Virtual meetings are commonplace in our digitally connected world. Whether they are used to connect teams from different countries, or to bring employees who work from home together for a conference call, virtual meetings can be crucial to a company’s success.
Like clockwork though, almost every virtual meeting seems to run into some sort of problem. Common refrains include: “What’s the code to get into this video call,” or “Is my microphone working?”
To help you avoid common problems and to ensure that you get the most out of your virtual meetings, we’ve put together seven tips to help you and your team. But before we get into the tips, let’s quickly look at what a virtual meeting is, and why you may choose to meet virtually with your team.
What is a Virtual Meeting?
A virtual meeting is a gathering of distributed people, which uses technology to connect participants instead of a physical meeting place. Virtual meetings use digital tools like video conferencing, project management software or chat software to connect people so that they can communicate and work together in real time.
Virtual meetings will occur either out of convenience or out of necessity. Sometimes, teams find it easier to hop into a virtual meeting instead of disrupting their day by leaving their desks and meeting together. In these cases, virtual meetings waste less time and allow employees to keep higher levels of productivity.
And sometimes virtual meetings are the only way to connect with your team. This can be due to a distributed workforce or because your company has remote employees. In these cases, staff members come together virtually to stay synced with one another. Virtual meetings even allow teams with employees in different time zones to connect seamlessly with each other, which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Tips for a Successful Virtual Meeting
The success of your virtual meeting relies on many things. Some of them might be out of your control, such as your internet connection. If your connectivity is poor, your meeting will be. So, there are basic pipeline issues to sort out first. Once you’re ready to virtually meet, then be sure to follow these steps.
1. Select the Right Virtual Meeting Software
The first and most important decision to make when organizing a virtual meeting is to answer the question: “how will we meet?” Virtual meetings can be as simple as a group phone call, or as complex as a work session with a shared screen.
Therefore, you will need to select a technology that will allow your team to meet. It should provide all of the necessary tools for you to achieve your meeting goals.
There are numerous ways to host a virtual meeting, but here are some of the most popular virtual meeting platforms used today:
- Video chat platforms like Zoom, Facetime, or Google Hangouts
- Chat software like Slack or Skype
- Collaborative project management software like ProjectManager.com
When selecting a virtual meeting software, it can be tempting to go with a free tool, but it’s important that you don’t cut corners here. The platform that you choose will influence both how your team communicates, and the productivity that comes out of your meetings.
For example, many teams have tried video conferencing with Zoom’s free edition, only to learn later that calls are limited in duration, limited in participants and are not secured with a password (which has led to stories of some embarrassing visitors randomly dropping into meetings). These limitations can lead to headaches and lost time, so it’s best to pay for a tool that will be so integral to your team.
2. All Team Members Test Before Joining
It is important that everyone involved in the upcoming virtual meeting signs up for, installs and tests the software that will be used ahead of time. One major issue that pops up often with virtual meetings is technical problems.
If a team member can’t figure out how to log in, or how to get their webcam working, then the whole meeting can be delayed. These hiccups in technology can lead to frustration among team members and losses in productivity. Every person should go into their virtual meeting knowing exactly how to participate efficiently.
3. Create an Agenda
In addition to virtual meetings, this tip also applies to meetings of any kind: always prepare an agenda before the meeting. Your agenda should list specific items that will be discussed, along with any deliverables that should come out of the meeting. Every agenda should be time-bound, and the time needs to be watched carefully.
There is nothing worse than a 30-minute meeting that lasts for two hours, especially when the meeting could have been wrapped up in the original 30 minutes. An agenda helps you stick to the plan so that team members don’t get discouraged or frustrated by wasted time. A good rule of thumb to live by is this: if there is no agenda, then there is no meeting.
4. Send Out the Invite and Agenda
Once you have an agenda prepared, it is important to send the agenda along with an event invite to all team members who will be participating in the virtual meeting. This should be done well in advance of the start of the meeting time so that team members have ample time to prepare.
One important consideration when sending out virtual meeting event invites is the time zones of team members. Coordinating a meeting can get more difficult when working with remote teams that are distributed across different countries and time zones.
This is also an important consideration when meeting with employees who work from home, as their schedules can be less rigid than an in-office staff. A clear work from home policy can help solidify schedules.
5. Use Ice Breakers (When Appropriate)
Virtual meetings can be more difficult to commence than traditional meetings because participants typically take a few minutes to trickle in and get their technology set up. Rather than waste precious time chit-chatting during these first few minutes, you can run ice breakers to encourage the team to get to know each other better.
Love them or hate them, but ice breakers have been shown to help with team cohesion and teamwork. For some more serious virtual meetings however, icebreakers may not be appropriate. In these cases it may be best to just move forward and begin the meeting at the time listed on your meeting invite.
In all meetings, there are people who will proudly speak up and those who will happily take a back seat to just listen. At in-person meetings, it’s easy to read the room and encourage quieter team members to speak up, in order to get team collaboration going.
However, in virtual meetings it can be more difficult. You need to be always aware of who is on the call, and who may need some encouragement to speak up. Pay extra attention to the members of your virtual meeting who may need some encouragement to participate. If possible, have a list of all virtual meeting participants handy so that you can quickly call on team members as needed.
7. Send out Wrap Up Notes
The final and perhaps most important thing you should do comes immediately after your virtual meeting is finished. Once the meeting is over, gather all of your notes from the meeting and share them with the entire team of participants.
A simple way to do this is to start with your original meeting agenda, then add notes for each line item. Did we accomplish this line item? Who is responsible for owning the followup of the line item?
It’s important for the entire team to come out of each virtual meeting with action items. If nothing actionable is coming from your meetings, then you may need to consider whether the meeting was even necessary.
How ProjectManager.com Helps Virtual Teams
ProjectManager.com is an online project and work management platform that allows team members to work together, no matter where they are located. Sometimes so much work gets done, virtual meetings aren’t even necessary!
Virtual teams, remote teams, and work-from-home employees use ProjectManager.com to collaborate on work together. With multiple project views, there are tools for every team on the cloud-based platform.
Managers can create project plans for their teams using an online Gantt chart. They can assign all of the project tasks out to team members, and each team member will be notified in real-time that they have new work assigned to them.
Collaborate in Real Time
Teams can also use visual kanban boards to create shared workflows, so that every team member knows exactly what the rest of the team is working on at all times. This visibility is crucial to a team’s success, especially when staff are not working together face-to-face in the office.
Thousands of teams all over the world rely on ProjectManager.com to collaborate, stay organized and get more work done together. ProjectManager.com has tools for all teams, both in-office and remote. Managers can assign work and track progress, while employees can organize all of their tasks in one place. Try ProjectManager.com today for free with this 30-day free trial.