Six Ways To Improve Virtual Meetings
Recently we’ve discussed and compared virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings, and we are always giving tips, tricks, and hacks for face-to-face events. But, we thought it would be fun to discuss a few ways to improve virtual meetings. Virtual meetings have become a more cost-efficient and convenient alternative to face-to-face meetings, but they are also laced with challenges and issues that can be overcome if care is taken in the structure and design of the meeting.
Challenges of Virtual Meetings
While there are multiple challenges with making sure virtual meetings are a success, one of the biggest issues is that accountability is low. Distractions are very high for attendees when they are sitting in front of a computer screen without the accountability of being in front of the presenter. Attendees will tend to check emails, text, or surf the internet during online presentations. Communication in virtual meetings can be difficult and participants can have a difficult time knowing when it is their turn to speak.
Another issue being the content subject matter being presented by an expert does not always mean the presentation will be successful. It requires an entirely different skillset to be able to keep attendees attention in a virtual meeting or presentation. Mix these issues with the potential technical issues that could happen, and successful virtual meetings can be hard to pull off.
6 Tips to Improve Virtual Meetings
1. Don’t Forget the Basics of Meetings
Be prepared for a virtual meeting just as you would for a face-to-face meeting. Determine the purpose, goals, and objectives of the meeting. Create and agenda to help guide attendees through the meeting in order to meet the determined goals. Send an invitation stating the involvement of the attendee expected, the time and date.
2. Appoint an “Iron-Fist” Facilitator
Since communication can be difficult and interruptions can occur, designate a facilitator of the meeting to help control the communications. This person acts like the “traffic cop” of the meeting. The facilitator lays out the rules of engagement and calls on participants when it is their turn to talk to avoid participants talking over each other. The facilitator has an enforcing role to keep people from talking over each other but also ensures that every participant has their chance to share ideas and ask questions. There are also other roles that can be given out to attendees in order to keep them engaged, such as, a moderator, note-taker, or time-keeper.
3. Find a Presenter with a Relevant Story to Tell
Participants want to feel a connection to the information being presented. A story adds a human and personal touch that causes people to be more actively engaged. Adding a story relevant to the content helps viewers or attendees to feel connected to the content, rather than just viewing numbers, data, and insights. Presenting during a virtual meeting requires a different set of skills in order to hold attendee attention. In order to get attendees to engage, presenters have to be prepared and have the tools they need to engage and motivate attendee.
4. Practice Careful Communication
Since all senses are not engaged during virtual meetings, careful communication is a necessity. Miscommunications often take place due to the lack of facial expressions and hand gestures. Make sure to use active listening, restate and ask clarifying questions, and confer with the group as a whole to come to a consensus. Make sure to summarize decisions so that the whole group understands when a decision has been reached or why. Summarizing all previous decisions with the most recent will produce a bigger more complete understanding of what was achieved and discussed during the meeting.
5. Be Prepared for Technical Issues
As we all know technology — no matter how innovative and convenient — can always have issues that can derail the entire event causing a multitude of problems for the presenter, and quite a bit of frustration and annoyance for the attendees or viewers. Have a technical person assigned to the meeting to check the platform for any potential issues prior to the meeting. Keep this person on standby just in case anything happens during the meeting, it can be fixed quickly and with minimal disruptions.
6. The Two-Minute Rule
Distractions come easily during virtual meetings, therefore, require attendee to touch the keyboard or computer every two minutes or so. This can be achieved by hosting live polls for attendees to answer questions and see the results immediately. Different interactive activities can require the attendee to stay focused in order to complete them. There are many different technologies and products that can be used to help keep the meeting feeling interactive instead of a boring presentation in which attendees lose interest quickly. Try to do this in a way that encourages attendees to be engaged and make them want to touch the keyboard to respond and not just feel like they are required to.
As with every new technology, there are a couple issues and obstacles to overcome in order to truly reap the benefits. Many of the challenges of virtual meanings stem from the lack of face-to-face social interaction and accountability. While it’s not only difficult to hold attendee attention during virtual meetings, it’s difficult to deeply connect with them so they engage and learn during the meet. Using these 6 tips and tricks you can more easily connect with attendees andkeep them focused and engaged. This helps minimize distractions, increases the opportunities to engage, and keeps communication clear.