How to manage virtual meetings

Jun 30, 2017 by
How to manage virtual meetings

In a 2017 survey of American workers, 51% said they would change jobs for one offering flexitime. In a separate study, 82% of employees reported lower stress when working remotely.

It’s little surprise then that businesses are moving away from the traditional 9-5 office setting and embracing outsourcing. With remote work, companies can lower their overhead costs while leveraging the international labour market. Plus, employees can work productively without having to deal with the constant distractions of open-plan offices.

Since remote work is becoming more popular, the way we run meetings needs to evolve. Virtual meetings aren’t inherently more difficult than in-person meetings, but they do come with their own set of challenges. If you want to run productive virtual meetings these 4 tips may come in handy.

1 – Video trumps audio

Audio calls are perfectly acceptable for running online meetings, but they aren’t as effective as video calls. Body language and facial expressions are key when you’re talking to someone – without them, you leave yourself open to misinterpretation.

Plus, being able to see one another helps the participants to build rapport. It’s hard to establish a relationship with someone when you’ve never seen their face! Video is definitely the best communication tool if you want to keep your participants active and engaged throughout the meeting.

2 – Timing matters

Timing clocIf you’re running meetings with participants who live across the world from one another, there needs to be some compromise in terms of the time of the meetings. Sometimes, you might have to join the meeting in your leisure time. It’s only fair – next week your counterpart in New Zealand may have to do the same. Try to alternate the times as often as possible. If you do require someone to join a meeting at an unusual time, give them plenty of notice to avoid aggravation.

3 – Moderate effectively

In real meetings, it’s difficult to drift off. You’re in the same room as everyone else, you usually have the opportunity to contribute. However, if virtual meetings aren’t moderated properly they can become dominated by the more extroverted participants on the call. As a solution to this, actively pause the discussion and ask for opinions from the quieter participants. This will help to keep everyone active and engaged throughout.

Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore writes:

Encourage each participant to share their ideas and contribute to the group. It’s important to make participants feel important by soliciting their feedback. Otherwise, they might get bored and zone out.

Additionally, as a moderator it’s really important that you make sure people use the mute buttons when they aren’t talking. While all participants should ideally use headphones, if someone is using speakers and has loud noises in their environment, everyone on the call will be able to hear it.

4 – Get feedback

As with in-person meetings, you should always solicit feedback after a virtual meeting. Ask participants whether they felt engaged, if the meeting was productive, if all technologies worked effectively and what could be improved in the future. Outsourcing of this kind is still a relatively new phenomenon – there will be bugs to work out going forward.

Conclusion

As with in-person meetings, it’s important to send participants a formal agenda and conduct the meeting with proper etiquette. By moderating effectively and behaving courteously, you can run a virtual meeting that is fun, rapport-building and productive. You get all the bonuses of working remotely, with none of the downsides.

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