Virtual Meetings

Many organizations are struggling to protect their employees from the current Coronavirus outbreak by implementing travel restrictions and remote work arrangements. For the first time, millions of people, around the world, are now remotely working from home. The challenge for managers is to help their staff adjust to this new reality. It is vital to ensure that employee morale and productivity are only minimally affected. Luckily, modern technology has made this process easier. Organizations looking for ways to replicate their in-office culture in a remote environment such as conducting meetings, can now depend on virtual meetings. While considering this option, you may also have to get reliable business transcription services from expert agencies, because these services are an important part of conducting virtual meetings. They ensure that the proceedings are documented for review and decision-making.

In recent years, the popularity of virtual meetings has increased, as it has hit new records following calls to reduce air travel and utilize climate-friendly conferencing. During this coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, most of the in-person meetings with teams, customers, or suppliers have been cancelled for days or weeks. Here the alternative digital option, virtual meetings have come in as the practical alternative.

The hosting of a meeting in a virtual environment and not face-to-face is referred to as virtual meeting or conferencing. One can host a virtual reality meeting with people in the same city or across the globe, and it is considered a cost-saving method compared to flying/transporting employees to meet one another for a few hours. Moreover, it’s less disruptive to schedules and in-office work.

At the same time, virtual meetings are often difficult to handle and most conference calls, audio conferences, and online meetings are annoying. Some of the major problems that all types of virtual meetings struggle with are:

  • A lack of participant focus
  • Disrespecting participants’ time
  • A lack of understanding of goals, assignments, and responsibilities

Make sure you keep these challenges in mind as you begin planning your virtual meeting, and approach it accordingly. Also, another thing to consider is: don’t be tempted to trade cost reduction for inefficiency. Because, if the virtual meeting does not offer an effective format for collaboration, learning exchange, or whatever your business goal is, then there is no business value in trading cost-savings that involves keeping employees grounded and not flying them to meet one another.

To avoid all the challenges virtual meetings face, first and foremost, you want to make sure your business goal (for that meeting) is met. Implementing the following virtual meeting best practices and virtual meeting strategies will help meet your business goals.

6 Best Practices for Virtual Meetings

  • Schedule Meeting in Advance

    With the necessary information on-hand, schedule your meeting in advance as it will ensure a higher rate of participation. However, be careful of time differences, especially if you are organizing a meeting for people from different time zones. Below are some recommendations to ensure everyone is on the same scheduling page:

    • Don’t schedule a last-minute meeting.
    • Pick time frames that work for everyone’s time zone.
    • Use tools such as appointment scheduling software that help you choose the right time frame.
  • Have an Agenda

    The effectiveness of a meeting will be heavily dependent on your goal and how well the time is used. For that you need to have an agenda that should be distributed ahead of time, as much as possible. Always guide the discussion to set tangible outcomes for each item on the agenda and have a time limit to achieve that.

  • Co-create your team’s rules of engagement or virtual meeting norms

    Always create a set of meeting engagement rules or “meeting norms”, that are stated standards that refer to processes, preparation, and communication practices that can apply to any meeting. Some specific norms for virtual meetings are:

    • Technology used will be that which is most accessible to everyone on a team.
    • Test your technology before the meeting, and resolve any technical issues.
    • Use a phone line with audio clarity and stability.
    • Do not multi-task (do other work) during the meeting.
    • Follow an organized line-up to ensure each person has a chance to respond.
    • Find a quiet space to participate.
    • Use the mute button at your site to prevent transmitting background noise.
    • Speak up to get attention if you have something to say.
    • Turn on your video whenever possible, and be camera-ready.

    Share these meeting norms with your agenda at the top of your meeting as it helps to reinforce different behaviors and help you improve your virtual meeting process.

    Remember that meeting norms should be co-created and discussed with your team. Discuss and create a draft for your meeting norms and make sure everyone has a copy of these norms.

  • Check your System

    Before logging into a virtual meeting, remind your meeting participants to ensure that they are able to log in and fully participate in the virtual meeting platform. Ask them to test their speakers, microphone, camera settings and screen sharing capabilities. Also, one should turn off or mute messaging applications and email platforms, as the participants can potentially see these notifications, which could contain private data. As a good practice, ask your team to check their internet connectivity and performance. If possible, establish the connection about ten minutes before the meeting begins.

  • Assign a Team Facilitator to Ensure All Voices Are Heard

    Assigning a good facilitator is essential to the virtual meeting, because it’s very important to have someone who can keep people from talking over one another, to bring conversations back around if someone interrupts, and ensure that all voices are heard.

  • Assign Additional Roles

    Like assigning a Team Facilitator, assign additional roles like that to multiple people to ensure they all are involved in meeting. Those who take part in building the project, often feel more vested in it. Some roles you might consider include:

    • Timekeeper: This person should ensure that the meeting remains on schedule and doesn’t overrun. It’s helpful if this person can be in the same location as the facilitator so that they can provide silent prompts and signals.
    • Notetaker: At the end of the meeting, this person can provide the reiterating assignments and deliverables. Also, make sure that this person has a copy of the agenda so he/she can resurface points at the relevant time in the meeting.
    • Tech support: If you can have someone (or a team) standing by to help those with tech difficulties, it will allow things to run much smoother.
    • Conversation assistant: Assign this role to a person who can handle the chat box and parse out questions or comments.

    Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, and co-founder, and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk have provided a few additional, quick and handy tips for better meetings that should be kept in mind, which include:

    • Keep meetings with few people. Too many people and the meeting becomes ineffective and confusing.
    • Tell stories, not PowerPoint scripts.
    • Allow for silent time to absorb the content.
    • Don’t create frequent meetings.
    • Meetings that use a lot of jargon should be avoided.

With a little thought and preparation, virtual meetings can be made both effective and efficient. However, to make any meeting more efficient, recording it and getting it transcribed by a business transcription service are necessary steps to take. Experienced transcriptionists can ensure accurate transcripts of virtual meetings.