9 Ways To Take The Pain Out Of Virtual Meetings

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How many of us have been on a virtual meeting and thought the meeting to be painful, the presenter(s) dreadful, and the whole experience worse than watching paint dry? I’ve been there and “got the t-shirt” as they say. Virtual meetings can be boring drab affairs, but they DON’T have to be!

Here are 9 simple things that you or your team can do to make them interactive and pleasant!

  1. Schedule – Prepare virtual meetings properly in a team calendar with all the necessary logins, links, and passwords. Make sure people have accepted who need to be there and if people don’t accept, send out another reminder. Good practise would be to send out a reminder the day before and set up alerts so that people get reminded 30 minutes before the meeting starts. This may sound simple, but people are busy, distracted and have to deal with a myriad of things daily – so remind, remind, remind!
  2. Set a clear virtual meeting agenda – simple right? If there’s a clear agenda, then there is no time wasting and therefore things should run smoothly and on time. If you expand this concept to the many other virtual meetings you have weekly, hours of productivity will be saved as people are not talking aimlessly – they will have a clearly defined purpose.
  3. Start 15 minutes early – Agree to a corporate culture of starting virtual meetings 15 minutes before the hour ends, and have attendees logging on at least 5 minutes before the meeting starts. Ironically, this SAVES time as people are not logging on late doing needless “can you hear me?”, “Hold on, I am having trouble with my sound”, or XYZ is not working or not configured etc – Don’t be that person. Arrive early, set up and be ready to go. Having 15 minutes between meetings allows us all to decompress, grab a coffee and potentially prepare for the next meeting. Standard practise for virtual meeting lengths are 25 minutes for a 30-minute meeting and 45 minutes for an hour meeting. In terms of virtual meeting length – always allow gaps and sensory breaks. By sensory breaks, I mean a break for the eyes and ears, especially the eyes. Looking at a screen all day is very draining, so make sure there are sufficient breaks.
  4. Agree on a communication tool that works for you and stick with it.
    • Zoom
    • Slack
    • Uber Conference
    • WebEx
    • Skype
    • Google Hangouts
    • GoToMeeting
  5. VIDEO ON Policy – Make sure that the company, clients or meeting attendees know that when we meet, the video is on. Video allows for better connection.
  6. Have defined roles and responsibilities – who is the presenter of the meeting, who is the note-taker, who answers questions, who “reads the room” to make sure that people are listening and engaged and who answers objections? If roles are defined and agreed upon upfront, there will be less time wasted and allow for a seamless experience.Additionally, there should always be someone focused on the technical aspects i.e. connectivity, conferencing and sound issues. Virtual meeting moderation is the one aspect where many companies fall down as people assume somebody is handling the note-taking or moderating the chat. Standard practise is to have a presenter and a producer. The producer’s role would be to handle the technical aspects of the meeting and also the various interactive channels that people could use to talk with each other or ask questions, the chat pod for example.
  7. Interaction – As the presenting team, arrive early and start talking with each other. Tell the participants that this is an interactive session and it is expected that there will be questions asked, people might be called on by name to speak, there will be polls, there might be breakout sessions. Make the experience interactive and active, NOT boring and passive.People like to be entertained and involved. The rule of thumb is some sort of interaction every 3-5 minutes. You cannot present a monologue of 45 minutes and then dryly ask, “Any questions??” A good idea would be for attendees to answer a poll before the meeting starts or type into chat, what they are expecting from the meeting or who they are? Get the attendees doing and talking early on as it sets the tone.
  8. Use “soft-signalling” – in most online meeting platforms, there is the functionality of “thumbs up”, “thumbs down”, “green check” or “red x”. These binary symbols are great ways to get an audience to give you concomitant feedback on a particular idea, for example, you could say, “Give me a green check if you have ever been to a company meeting where the speakers were boring.” Simple questions that require a very simple action from the attendees. However, it will keep them engaged to you as a presenter.
  9. Have a warm and engaging voice – your voice is the one tool that can make or break a presentation. If you start the meeting like you have just been to a funeral or you sound angry, the audience will switch off. You need to engage them early on with some nice warmth and energy. The other vocal trick you can do is to inject vocal prosody or melody into your speech.The simplest way to do this is to speak at different speaking speeds; never speak at the same speed and volume all the time. Mix it up a little. The beauty about this tip is that there is no right or wrong way to do this, just vary your speaking speed as much as you can and this will give your voice a lot more variation and colour!

If you manage to implement some or all of these simple tips and tricks, your virtual meetings will go from drab to fab!

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