ith the outbreak of COVID-19, social distancing, school closures, etc., most people are being asked or are choosing to work from home. This means teams are having discussions and making decisions through virtual meetings. As a facilitator, I know how awesome virtual meetings can be when you get it right, and the challenges and issues they can bring when they don’t go so well. Here are some ways to help make sure your virtual meetings stay on track and meet your goals.
1. Have a conversation about how to have a conversation – How often do we talk about how to have a meeting? This is important, especially if you haven’t had many virtual meetings with your team. Take 15-20 minutes at the start of your next virtual meeting and talk about how to make the meeting most effective for each participant. Capture the notes in real-time and share them with the team.
2. Plan and prepare – Meeting prep is not only about a solid agenda with objectives and topics and scheduling the meeting in advance. It is also about
- Testing your company’s technology before the meeting – if you’re the only one not able to connect, it makes the meeting more challenging and may be frustrating for your colleagues.
- Using virtual tools – it is far better to show people rather than tell them. If your company has technology that allows for video and/or screen sharing, use it. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.
- Recording decisions or actions – show this to participants on the screen if possible. If not, be sure you are letting the group know what is being recorded and review it at the end of the meeting.
- Preparing information to present and show – be thoughtful about what you are putting up on the screen – visuals and short text vs. a long document. If you only have conference calling technology, be sure to send the information ahead of time and be clear about what information you are referring to during the meeting.
2. Get rid of distractions – During your meeting, focus on the meeting. Unless you are waiting for critical information or if you’re on-call, close distractions like email and messaging, turn your phone on silent and put it away, and close unnecessary windows on your computer. Pick up a fidget toy to keep your hands busy. If you have young kids at home, try setting a timer so they know how long they need to keep themselves busy.
3. Check-in with your team – Your team may be worried, frustrated, and/or angry about what is going on in the world. Remember to take a little time at the start of each meeting to ask each person how they are feeling and what support they need.
4. Allow for pauses – Even if you’re using video, it is difficult to see visual cues when someone has a question or comment. Be sure to add multiple pauses when you’re presenting information and ask the team frequently if they have questions or comments.
5. Elect a moderator – This person is responsible for capturing decisions and actions, ensuring everyone has had a chance to contribute, and that the team sticks to the agenda and meeting time. Consider rotating this position among the team.
6. Have fun! – Add a little fun to your meetings like telling a story or showing a quick funny video. We are all human and sometimes need a little comic relief.
7. Summarize at the end – Save some time at the end of the meeting to review and clarify action items and decisions. Ask the team what worked and didn’t work in the meeting for the team. These lessons learned will help to make your next one even better.
8. For more complex, large, or long meetings, seek professional help – Professional facilitators have access to all kinds of virtual tools and methods that can engage your team, help you stick to the agenda, and meet your goals.