Even in the best of times, virtual meetings are challenging. Like performing surgery, communicating virtually is complex.
Although a life is not at stake, several things can go wrong – connection problems, a few people dominating while others “tune-out”, etc.
Before a surgeon goes into surgery, she needs to check her list of “must-do’s” and” must-have’s”. If not, the consequences could be fatal.
Substitute failure for fatality and the same goes for a virtual meeting. A checklist can ensure that everyone is prepared and everything is in place.
Ironically, none of these are secrets. Nevertheless, they get overlooked.
BASIC RULES & TOOLS
With travel restrictions and remote working, there’s a good possibility that face-to-face meetings will be canceled for the next few weeks. If not months.
For team leaders and team members alike, this presents a HUGE challenge. It means regular and more (virtual) meetings than before. The luxury of stopping at someone’s desk for a quick question or getting an important project update at lunch no longer exists.
By following some basic rules and utilizing the right tools, however, there’s no reason why a virtual meeting can’t be a successful as an in-person one.
Think of these 7 “must-do’s & have’s” as your SURGEON’S CHECKLIST:
- Use video (with back-up).
It’s important that people feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting – video conferencing helps provide this feeling. Seeing the faces and body language (of everyone!) keeps people engaged (and away from their emails!). As a strong internet connection may not always be available, people need the ability to dial-in via phone if necessary.
- Test the technology.
With everyone pressed for time, nothing is worse than a 15-minute delay because people need to download software, can’t get the video to work or another tech problem. Prior to a virtual meeting, all participants should test the technology and make sure they are comfortable with the major features. The facilitator should quickly cover the basics for any newcomers – how to mute, ask questions, etc.
- Always be clear (“ABC”).
Before the meeting, make sure everyone knows the purpose the meeting and has the agenda. At the start of the meeting, give a short overview of the agenda and state the meetings’ objectives while covering ground rules if needed. Summarize decisions taken and clearly outline next steps at the end. It’s critical that everyone is “on the same page”.
- Assign roles.
Having a facilitator to open, guide and close the meeting is essential. Involving people and handling technical questions are a few of a facilitator’s usual tasks. Someone to capture real-time feedback is another important role, in addition to the person documenting decisions taken, next steps, etc. Make sure you assign and communicate the needed roles as needed.
- Involve everyone.
Some team members dominate discussions. Others talk over people or interrupt. Some say little to nothing unless called upon. Therefore, you might need to “go around the table” or utilize other ways to get people to participate. A good facilitator should find ways to involve everyone, especially when agreeing decisions that affect everyone on the call.
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
Just like most things in life, the more you do them, the easier they become. The belief that a virtual meeting can be as productive as an in-person one is the biggest success factor of them all. For continuous improvement, collect feedback from the participants on what’s working/not working. Adapt. Repeat.
- Check in…and out.
Take time to “check-in” at the start of the meeting and “check-out” at the close – even when you think you don’t have enough time. You never know if someone has a close friend or relative with the virus. Some might find the format impersonal but that doesn’t mean you have to stop being human in your virtual interactions. Empathy first, productivity second.
Managing a virtual meeting is harder than a traditional face-to-face one. Nothing major has changed. However, clear communication and other basics are more important than before.
A checklist of “must-do’s & have’s” can ensure a successful virtual meeting.
Here are a few final tips to conclude our checklist:
- Limit individual presentation time; focus on discussion, not presenting.
- Prove background info beforehand – a great way to save time on the call.
- Share screen to guide the conversation whenever possible.
- Collect input and questions during the meeting that is fed back to everyone before closing the meeting.
- Ask individuals to sit close to their webcam to help to recreate the intimacy of an in-person meeting.
What tip or guideline can you add to the checklist?