The forced transition to remote working has been taxing for businesses and employees alike. But the strain has been particularly pronounced for leaders who must keep their teams engaged and inspired during virtual meetings.
The merging of work and personal space, along with the inability to take in nonverbal cues while connecting virtually, can spur apathy among employees. But remote meetings can become much more compelling with a little bit of planning.
Here are a few tips to make your virtual team meetings feel more real, without any gimmicks.
Get the right tech
Technical hiccups can seriously undermine the success of virtual meetings. It’s difficult to interact professionally when you cannot hear or see someone properly due to poor speaker or video quality.
You and your team members should be equipped with essentials such as a stable internet connection, updated meeting software and hardware products including a good-quality webcam and headset.
Test the set-up ahead of time and remind attendees to also check their equipment and to get comfortable with the software platform.
Share the agenda in advance
Getting employees together for a remote meeting requires time and effort, so be respectful and use the meeting time wisely by preparing an agenda so everyone comes prepared. Attach it to the invitation and remind invitees to look it over before the meeting begins.
Sharing the agenda in advance will also help leaders guide the meeting’s flow and prompt employees to come up with ideas beforehand rather than during the meeting.
Call on attendees
Conducting a meeting where teammates don’t accidentally interrupt one another can be accomplished by being more proactive.
Plan to periodically call on individuals to share their input by going around the “table” virtually before finalizing decisions. Ensuring that everyone participates delivers better outcomes and makes team members feel valued.
Practice good virtual meeting etiquette just as you would in an in-person meeting. Witnessing colleagues with a messy bed head in pajamas or munching on toast while slurping coffee undermines any semblance of professionalism. That apparent lack of care also suggests to other employees that it is acceptable to slack off on your team.
Establish a few etiquette rules for virtual meetings to nip attendees’ poor judgment in the bud. At a minimum, tell participants in advance that they should come in business-casual attire and that eating will not be allowed during the meeting.
Since employees are likely working from home, also urge them to attend from a quiet space with a simple background to minimize embarrassing interruption from family members and pets.
Although everyone on your team is an adult and should presumably know better, when it comes to online meeting etiquette, you may also wish to share a reminder like the guidance below about expectations. Working online is new to most of us, so don’t overestimate people’s awareness of how to behave there.
Virtual meeting do’s
Virtual meeting don’ts
Arrive on time.
Keep the team waiting.
Be courteous to other participants.
Cover the microphone while speaking.
Pay attention and listen.
Keep body movement to a minimum.
Drink or eat meals.
Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera.
Be a lurker.
Minimize background distractions.
Make distracting sounds.
Stay mute by default with the microphone off.
Keep the microphone on.
Keep it small and short
Online meetings with a large number of participants make it hard for individuals to contribute. Aim for smaller virtual meetings where everyone can participate. You can even assign each attendee an agenda item to increase engagement.
Strive to plan the meeting so that it can be wrapped up in an hour or less. Giving invitees an agenda in advance will help keep the meeting on focus and foster meaningful discussion.
Say no to excessive meetings
With many teams going fully remote, some managers try to compensate by scheduling more online meetings, while others schedule back-to-back virtual interactions as a way to monitor employees. But conducting frequent meetings in a virtual setup is apt to cause “Zoom fatigue” that could impair your team’s performance.
Ask for feedback
With visual cues harder to read during remote meetings, gathering and processing input correctly becomes more challenging. To mitigate this, consider connecting on a personal level with your employees by scheduling informal meetings. Also, work toward creating opportunities for informal conversations, separate from your normal one-to-one meetings, where members can connect informally.