As organizations steer clear of face-to-face interactions, we find ways to adapt to virtual meetings. Remote meetings have been around for a while and are especially done by multinational corporations where team members are scattered around the globe. How are we making meetings work in the new normal? Do the methods and etiquette of physical meetings still apply to virtual meetings? We’ve rounded up ways for you to make conference calls more effective and efficient from the preparation down to the follow-through.
BEFORE THE MEETING
Check the availability of attendees.
If your team is within the same city or office, checking the attendees’ availability is relatively easy. Multinationals, on the other hand, can be a challenge, especially if the attendees are on different time zones. Work around a schedule that is convenient for everybody. Luckily, technology has made scheduling meetings easy with access to the World Clock on our phones, and our emails syncing the contacts’ location and time with meeting invites. When setting a schedule, the following must be considered:
- Time of day. Believe it or not, the time of day affects the success of your meeting. Late morning or early afternoon is ideal. But if you have a remote team scattered around the world, you must decide on a time with the highest level of participation. Or you could rotate the timings so all time zones are accommodated.
- Day of week. For those working 9-5, Mondays are for backlogs from the weekend and Fridays are for wrapping up the week. As much as possible, do not schedule hard or tricky work on these days as everyone is in a different headspace and rushing to complete their own tasks.
Send the agenda along with the invite.
You can save so much time by identifying the what, why, when, where, and who of the meeting. Often, writing down the agenda allows the host to determine if convening, albeit online, is necessary or if the subject at hand may be discussed via email. Among the things that should be sent out prior to the meeting are:
- an outline of the topics to be discussed
- the duration of the meeting and the amount of time spent on every topic
- the attendees and their roles during the meeting
- files and documents for pre-reading so everyone is on the same page when the meeting starts
Test the equipment.
No matter the size of the conference, it is crucial to test your internet connectivity, working order of webcam and microphone. Many meeting apps and software allow testing of audio and video. It is recommended that you conduct a test call a day or an hour prior to the meeting. By doing so, you avoid unnecessary disruptions during the call. A tiny glitch can cause your teammates to lose focus and interest in the meeting.
DURING THE MEETING
Inform the attendees if the call is being recorded.
It is common courtesy to let anybody know that they are being recorded just as it is important to ask a parent if you could hold their child. Although many participants assume that this is protocol for big and important meetings, it shows good work ethic and builds trust. And in strange and difficult times like now, trust and rapport must be established with your team to ensure everyone is engaged and motivated.
Because of the work-from-home setup, many of us have become accustomed to dress comfortably. Too comfortably, in some cases. Since meetings are still formal in nature, it is best not to show up in a tank top, in PJs, or worse, shirtless. Note that the camera shows your entire face and a part of your upper torso. Unless it is a virtual party, do not wear flashy outfits as these tend to shift the focus away from the speaker or the presentation. Neutral colors such as black, white, khaki, navy blue, and olive green are the way to go. The background should also be clean and free of distractions such as people passing in the back. Many meeting platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, etc. offer the option of changing your background, so choose an appropriate backdrop for your avatar. Popular options include a blank wall with a single plant on the side, a minimally-decorated book shelf, and an empty office space.
Activate DND (Do Not Disturb).
It is a pet peeve for many executives to hear a phone ringing in the middle of a meeting. As a host or participant, you are expected to give the meeting your full attention. The good news is that our phones, emails, and chats have the Do Not Disturb option where you are not notified of any call or message while this function is activated. At home, there is the likelihood of your child barging into your room while the meeting is on, or your partner walking around in a towel. Before the meeting starts, inform them about your call so they are mindful of their actions. It also helps to stay in a quiet room and close the door and windows to muffle any background noise such as dogs barking and cars honking.
Keep everybody engaged.
A little goes a long way. Spend the first few minutes of the meeting making small talk while waiting for the rest of the participants to arrive. This is an opportunity to establish rapport with the team. Earning the trust of the people around you fosters an environment where your teammates feel confident to make their voices heard, which leads to a fruitful exchange of ideas. It is also through engagement where you learn what works and what doesn’t. In the middle of the meeting, throw simple yet relevant questions to anybody in the meeting. This signals the participants to be on alert for their turn. As you wrap up the conference, make sure everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts and questions about the matter being discussed.
Be mindful of the time.
Always start and end your meetings on time. Your professionalism shows when you respect the time of the people in your team.
More often than not, we forget that we need to drink our fluids after talking for minutes. You don’t want your throat drying up halfway through the meeting. Keeping hydrated helps avoid catching a cough or a cold easily, especially amidst a pandemic. Remember, health is wealth. Keep a bottle of water handy and take a sip here and there. If the option is available, mute your microphone and turn your camera off temporarily while you drink. Or politely excuse yourself and move away from the camera.
AFTER THE MEETING
Send the minutes of the meeting.
The minutes (or the summary) is perhaps the most important element of a meeting. Here is where you find information on the attendees that were present, the topics that were discussed, the agreements, and the deliverables. You can make sure that everyone is on the same page by sending this out. It also allows you to track of what needs to be done afterwards.
This is not required but is recommended. Every once in a while, ask the participants to provide feedback about your meetings. You can do this anonymously to get more candid remarks. This way, you can learn what method is working and what is not. You can improve the process by listening to suggestions and comments.
Evaluate rapport with the team.
Rapport is important, because it allows the team to operate as a well-oiled machine, rather than a creaky ship. Ensuring that your team could get together to meet, socialize and get to know each other at least superficially. The key to having successful meetings is having a common objective, and having the rapport with each and every team member to deliver the result in a way that is consistent with the organization’s culture.
Check on the progress of the deliverables.
Follow through the deliverables. Revisit the minutes of the meeting and see if the tasks are being carried out effectively and timely. You can do this a day, a week, or even a month after the meeting, depending on the timeline that was set and agreed upon. By checking on the progress, you can also determine if another meeting is needed.
Virtual meeting styles may vary across different organizations, but one thing is for certain. Bad meetings waste precious time and discourages productivity. It reflects poorly on the team and the leader. The practices laid out in this article are basic yet proven to get the ball rolling for any group meeting, big or small.
Meetings are integral in bridging gaps in the value chain. Learn how else you can add value to every aspect in your business model by booking a free consultation with us.
Corporate Transformation Services (CTS) offers solutions for distressed, troubled, poorly or under-performing businesses to generate extraordinary, timely and sustainable value. We collaborate with our partners & customers, use science, technology & global best practice to develop innovative solutions to deliver business excellence in an increasingly disrupted world.
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