Making Virtual Meetings Work for You

COVID-19 has pushed the American workforce into a digital world; from in-person to entirely virtual interactions. While navigating this new environment can seem challenging, maintaining communication with your team is essential for keeping up productivity and employee satisfaction. Fortunately, there are a plethora of options out there for maintaining communication and holding virtual meetings. From Skype for Business to options like Zoom, there are options for every type of business, making it easy to find a solution that fits your needs and your company culture.

No matter what solution you decide on, learning to navigate and manage virtual meetings can present challenges. Here are five tips to help you engage employees and manage your team’s virtual meetings:

1.   Turn on your video before the meeting starts and encourage your team to do the same

Having the video on for each person can help to keep the meeting focused, discouraging multitasking, and encouraging individuals to interact. In a time where we cannot interact in passing, this is essential in building community. Seeing coworkers’ faces helps us to connect and encourages people to feel like they are part of a team rather than just interacting with a voice on the other end.

2.   Create an agenda and keep the focus on collaboration

While knowing where each employee is from a productivity perspective is important, it should not be the focus of your meeting. Ask employees to report before the meeting where they are in projects and what collaboration could be helpful. This can cut down on time spent on monotonous tasks and allows you to create an agenda that encourages your employees to stay engaged and interested. If there is a need for further discussion about an issue that doesn’t require team feedback, a one-on-one meeting may be more helpful than discussing it as a team.

3.   Make community building a formal activity

Often, when a meeting ends, we can gather “at the water cooler” and talk out challenges or just relax and chat. Without the in-person interaction, this important connection can be missed. Employees need to have a chance to chat with each other, so they continue to feel connected and a part of the team. Use the time in the beginning and/or end of your meeting to encourage employees to chat. One way to start this is to bring up something more personal, ask a question, or talk about something in your life that doesn’t directly relate to the topic at hand. This can encourage conversation and allow you to continue to build community in your organization.

4.   Make your expectations clear

You want your team to be interested, focused, and engaged during your meeting. Meetings can encourage community and collaboration, but poorly run virtual meetings can also cause division and stress for employees. Keep your meetings fun and productive providing structure to your employees. Make sure they understand expectations: no multi-tasking, cameras on, no stepping out for a phone-call, etc. They should understand what is expected but also that we understand if they are caring for children or that they may be interrupted by pets. One way to maintain structure without feeling overbearing is to assign individual roles. One employee keeps minutes, another comes up with a fun activity, etc. This can help ensure every employee has a chance to speak, and that everyone feels heard and engaged.

5.   Come Prepared

Know what is on your agenda, exceptional performance, or collaboration you want to highlight, or any news you’d like to share. Come in ready to guide the flow of the meeting, allowing for collaboration and conversation but understanding the challenges this can mean for video chats. If you have a large group, set up “break-out rooms” where smaller groups can discuss, collaborate, and report back. This allows everyone to stay engaged, feel heard and can keep any technological issues from interfering in team building or productivity.  

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