As we continue to navigate the terrain of leading a virtual community, I’ve come to the revelation that virtual meetings aren’t going away. Even as some begin to return to their office buildings completely or use a hybrid model, having meetings on virtual platforms is here to stay.
So, we might as well make them the best they can be and as leaders, that’s our job. So, today, I thought I would offer some tips for leading virtual meetings.
Agenda in the invite: Within the virtual world, a sense of order helps to manage stress and anxiety. So, providing the agenda in advance will allow your team to know what to expect and will help them better prepare for the meeting. It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, just be sure to lay out the topics you plan to discuss. Also, if you’re expecting team members to report out updates, give them a heads-up.
Fun activity: Some may think that “fun” and “business” don’t mix. But, especially given the stress that remote work has brought over the past year, adding a bit of levity to your meeting may just be the break in the day that your team members need. It doesn’t have to be extremely complicated. There are lots of resources available for team activities/icebreakers. Find activities that work for your culture and incorporate them into your meeting at least once a month.
Call folks by name: This may sound small, but when you’re in virtual meetings all day, you can begin to lose the human connection that in-person meetings offer. So, a small gesture of calling out names as you refer to someone could create a human connection moment. To be clear, I’m not suggesting obnoxious overtures. It could be as slight as saying, “to your point, Beth…” that reinforces that a person is seen and heard – something that’s particularly hard to tell in that box amidst other boxes on the screen.
Use the chat and breakout rooms: Depending on the number of participants attending your meeting, do your best to ensure space for voices. One way to do this is to utilize the chat feature and refer to it to make sure you’re elevating their thoughts. Another idea is to put participants in breakout rooms with directions on how to spend the time (e.g. “Let’s break off into groups for 15 mins and discuss how we might attack this budget gap. Assign a spokesperson to share out.”).
Keep meetings short: One of my favorite quotes is to “keep it tight and right.” Meetings, especially in the virtual world where we’re all staring at screens all day, should really be timed to meet the goal of the meeting. If it doesn’t need to be an hour, don’t try to fill the time. You will lose participants’ attention with unnecessary, misaligned content. You’re better off having a concise, on-topic 45-minute meeting and giving people the gift of 15-minutes back instead of filling it because you can. Trust me, less is more!
Hopefully, you’ll find one or more of these ideas worth “test-driving.” Each brings a unique value-add to your meeting and will keep your participants engaged in different ways.