How to Make the Most of Virtual Meetings

online zoom meetings tips

Working from home became the default situation for the majority of people from early 2020, and it hasn’t been an easy transition. The advantages of cutting down on the commute and spending more time with family are often offset by the strains of ad-hoc home office setups, ‘zoom fatigue,’ and social isolation.

The good news is that workplace and wellbeing experts have responded to this dramatic and complex period of change, and there is now support available to help you establish and maintain a healthy and productive remote working situation for your organisation. There’s no shame in seeking out more effective ways to stay connected with your team online.

Poorly managed virtual meetings can be an inefficient use of time, and demoralising to your workforce. To make the most of your remote working situation, you need to set fair boundaries and expectations about new working practices, and provide necessary professional and moral support to promote a healthy work-life balance in your workplace.

If you are looking for guidance on how to effectively facilitate online meetings, help is at hand. You can take courses in how to effectively facilitate online meetings, or read this comprehensive guide from BusinessFinancing.co.uk. There are also some simple, but important things that will help you get started right away.

Choosing the right platform

There are some key differences between the major video conferencing platforms that are currently available, and it’s worth considering which is the best for your situation. That will depend on the type and size of meeting you will be hosting, as well as which platforms you currently have accounts with and use for messaging, email, and document sharing.

If you have a small business and anticipate only needing a virtual meeting room for one-to-one or small group meetings, Slack or Google Hangouts might be enough for your purposes. Slack is great for internal group meetings that are integrated within chat channels, while Hangouts also supports external participants, as long as they have gmail accounts.

You can host up to 50 participants on Skype, which has been around for a long time, and is still a comfortable platform for many. Zoom is also now widely used, and can hold up to 100 people, or more if you have a Zoom Business account.

If you have the budget and need to support meetings for a much larger group, you might consider a Microsoft 365 Business Plan to access Microsoft Teams, or G Suite for Business to access Google Meet. Each of these platforms will host up to 250 people.

Preparing for your meeting

Meetings can be chaotic at the best of times, but when you no longer have the visual and social cues of being in the same physical space, things can very easily go off-topic, and people can lose interest, get frustrated, or feel like they have not had a fair opportunity to participate.

Before your meeting gets started, you should make sure that it runs smoothly by asking a reliable person to act as a facilitator. This person will be responsible for keeping time, introducing agenda items and moving the conversation on when necessary, as well as  making sure that all participants are able to contribute.

If you are planning to discuss any data or documents, it will help if you can send these to participants ahead of time. This will ensure that everyone is equally prepared for the meeting, and you don’t waste time waiting for people to catch up, or distract people from the discussion itself.

Setting an agenda

A well-planned meeting should always have an agenda, so that you don’t miss any important points of business. This will help your facilitator keep track of where the meeting is up to, and give a reassuring structure to your virtual meeting environment.

The specific items on your agenda will depend on the nature of your business and the specific purpose of the meeting, of course. However, in general you will want to make sure that people feel welcome and well-informed about your meeting topics, and understand what they need to do both during and after the meeting.

All agendas should include a brief check in with participants. This is important to establish team rapport and wellbeing, as well as to provide focus for the meeting and opportunity to review activity since the previous meeting. If you identify any issues that need further discussion, your facilitator can make a note to refer back later.

Your main order of business may include reviewing action points from the previous meeting, as well as weekly sales and progress reports. This is important to establish accountability in your team, but also so that your facilitator can make a note of anything that requires further action, to be addressed later in the meeting.

There should also be time allocated to addressing issues and problem solving. This is your team’s opportunity to identify and discuss key challenges and opportunities, and to get input on possible solutions. Once you agree on the most appropriate solution, you can focus on developing your strategy.

Your agenda should also make time towards the end of the meeting to go over any action points you have decided on. It is very important that everyone is clear on what they need to do next to follow up on the meeting, and that roles and tasks have been assigned and agreed on.

Before you close your meeting, you need to allow time to circle back to the topics that came up during the meeting, any other business, feedback, and suggestions for upcoming meetings. Depending on what these outstanding issues are, you may need to schedule another meeting to address them appropriately.

Hosting virtual meetings can be a daunting prospect at first, but don’t panic. If you take time to get organised and show that you are willing to reach out and support your team and listen to their thoughts, you’re already off to a good start.

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