How to run brilliant virtual meetings

By now, the novelty factor of virtual meetings – including meeting someone’s dog/cat, checking out each other’s back-drops and laughing at virtual meeting nightmares on social media – is wearing thin.

This means that there’s nowhere to hide and making sure your virtual meets are a melting pot of useful discussion, creative thinking and productive progress is vital.

We’ve all seen the YouTube videos and have got a fair idea of how NOT to do virtual sessions but how CAN we achieve brilliant remote meetings?

1. What’s the why?

Be crystal clear on the purpose at the start – if you’ve got a formal agenda, state what’s for information, what’s for input and what’s for decision. If it’s a team huddle with no set agenda, remind people of that and encourage them to bring what’s on their mind.

2. Humans first

When we meet face-to-face, it’s much easier to see, and experience, how a group is feeling. Kick off each virtual meeting with ‘how are we all feeling?” and allow time for responses to take a good temperature test to ensure people are in the right space to be productive (be ready to respond positively to people who aren’t in great shape).

3. Etiquette set up

We talk about a third culture for remote working, i.e. a shared set of principles. Virtual meetings are part of this – being in a noisy home environment may be OK for you,  but it’s not great for everyone else. Rules on using mute are useful too.

4. Hear every voice

Virtual meetings need a strong chair, otherwise some voices will just get lost. Don’t be afraid to divide the meeting into two halves – one where you go around and name people to contribute, to avoid overtalking, and then a more free flow discussion later (pro-tip: have a list of people on the call on a pad next to you, and put a tick next to people everytime they talk – watch out for people with no ticks/too many).

5. See every face

We’re wired to love faces – and smiles! Set the expectation that people will have cameras on for all virtual meets to achieve much better connection with each other. Having a little window into people’s lives can also be a real relationship builder. 

6. Take breaks

Don’t do virtual meetings back to back – you still need breaks to use the bathroom and get a drink. Having a break from the screen and moving your body will always benefit your next meeting. Also, don’t be ruled by the calendar – have 20 or 50 minute meetings instead of 30 or 60.

7. Future focus

Don’t go over old ground. State up front that “we already know a, b, c and so this meeting is to cover  x, y, z.” It avoids wasting time with people sharing information you’ve already discussed. At times like this, people can over-share and clog up the discussions)

8. Cultural differences

Different cultures have varied approaches to speaking-up, particularly when expressing opposing opinions, questions or feedback. Ensure that any challenges raised on calls/e-meets are dealt with positively and give the option for people to share their thoughts with you after the call, but make it clear that they will be fed back into the group where needed.

9. Share your screen

It’s the old adage that a picture says a thousand words – sharing your screen or a visual is a great way to keep engagement high. Whether it’s slides that bring to life what you’re talking about or key data visuals, appeal to the sense by sharing your screen.

10. Collaboration tools

Depending on the meeting purpose, supporting virtual meetings with live document collaboration can be extremely efficient – participants are able to co-create live, build on each other’s ideas and get to completion much faster than working alone. Jane’s team is currently with organisations across the globe on high performance remote working cultures.

Article written by Jane Sparrow – business and culture expert and founder of The Culture Builders