Making virtual meetings effective
Virtual meetings are a great way to save time and connect people in different locations so they can work on projects and update each other. But running a successful virtual meeting takes just as much preparation as a real-world meeting. We’ve all been on a conference call where someone hasn’t pressed mute when they should have, but it takes more than solving those basic problems to make a virtual meeting a success. Here are some tips.
Identify the tools you need. For some meetings, you may only need a conference line. For others, using desktop video capability such as
WebEx can get everyone on the same page, says Rick Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting and co-author of “Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide to Working and Leading From a Distance.”
Jason Copeland, the owner and CEO of Finland Technology Solutions, says he holds virtual meetings between offices in San Francisco and Armenia for one project. His organization uses Highfive, which allows videoconferencing access on laptops, desktops and TVs. He also recommends Google Hangouts, Skype for Business and BlueJeans.com for video. Whatever tool you use, ensure that everyone has the bandwidth and hardware to manage it, Copeland says. “Sometimes it’s not the tool that matters so much as what a company has to support it,” he says.
Be an expert. Devon Pilney of North Star Resource Group is a financial advisor who holds up to 15 remote meetings a week. He recommends fully learning whatever tool you use so you can troubleshoot on the fly. “It’s technology; something always goes wrong,” he says. He often uses Join.me because it’s browser-based and doesn’t require logins. “This helps to minimize the hassle usually associated with new software.”
Send an agenda. Share a plan for the meeting through email, Google Docs or another system to ensure everyone knows what to expect. For new participants, Pilney recommends a note explaining how the conference system or software works so people aren’t stressed about what they should be doing before the meeting.
Encourage participation. It can be easy to check out of a virtual meeting, especially if it’s audio only. Lepsinger suggests feedback tools to keep people engaged. For large groups, use chat or polls to find out what people think about an idea. “For small groups, encourage people to stay off mute to keep them engaged.”