It's been over three months now that your remote team has been established, you have your video conferencing platform in place and you're doing video meetings daily. But well, one cannot deny the fact that there are a few glitches here and there.
A virtual meeting can be conducted either through a video conferencing platform where multiple participants can join in at the same time or through a dial-in via your mobile device. One aspect when it comes to video calls is that the lack of in-person communication can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Signals such as body language become harder to read. But with the right kind of tools and approach, these meetings can be as seamless as any other in-person meeting.
Tips to run virtual meetings effectively
1) Be thoroughly prepared for your Video Conference call
Your video conferencing software isn't all you need. Here are some things to check off your list before you start your virtual meeting:
- A good internet connection
- A connected earphone/headphones
- A webcam (Most laptops have an inbuilt camera)
2) Make an Agenda
Any meeting is more effective with an agenda that is prepared ahead of time. Draft an agenda before the call, so you don't miss any discussion point — and you don't get too off track, saving everyone's time.
Try and send this agenda much in advance, so that all participants have enough time to prepare prior to the meeting. This “pre-read” will allow your attendees to know what to expect from the meeting and prepare probable questions and comments. You may encourage them to send questions to you beforehand so you can address them during the call.
3) Set up Icebreakers
Virtual meetings can get a little awkward, especially if attendees don't know each other. Try starting off with a fun and short icebreaker, like getting your team to share a photo of the shoes they're wearing (or not wearing) to understand everyone's work-from-home personality. Over a period of time, icebreakers can help you get to know the others and add a layer of fun that helps the team bond in a very unique way. Suddenly “Nancy from the digital team is now “Nancy from the digital team whose favourite food is pizza”.
For more of a business-minded approach, it's always a good idea to give each attendee an opportunity to introduce themselves and their roles, one by one. Add in a fun fact for a bit of personality—not all business needs to be boring and work-oriented!
4) Identify Speakers and Establish Rules
Have you ever been a part of a video call where everyone is talking over each other? Yeah, it's frustrating and wastes a lot of time. Workaround this by setting up specific rules at the beginning of the call. Start by categorizing who will be leading the call, what everybody's roles should be and set a timeline for each speaker. It's best to allocate a moderator to each meeting to interject if anybody is being interrupted.
Set up terms such as “raise your hand if you'd like to interject” or “once you've finished a point, hold for 30 seconds so anybody who wants can provide their inputs.” This will make the whole meeting run more smoothly minus the commotion and prevent anyone from feeling ignored or interrupted, and yes, this will also lead to saving a lot more time.
Holding a fairly long video conference and keeping everyone attentive can be a little difficult. You can improve this by enhancing the visual elements of the call. One way to do this is by providing visual aids — tables, charts, photos, presentation decks — to keep attendees' eyes on the meeting and prevent them from drifting off.
Another good visual element is your physical presence. Make sure to have bright lighting on your face. You can do this by sitting with your face towards a window or a desk lamp. Never place your lighting behind you. One definitely does not need vlogger-level lighting, a simple light will do.
Some other rules that you can consider implementing:
- Mute your microphone when you're not speaking to prevent background noise, but never mute your video — as others may want to know if you're still in the meeting!
- Keep your focus on the video conference. Others can see you and can see when you're working on something else.
- Encourage text chat during the meeting, so a smaller idea doesn't get dropped, but doesn't interrupt the flow of the entire meeting.
And, of course, make eye contact! When you're speaking, there's no need for your eyes to be anywhere but aimed at the camera. This will give attendees a better sense of face-to-face intimacy, and grant you a little extra bit of trust.
The author is Founder & CEO at Flock. Views are personal.