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Holding Productive Virtual Meetings During COVID-19

  Apr 24, 2020

Remote working has become the new normal with the global outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. With social distancing directives issued by governments the world over, businesses have found themselves in the unfamiliar territory of remote working. 

Technology plays a major role in the transition to remote working by allowing for constant communication and feedback among teams. Moreover, with technology, businesses can replicate their in-office culture remotely, which includes moving meetings to video conference calls.

Meetings are an essential part of business management since they provide a communication flow of information between the employer and employees. Through this information flow projects can move forward, tasks allocated, problems can be solved, disputes resolved, performance improved and teamwork enhanced. 

Virtual meetings can be trickier to manage as compared to in-person meetings, for example, in a video conference call, it is more difficult to ensure everybody is heard, that time is being used wisely and that each person is paying attention. Remember that it is very easy to browse online or check email during a virtual meeting. 

In-person meetings usually have established expectations on how they will be conducted. For instance, attendees may be required to put their phones or laptops away, to raise hands when they want to speak, and so forth. Just as in-person meetings, virtual meetings need to have set and defined expectations.

When hosting a meeting, set basic ground rules, such as joining the call on time, closing out emails, putting your phone on silent mode, keeping their video on and muting when they are not speaking, and so forth.

Setting these ground rules shows that you expect your team to be engaged and signals to attendees you respect their time and attention. If you would not want employees to burst into a meeting 15 minutes late, answer emails or talk over each other, then take steps to curb those distractions in your video meetings as well.

Avoid update meetings. Updates can be shared before meeting via email or as a memo and asking meeting attendees to come prepared. This will avoid a situation where one person is speaking throughout the meeting going through a presentation or a spreadsheet. By doing this, you will ensure that your meeting focuses on insightful questions and detailed discussions, thus keeping attendees engaged leading to more ideas and solutions.

For virtual meetings, engagement and dialogue are key, ensure that all attendees have an opportunity to speak up, share their thoughts, or even ask questions. In-person, it is easier for somebody to indicate that they would like to speak with social cues such as a raised hand, leaning in, or a similar gesture. On video calls, especially when attendees have muted their microphones, it may be difficult to speak up before the meeting moves on.

Virtual meetings need to be managed differently than in-person ones, especially during this pandemic period. After all your goal should be to ensure your team is attentive and contributing and will leave the meeting ready and fired up to get things done.

Article by Juliet Hinga

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