Video conference calls and virtual meetings have been around for a while now but until the recent coronavirus pandemic, they were nowhere near as popular as they have become. While there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to hosting and participating in them, you can quickly get up to speed with how things work. In order to help you take your online meetings to the next level, here are a few tips on how to make your virtual meetings more successful.
Thoroughly prepare your material
Just like in physical face to face meetings, preparation is essential to hosting a successful virtual meeting, and the first part of preparation is to thoroughly test your setup. This means testing your camera, microphone, and internet connection. You can test all of these aspects on your own, but it is always advised that you grab a friend or a co-worker and jump into a quick test call to make sure everything is working on a live environment.
In addition to testing your setup, it is also a good idea to prepare an agenda to keep your meeting on track after you begin. This agenda can be timed sensitive or not, but it should at least include the following:
- The purpose of the meeting
- The responsibilities of each individual
- The topics you want to cover
- The overall goal you wish to achieve
It may also be worth making a shortlist of guidelines, similar to how an office would have a code of conduct. These guidelines will help ensure everyone acts professionally, something that can be surprisingly easy to forget when working from home.
Don’t go on too long
Meetings are usually inherently boring, and this fact is only all the more noticeable when the meeting in question is online and participants are attending from the comfort of their own space with home life distractions all around them. There is also a new phenomenon called ‘Zoom Fatigue’ that is caused when a person is forced to attend multiple long conference calls day in and day out. To prevent fatigue and to keep all employees as fresh and efficient as possible, try to avoid any meeting going over 45 minutes and ideally, keep them under 30.
Take steps to avoid distraction
While meeting participants can easily get distracted by things in their own environment, when working online they are also far more susceptible to getting distracted by things on their co-worker’s cameras. Things like people in the background walking around can take focus away from whoever is speaking and will lead to an overall less productive meeting. To avoid these distractions, a great option is to use virtual backgrounds. Use Hello Backgrounds virtual backgrounds ideas to find an alternative image that you can use to cover up anything behind you. You may want to hide sensitive information that is visible, people or pets walking around, or even just a messy room that you didn’t have time to clean.
Use the technology available
Virtual meetings, while on the surface they may seem like a step backward from their face to face counterparts. However, while there are some setbacks when communicating online, many other things are improved and made easier. For example, sharing information either to individuals or to the group as a whole is far easier with the use of screen sharing. Additionally, tools like virtual whiteboards can be used to effectively brainstorm and discuss ideas and topics, just like a real one would, except only authorized members can edit the whiteboard.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks
Earlier in this article, we mentioned avoiding dragging your meetings out over 45 minutes. In the cases where you have no other choice and need to keep everyone in a meeting together, be sure to take plenty of breaks. These breaks will not only help to keep people fresh and focused, but it will also help to keep them relaxed, ensuring that they are able to keep working at a high level. Small details like this may seem unimportant and insignificant, but they really do help to show participants that you are thinking of their mental health and comfort which, in turn, will make them more enthusiastic at work.