Virtual meetings: 7 ways to make them more effective

We’ve all been stuck in a bad meeting, whether it’s in our current company or in a previous job.The classic signs are usually pretty obvious: there’s no agenda, nobody’s in charge, the meeting starts late or overruns and you find yourself wondering if you should even be in the meeting in the first place. And…

Screens define and separate our lives. Most of us spend a significant amount of time on them, and as the last few years have shown, we are increasingly relying on them to communicate with our colleagues and teammates. However, they are not always free of distractions, particularly in virtual meetings. Distractions abound on our screens, and the uncanny valley that exists between them and real-world social cues can make it difficult to communicate with others or even focus.

To summarize, working in Extended Teams means working with colleagues from abroad, which means more virtual meetings and we’re here to help you make those meetings more organized and productive.

1. Schedule your virtual meetings ahead of time

Virtual meetings are no exception. An organized meeting is always more effective. Prepare a meeting agenda in advance of your virtual meeting and ensure that all members of your team receive it. As a result, your remote team will have enough time to contact you with any items they believe should be added, prepare for what needs to be discussed, or attend the meeting with questions. Your agenda will also function as a virtual meeting roadmap and a structure for taking meeting notes.

2. Remove all distractions

Background noise can be distracting to both you and everyone else in your virtual meetings. Even if you have the best noise-canceling headphones, sounds from particularly loud environments can still bleed through and prevent you from hearing what others are saying. The solution is simple: only hold virtual meetings in quiet rooms, and request that your attendees do the same.

Visuals can be just as distracting as sounds. Request that your attendees join your meetings from areas with no decorations or other visual distractions. One viable option is to blur the background.

3. Establish a specific goal

Effective virtual meetings move you and your team closer to meeting SMART objectives. Your chances of success skyrocket if these objectives are clearly stated in your meeting agenda. Your objectives can be as simple as receiving daily updates from everyone involved in a project or as complex as finalizing the monthly budget. As long as everyone on your team is on the same page, video conferencing can be just as effective as in-person meetings.

4. Begin by greeting everyone

To run an effective meeting of any kind, all attendees must be focused and engaged. One effective method is to address everyone present at the outset. Simply greet your team members as if they were entering an in-person meeting through a real door. This way, your team members are more likely to feel valued and to continue paying attention and contributing.

5. Do not stay any longer than necessary.

Although acknowledging everyone’s presence is important for keeping your team’s attention on the meeting, neither you nor your colleagues have infinite attention spans. Even the most attentive attendees may find themselves tuning out when virtual events go on for too long. Running virtual meetings entails knowing when to call a halt.

For example, instead of allowing conversations to drag on indefinitely, record specific items as topics to revisit next time. Furthermore, while hour-long meetings are common, some experts argue that 30 minutes is the ideal meeting length. Consider this as you plan your meeting; remember, attention spans are limited.

6. Identify meeting action items and assign them appropriately.

Your team should leave your conversations with concrete meeting action items that they can implement immediately following the meeting. As the meeting progresses, you can create these action items in real-time. Alternatively, you can arrive at your meeting with a list of predetermined action items to assign during your discussions. In either case, effective virtual meetings always result in action items, the outcomes of which should be discussed at your next meeting.

7. Remind meeting participants of key decisions.

Don’t forget to summarize the key decisions made at the end of the meeting. It’s easy to lose track of all the important discussion points and action items that were discussed during a meeting. To make this easier, highlight or bold any key decisions made during the meeting so you can quickly scan your meeting notes at the end. A meeting recap can increase productivity and accountability on your team.

Nothing behind successful virtual meetings is too difficult to determine meeting goals, send out a meeting agenda, or free yourself from distractions. As long as you schedule enough time to check all of the above boxes, your virtual meetings should be productive and, dare we say, enjoyable.

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