You’ve probably been there: sitting through a lackluster meeting, trying to stay focused on the topic at hand when all you can focus on are the hands on the clock ticking away. It can be even harder for virtual teams, as virtual meetings require the same amount – or more – of interaction to ensure everyone on the call stays engaged.
Conducting virtual meetings via Skype or Skype Mobile allows a group of people to meet from virtually anywhere, anytime. But how do you ensure these meetings are as productive as their face-to-face counterparts?
Try these tips to enhance the success of your next virtual meeting:
Getting organized in advance sets the tone for the meeting and sends the message that you expect everyone else to be prepared as well. Communicate in advance to ensure all attendees understand the meeting’s purpose and expected results. Send any preliminary information, such as the agenda, roster of participants or other applicable documents, to everyone prior to the meeting date (TIP: you can drop these documents into a group Skype chat that includes all participants, and then call everyone directly from there when it’s time for the meeting to begin). And of course, like traditional meetings, virtual meetings should have a specified start and end time – be sure to take each participant’s time zone into account.
To ensure your virtual team stays focused, ask that everyone set aside sufficient time and a place free from distractions for the meeting (i.e., free from barking dogs or loud surroundings in a public venue). Establish a no emailing policy (or phone calls or instant messaging) during the meeting, and suggest everyone set their Skype status to “Do Not Disturb” after the meeting begins to avoid interruptions.
In a virtual setting, it’s easy to jump right in to the “meat” of the meeting, but that can create an impersonal atmosphere, which is especially important to avoid in virtual meetings. To get the dialogue moving and put everyone at ease, start with a bit of small talk and have each attendee introduce themselves. Encourage participation from the beginning of the meeting and throughout by asking specific questions rather than open-ended questions, which can lead to dead air. Another option is to hold virtual meetings via group video call, so you’re able to communicate as if you were face-to-face.
4. Next Steps
Before concluding, make attendees aware of any next steps or follow up items that came from the meeting. Reiterate the key points discussed and outline next steps in your group chat. You can also use the chat to solicit feedback from attendees to identify what is or isn’t working and collect suggestions for future virtual meetings.
Have a few best practices of your own for virtual meetings? Share in the comments.