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Best Practices for Successful Virtual Meetings

Best Practices for Successful Virtual Meetings

From Dr. Rick Brinkman, one of the bestselling masterminds who wrote Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, is bringing you tips for getting through virtual meetings and making them successful.

Meetings are difficult enough, but remote meetings present unique challenges. Even though conference calls and virtual meetings are standard business practice, now more than ever, meetings are going virtual. Here are the 9 best practices to put in place that will make your next virtual meeting a success.

1. Format

When planning a virtual meeting, ask: “What are we trying to accomplish?” Then, choose the right format. If you need to brainstorm, weigh an idea’s pros and cons, problem solve, or discuss complex issues, your virtual meeting must have a shared screen on which you write the points people make. If you only need an update and to interact about that information, a conference call may do.

2. Agenda

For a successful meeting, you always need an agenda. Send it to participants 3 days ahead, and request they have it in front of them at the meeting. Include realistic timeframes so items aren’t cut short to end on time.  

In order to stay on course and avoid tangents, each agenda item should have a statement of purpose and statement of focus. The statement of purpose is 1-2 sentences on why the agenda item is more important than the 10 million other things everyone knows they have to do. The statement of focus clarifies what you need from participants; i.e. their ideas, considerations, questions, etc.

3. “Call in by” or “Log in by” Time

Set a “call in by” or “log in by” time that’s about four to five minutes before the meeting starts. Otherwise attendees will often be late.  Some greatest hits are: they can’t find the email with the log-in information, or they have a computer glitch, or they get distracted by something else and lose track of the time, or they just habitually wait until the last minute to dial in.

4. Unusual Start and End Times

I have found unusual times keeps things on time. For example: “Log in between 8:53 a.m. and 8:57 a.m. The meeting will start promptly at 9:02 a.m.” Weird times are memorable. The net result will be a greater likelihood of people calling in and logging in on time. As the meeting organizer, stick to unusual times for each agenda item as well (i.e., 9:02 a.m. – 9:17 a.m. Questions on the new policy). This shows you are paying attention to and respecting everyone’s time.

5. Punctual Start

Start on time, period. Otherwise, you train people to come late. Even better, block latecomers. True, some agenda items may suffer without the “right” people there. But you only have to do this once or twice before everyone gets the message you are serious about starting on time. In the future, they’ll make sure they do.  And by the way, also end on time.

6. No Multitasking

In virtual meetings it’s too easy for people to do other things. But if they’re multitasking, they’re not paying attention. Banish multitasking ahead of time by getting everyone’s agreement  in exchange for the benefit that the meeting will more focused, and take less time.

7. Webcams On

Create a WEBCAMS ON policy: it creates accountability and improves a feeling of connection. People stay focused and don’t multitask. Seeing people pay attention to what you say, nod in agreement or even roll their eyes communicates so much more than audio-only silence. It creates the welcome sense of a live conference room.

8. Speaking Order

In face to face meetings, typically the more assertive people talk too much and the more passive not at all. In virtual meetings people tend to be too polite and say nothing or talk over each other which ultimately makes them less likely to try again.

All meetings should have a speaking order. In virtual meetings I have found a circular order (going around the room) gives everyone airtime. Include the order on the agenda. For even more accountability, establish a random order, in which you as organizer call on everyone in no particular pattern — when it’s their turn, they had better be ready and people can either speak, pass, or say “Come back to me.” 

For a voluntary speaking order I have used the Chat function in the meeting software. People just type in their name and you have a visual order that everyone can see. It is highly efficient.

9. Flight Recording

Have a shared screen and summarize in bullet points on a PowerPoint slide the points people are making when they speak. By making the speaker’s ideas and point of view visible, it establishes that all ideas and viewpoints are important. It also depersonalizes the discussion so it’s not one person’s thoughts versus another’s. Another benefit is it keeps ideas from getting lost in the shuffle. When people see all the factors visually of whatever they are discussing, this leads to what I call “holographic thinking,” which is a state of highly effective collaboration that results in more complete ideas and solutions.

Insist everyone uses and logs in visually by using meeting software such as GoToMeeting, WebEx, Zoom or Adobe Connect.

I have found that these 9 best practices produce more effective meeting results, better solutions and do it in much less time.

For more meeting tips see Dealing with Meetings You Can’t Stand, Meet Less and Do More by Dr. Rick Brinkman and published by McGraw-Hill.
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Best Practices for Successful Virtual Meetings

Dr. Rick Brinkman is the coauthor of the international bestseller Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, which has been translated into 25 languages. His new book, Dealing with Meetings You Can’t Stand, How to Meet Less and Do More is available now. He is a top keynote speaker and trainer on leadership, teamwork, customer service, effective meetings, difficult people, and managing multiple priorities.