Virtual meetings have been replacing face-to-face meetings at the same time as business is becoming global. Virtual team members can be spread across multiple time zones and many different countries. For these reasons, leading a virtual meeting has more challenges than just choosing from the assortment of technology options for teleconferences, videoconferencing, or web/net meetings. Virtual meeting leaders must manage the meeting process, the ongoing discussions, and special etiquette requirements. To lead an effective virtual meeting, follow the appropriate thirteen steps below as needed based on the type of meeting being held.
- Log in early. This allows time to make sure the equipment and connections are working. If meeting is being recorded, a sound check should be done before others join session.
- Greet attendees as they log in. Or ask them to identify themselves to the group. Be sure to remind them to state their name before making comments or asking questions during a participatory meeting. If they are not going to add their voice to the meeting, be sure they are muted so noises from their location do not enter the meeting.
- Verify everyone can see the visuals and use the tools. Can they see the on-line presentation or do they have a copy of the slides or other documents handy? Do they know how to pose a question or submit a comment?
- Review the team’s code of conduct. This might include no outside interruptions or distractions while on the call as well as participation requirements. A per person talk time should also be discussed and set to keep from things moving in the meeting.
- Use an agenda to keep on schedule. This will keep everyone on-track to accomplishing the desired meeting results. Be sure to let the group know where you are in the process as the meeting moves along. Also be prepared to get agreement to make changes to the agenda if necessary to accomplish the overall meeting purpose.
- Move at a slower pace than in a live setting. Pause longer than normal between asking a question and waiting for a response. Remember there is often a brief delay between live delivery and when the message is received over technology. Therefore, it can take some time for a response to be formed and sent.
- Avoid technical or corporate-speak during presentations. Different words can mean different things in various departments within the same organization. Consider that colloquialisms, acronyms, and technical terms may be unfamiliar to some attendees.
- Increase participation by asking questions. If someone does not appear to be participating, ask a question or request a comment directly from them using their name.
- Use polling tools to quickly vote. For Yes/No and Go/No go voting, it is easier and often quicker to use a tool within the meeting software or a text/chat feature to get results.
- Track decisions, action items, and other results. This can be done with a minute-taker, chat moderator, or using on-screen tools. When possible, it is better if the participants can see the information recorded so they know they have been heard.
- Track items to be discussed later. Almost every meeting has something come up that does not relate to the current agenda. In this case, the leader needs to note the item for a future meeting agenda or assign a research action. This way the meeting can get back on track quickly.
- Wrap-up with action items and accomplishments. Summarize discussion, confirm decisions made, and determine what the next step for group is. Ask for feedback from the attendees about what went well or suggestions for improving the next meeting.
- Make sure minutes are sent quickly. Just as with a face-to-face meeting, a record of the meeting and supporting documents should be sent to participants within two days of the meeting close.
NOTE: For more tips, review articles “Six Tips for Prepping a Great Virtual Meeting” and “Five Excellent Things To Do After Virtual Meetings”
Following the necessary thirteen steps may prevent a meeting leader from having meetings that run too long, get sidetracked, or are ineffective. Even though virtual meetings should be short, there is no reason the leader should not learn to quickly go through the necessary steps as needed. By having effectively held meeting, the leader will experience increased participation, completed action items, and other outstanding results from their virtual teams.