Holding virtual meetings or video calls may not be familiar territory to many businesses, but with the Government now actively asking Britons to work from home wherever possible, this will be our new normal for the foreseeable future.

With that in mind, we’ve put together our top tips for conducting productive, effective and enjoyable virtual meetings, wherever your team are working from.

  1. Be platform competent:
    • Practise beforehand and make sure all the technology works. There are various software systems for virtual meetings available, including Zoom
    • If you are running the meeting, know which facilities you have available and how to access and use them
    • If it’s a new system (e.g. a client or supplier system) can you have a practice run?
  2. Agenda discipline:
    • Create an agenda within an agreed time prior to the meeting (e.g. two days, one week) and send to all participants in advance
    • Entitle each point with the purpose e.g. decision/update/inform/check
    • Be mindful to include frequent breaks; most people cannot stare at a screen for ages and be fully present
    • Ensure this is right format and right audience for the subject(s) to be discussed
  3. Pre-reads:
    • Create and circulate pre-reads in sufficient time and be clear on purpose
    • Be mindful not to overwhelm with ‘content’ and needless detail.Take time to plan and respectfully prepare what you send e.g. do not simply send a 40-page pdf, but rather attach the article and point people to e.g. “the second paragraph on page 24 because it highlights some aspects that we may have missed in our project”
  4. System/environment preparation:
    • Think about…
      • Technology – in addition to point 1 (understanding the platform) ensure you have good Wi-Fi, power and the system is loaded on your laptop prior to the meeting.
      • Lighting – can others see you?Are you likely to get the sun behind you so that they are dazzled and unable to see anything but your silhouette
      • Sound – is there likely to be background noise?Do you need to use headphones?  Do you know how to mute yourself if the dog barks or your partner starts to vacuum?  Does your microphone work on your laptop if not using headphones?
      • Environment – a critical component for virtual meetings is that the participants should be in a private space, with no interruptions for the duration of the session, to maintain confidentiality and prevent distractions
  5. Ground rules:
    • Send the ground rules in advance and review them upfront so the expectation is set
    • The key to success for virtual meetings is the adherence of trust and respect, particularly in staying present rather than being distracted by extra stimuli hidden from the other participants
  6. Agree the way for others to contribute e.g. physically or virtually raise hand and be asked to speak
  7. Have an appointed moderator for the meeting (not necessarily the boss):
    • Consider assigning these other tasks too, for each meeting; who are the best people and what’s the best mix?
      • timekeeper
      • tangent monitor
      • ground rules monitor/meeting manager (this person can monitor the participants’ attention and has permission to call people out if they see them doing something else)
      • action and minute-taker
  8. Rapport building:
    • This is more important than ever! If people are working from home, they may feel quite isolated, so some general chat and a fun icebreaker could be worth every single second to sustain energy and engagement (see our Top ten icebreakers for virtual meetings)
  9.  Pace:
    • Slow it down. It takes longer to keep up, take on the information and notice other reactions etc. in virtual meetings than in-person, owing to fewer visible and audible clues and cues
    • To keep attention levels high, allow a 30-second breather at regular intervals to allow participants to refresh attention between speakers, by shifting and reengaging
    • Have a 10-minute break at least every 90 minutes
  10. Don’t point at your screen as others cannot see what you are pointing to! Rather, use your mouse pointer or explain fully.

Two more bonus tips

  1. Watch out if you wear your PJ trousers – you never know when you’ll need to stand up!
  2. Review the effectiveness of the meeting to learn and grow together

Hopefully this guide to conducting online meetings and video calls will set you, your colleagues and clients up for a productive period of remote working.  We’d love to hear your experiences and any other tips you have too, so please tweet us @iTSLeadership and join in the conversation.

If you need help with maintaining culture, productivity and motivation during this time of uncertainty, please do get in touch.  We’re ready to support you and your team.

In the meantime, click on the link below to access a PDF quick guide to our top tips:

Top Tips for Online Meetings

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