You may think that virtual meetings are your bread and butter. You’ve conducted them hundreds of times, right? But…what does it really take to become a virtual meeting star? Well, this isn’t any rocket science after all. You just switch on your laptop, click the right link and there you are. It’s so simple but… it really isn’t that easy. You see, there are actually several good reasons behind this article.
Do you know that technical issues are the key challenge of online meetings according to 58% of workers? Can you imagine that it’s possible to reduce meeting time by 80% thanks to a structured agenda? It’s really interesting that about 1/3 of workers multitask during virtual meetings… This and many other, global statistics just prove that “Houston, we have a problem!”.
Simple hacks to start with
There are quite a few things we can start with to make sure that synchronous collaboration (real-time work) becomes much better. Let’s take a look at the meeting preparation phase. What can we do to start smart in the first place?
Expect invite responses
This tip may seem like a no brainer but it’s really necessary to say it out loud once again. If you send a meeting invite and nobody responds with a “yes” or “no”, how can you know if crucial attendees will actually appear? You certainly don’t want to end up talking to yourself! That’s why you set very clear expectations that people are required to respond to your invite. This will save you not only tons of frustration but also help others plan their schedule better.
Prepare an agenda and focus topics
Needless to say, if there’s no agenda then you’re risking team-wide dissatisfaction. Why? Because it’s great to know what the plan for the call is. Others want to be prepared to engage in a meaningful conversation. If you keep jumping from topic to topic, people may be confused and eventually forget what the meeting was even about.
Check the availability of others
You probably have access to the calendars of others in your team, right? Well, this function is available for a good reason! It’s not there to control what people are doing but to make sure that we can adapt to our agendas. So, if you’re willing to schedule a meeting, don’t just randomly send an invite hoping that people will somehow make it. How would you feel being in their shoes? Frustrated? Yeah, so let’s treat others the way we’d like to be treated. Also, if you can’t attend a meeting that someone has invited you to, let them know and suggest a different time!
When the meeting starts
3,2,1 – here we go! It’s time to click the magic “start meeting” button and…? Some people are late. Seriously? There’s no commute involved so what’s happening? Well, it’s probably the case of having multiple meetings scheduled in a row but that’s another topic to discuss later. Finally, everyone arrives so we’re ready to spend quality time with each other.
Now let’s think about switching on video. Some people say that it’s crucial whereas others claim that it’s irrelevant. Well, it depends. If you’re part of an engineering or IT team where you usually share your screen then it might be useless to have your camera switched on.
However, if all team members are on video but you decided to stay in bed wearing your PJs then… it just doesn’t feel right.
All in all, it’s best to discuss all this within your team. What’s expected, possible or unacceptable? Such an approach will definitely improve the quality of virtual meetings as you’ll be able to design your own team-wide etiquette.
Chit-chats are fun but quality comes first
Meetings are an essential element of every team’s operations. This is why we should be able to track them. If we have discussions where we exchange thoughts without a precise action plan, our chit-chats will become meaningless. Even if everyone is engaged in the same mission and working on an exciting plan, not having any action steps will ruin all the progress.
The devil is in the details. Online meetings may look fun at first glance but when you dig deeper, you’ll find out that there’s always something you can improve…
The following steps will help you squeeze the most out of every virtual meeting:
Determine who will be responsible for what exactly. Such an approach will make sure that team members are accountable for whatever has been agreed. It’s not like “everyone” is responsible but always think about a single person who will accountable in the end.
Set up deadlines
Discuss by when certain things will be done. If you don’t do it, there will always be other priorities. What’s important for you, may not be so important for others. Everyone is busy so communicating expectations and deadlines can help us track progress.
Schedule a follow up
It doesn’t have to be another meeting, but you can do it asynchronously. If everyone knows what to do and by when, reporting progress is just a piece of cake. If you forget to schedule a follow up… this may simply get lost.
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