In our last article we took a look at some virtual meeting tips, to help your meetings go as smoothly as possible. We soon realised though that that were more tips to put forward. So here are a few more suggestions to help you organise your team.
Again to help with the aim of having an incident-free meeting and limiting background noise, inform anyone you live with the timings of your meeting. They then know not to burst in and not to make a lot of noise.
Meetings can take a thousand forms. They may be two people or fifteen. I have been to many a physical meeting in the past when i have not known some of the attendees. So i think it is a good idea to start each meeting with an introduction. No creeping death scenario, just a quick note on who you are. Alternatively, introductions can be done by those in the meeting the first time they speak. Or the chair can note everyone on the call at the beginning, so that everyone is aware who is there. A large number of attendees can mean very little screen room for each person’s video.
Introductions should also be made if someone joins the meeting after it has commenced. Or leaves the meeting too perhaps. If you yourself are late, wait for an opportune moment to introduce yourself and apologise if you were not meant to be late. Wait for a lull in proceedings to speak, do not just charge in and speak.
As much as you try and replicate a normal meeting, a virtual meeting is still a group of people in their own homes. There will be times when you simply cannot control what is going on in your location. A delivery driver may ring your bell, a dog may start barking, a baby may cry. So remember that mute button. Remember to use it when you yourself are not contributing to the meeting. And remember to turn it back off if you are!
Sometimes technical problems are just inevitable. But it helps if you have experience of how to deal with them. Or at least someone on the call does. For example, it is advisable that all in the call have their video on at all times. However, if someone is struggling with audio and is cutting off a lot it may be worth turning off the camera to see if things improve.
Which is just another way of saying be professional. Remember that everyone can see what you are doing at all times. Meetings can be boring of course. Some parts of a meeting may not be of interest to you or relevant to your role. But like any meeting, you need to retain an air of professionalism and pretend as if interested in proceedings. If you start looking down at your phone or scrolling the internet, it may be visible to others. And perhaps demoralising to the person speaking. It could also result in you being stumped if suddenly asked a question.
The key aspect of this for me is the way video software works. It often cannot broadcast multiple voices talking at the same time. Often it will instead simply broadcast the loudest or clearest voice. So it is important that people do not speak over each other. This will really disrupt the rhythm of the meeting and add awkward silences and confusion. Always let people speak and wait until they have finished. Perhaps you can give a visual clue that you wish to speak once the current speaker has finished. If you have a question for the group, you may want to push it towards an individual as a starting point so that everyone does not speak at the same time.
Make your points clearly and if you are addressing someone specifically, say their name so that they are aware your point is for their benefit above everyone else. Eye contact is lost in such situations, so you have to be clearer about the people you are addressing. The personal aspect is not there, so you may wish to exaggerate emotions so that everyone understands where you are coming from.
You are not all in the same work building and you do not know the plans of everyone else in the meeting. They may have other calls, deadlines or childcare commitments. So if you are chairing the meeting, try and ensure it ends on time. If it is clearly not going to, ask if everyone is ok with it overrunning, and excuse anyone for whom that might be a problem. If it a long meeting, consider having a break in the middle as you would in any meeting. And ensure that everyone that wishes to contribute during the meeting gets to do so. Keep a mental record of who is speaking more than others and let people have their say, as it makes for a more productive meeting, and means the participants are more engaged.
Remember that these are weird and difficult times, and everyone is just trying to get by. Be understanding of people’s needs and their mood, and try and make such meetings as relaxed and stress-free as you can. The necessity to have meetings from remote locations may feel limiting, but it has its own advantages. People can be more flexible when working from home, especially as the lack of travel has freed up time for a lot of us. This gives you an opportunity to use that time to be even more productive.