeting.
Does everyone know the agenda? Whatever the platform you decide to use, you will need to send out an invite to all of the attendees. This is the perfect opportunity to send out an agenda as well, allowing attendees to be prepared for discussions and come with thoughts, hopefully allowing the meeting to be more efficient. Sending out an agenda ahead of time also avoids awkward off-topic questions or side-tracks that don't focus around the goal of the meeting which is often the cause of virtual meetings going overtime.
Running Your Virtual Meeting:
Running a virtual meeting has to be tackled quite differently to running an in-person meeting. Keeping people engaged and giving them opportunity to share their thoughts and opinion is so important in virtual meetings. Here are some things to consider when running your virtual meeting:
Questions: Deciding how attendees can ask questions is an important thing to make clear at the beginning of the meeting. It is a good idea to encourage attendees to post any questions at any time in the chat box. You could also think about having designated Q&A times throughout the agenda. Allowing questions and comments is an important way to keep people engaged within a virtual meeting.
- Moderate the meeting: To keep people engaged it is a good idea to continuously moderate the meeting through calling on people throughout the meeting to answer questions or offer thoughts. This could be through the chat box or verbally. If there are particular participants that you notice are distracted or not engaged, prompt them to add to the discussion. Inclusion will add to how effective your meeting turns out to be as people will feel heard and important thoughts and questions will not be missed.
Inclusion of tasks: At the beginning of the meeting you could assign different tasks to different attendees in order to keep them engaged. This could be note-taking or it could be a blanket task for everyone such as coming up with three feedback points from a discussion.
Include normal conversation: Just like you would at the beginning and end of any normal in-person meeting, it is important to create a short amount of space for 'normal' conversation and connection. This is especially important during lockdown situations where some people may not have much connection with others and may feel isolated. Allowing for this time can also help to break the ice if you have a group that are unfamiliar with each other. You can easily work this into your agenda if you want to include it in your meeting time!
Overall, virtual meetings are a key part to modern society in 2021. With a pandemic still running wild around the world, online meetings are not going away any time soon. They also allow for much broader connection with different regions, cities and countries, saving time and money.
Ultimately attendee's engagement will largely depend on the energy and engagement of those running the virtual meeting. Sometimes it can be hard, but through the different softwares available and many other tools around you can easily make it fun while still meeting the goals you set out to achieve.
Once the meeting is over it is a good idea to send a follow up email or message that might contain notes from the meeting and possibly a recording of it if you choose to go down this platform route. Following up with attendees is a great way to summarise what was achieved and lay out a clear plan of what needs to be done (if anything) to continue achieving the goals you were focusing on.
If you are in need of a device to carry out virtual meetings our team here at DeXTech would love to help you find one that suits your needs! Just get in touch with us today.
Here at DeXTech, we are here to help you with your technology requirements. We stock a wide range of Apple products, from the iPhone 4s all the way through to the iPhone XS, plus the iPad range. Along with this, we carry a huge range of Android smartphones and tablets, including Samsung, Pixel and LG. With these devices on hand we are able to offer technical support every step of the way from assisting to get your device setup to dealing with issues such as network issues or software troubleshooting. We have a helpful team who can lend a hand via our tech support email address: email@example.com. Do not hesitate to reach out!