How to conduct a virtual business meeting that doesn't waste time
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
In a short period, COVID-19 has changed the way many organizations conduct business. And possibly, it’s changing the way we’ve previously viewed meetings. In the past, we might have dreaded those long afternoon meetings in the conference room. Now that many of us are working from home, it’s possible we’re longing for those days again. (Well, maybe only a little bit. It’s also important to maintain a sense of humor during times like these.)
The point is, business meetings are essential. And during this time of virtual work, we may need a reminder that they’re still essential. Knowing how to run a business meeting remains an important skill and knowing how to run a virtual meeting is different, but equally important.
Here are five things to consider when planning a virtual meeting. While some of these tips are true for all meetings, there are some that specifically apply to virtual meetings.
1. Hold a meeting for the right reason.
There are only three reasons to conduct a meeting: to distribute information, to solve a problem, or to make a decision. If the meeting doesn’t fall into one of these categories, then ask the question, “Would an email suffice?” Especially when we’re working virtually, it’s necessary to keep the number of meetings to a minimum but at the same time make them more valuable.
2. Have an agenda. And stick to it.
Send the agenda in advance so participants can prepare to participate at a high level. If they need to read or review something in advance, send those materials as well. While it might be acceptable to read or review something during a face-to-face meeting, it’s not valuable during virtual meetings. In addition, while it’s not typical, consider having an icebreaker to start the virtual meeting. Think of it as a substitute for the small talk that takes place prior to the meeting start.
3. Make sure you use the right technology. And that everyone knows how to use it.
Maybe, before having a meeting where the group actually has to get something accomplished, have a brief informational session just so everyone can test the tech and get comfortable with it. Even then, don’t require someone use their video if they don’t want to. Have a call-in option. The meeting is about participation, not appearances. Oh, and speaking of looks…now is not the time to be judgey about what people are wearing. Focus on results.
4. Let everyone know in advance that they need to contribute.
No one likes being called out, so set a rule that everyone will be asked to weigh in. Designate someone to take meeting minutes and consider using a SMART format, so the minutes become a working goals document. The group will want to commit to distributing the minutes quickly so everyone can use the goals document and begin working on their assignments.
5. Wrap up the meeting by thanking everyone and recapping what has taken place.
If necessary, set the date for the next meeting. Managers have an opportunity here to remind the group that the organization appreciates their work. In addition, they can remind employees that they are there to support their efforts. One of the hardest aspects to virtual work is feeling disconnected and disengaged. Make sure employees leave the meeting feeling connected to the organization and team.
Business meetings are a proven activity to help keep the team connected and disseminate information. Managers should use them to help engage employees and maintain productivity, especially during times when the team isn’t able to be in the same space together. The key to success is using tried and true meeting principles coupled with technology advancements to create an informative and engaging virtual meeting.
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About Sharlyn Lauby
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.