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Virtual meetings, how to get the most out of it

Two people in a virtual meeting

 

For most of us, this new year begins like the last one ended: in isolation. Because of the pandemic, virtual meeting applications like Zoom, Meet, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, which have become our darling tools, or a source of headaches, are not about to disappear anytime soon.

Since physically going back to work full time is not an option right now, we might as well learn how to use these tools and try and get the most out of virtual meetings! Besides an excellent internet connection, astonishing image and sound capturing tools, here are a few tips to help you make them more enjoyable and effective!

 

Planning a virtual meeting

 

Plan the meeting

Nobody likes to join a meeting, especially a virtual meeting, without knowing what to expect. To overcome this and be more efficient, consider adding an agenda or a little description of the meeting in the invitation.

You can also take the opportunity to send readings to do before joining the meeting. This way, everyone that joins will be better prepared and ready to brainstorm, discuss a topic or pitch in ideas and solutions since they’ve already begun the thought process.

Before the meeting, you could also share documents or other files to ensure that all participants have access to the material at the right time. This will also prevent any delays caused by large file downloads. 

 

Choose an experienced facilitator

Just like in a face-to-face meeting, chose a facilitator. This person will be in charge of introducing the topic of the meeting, giving the floor to participants and facilitating discussions.

The facilitator will be responsible for the meeting, but will also be the point of contact if participants have questions after the meeting.

Tips to help you keep your audience focused :

  • Ask questions and randomly name a person to answer. This way, you will ensure that all participants remain focused and make sure that everybody participates in the discussion.
  • Look at the camera when you speak. Looking at the camera will create the illusion that you are looking at the participants in the eye and help make a visual connection with them.
  • Don’t speak too fast. With connection delays and sound issues associated with online meetings, it’s important to speak more slowly than usual and to articulate well. 

 

Saying hello in a virtual conference

 

Say hello or introduce yourself

Before jumping into the core of the subject, take a few minutes to say hello to your coworkers and ask how they’re doing, just like you’d do when you get to work in the morning or when you chat at the coffee machine. These few minutes can seem useless, but are actually very precious and help strengthen the team chemistry. Plus, this will keep you busy while you wait for everybody to join the meeting!

And if you’re hosting a conference or virtual training, it’s even more important to introduce yourself and invite the others to do so! This will allow everyone to know a little more about each other as well as help networking!

 

Computer, coffee and notes

 

Plan for breaks

In a meeting, sometimes it’s harder to remain focused, and in a virtual meeting, it’s even harder! Do you remember how welcomed and nice breaks were in Cégep or University allowing you to rest your mind a little, stretch your legs, refill your coffee mug or simply go to the bathroom? So, to help you and your coworkers remain focused, try and include a few breaks throughout the longest meetings, webinars or conferences.

Also, try and talk only about one or two topics between each break. This will allow participants to assimilate the content more easily. 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to plan long breaks, a little 5 or 10 minutes every hour should do the trick! This way, the participants will come back to the meeting energized, more focused, and ready to keep going!

Here’s a little pro tip so you don’t forget when it’s time for a break: nominate a time master who will be in charge of watching the time and tell everybody when it’s time for a little break. 

 

Make the meeting conducive to discussions

In a virtual meeting, with closed mics, response delays, and connection issues, it can be hard to get a word in. Especially for the shy ones!

Here are some ideas to help you get everyone involved and heard:

  • Invite participants to ask questions in the chat. Writing down questions in the chat makes them visible to everybody in the meeting and ensures that the person speaking is not interrupted. In this way, other participants can also comment or intervene with one another.
  • Offer the possibility to raise a hand. Yes, just like in school it is a great way to signal the desire to speak without having to engage in a vocal struggle of whoever speaks the loudest and the longest!
  • Schedule question periods. When you are done covering a topic, make sure to give participants the possibility to ask questions. This way, they will know when to intervene. 

 

Provide visual support

Virtual meetings can sometimes be more difficult to stay focused on and it is hard to get lost in the information shared. To prevent this, make sure to have a dynamic visual presentation to support what you are saying and synthesize the information. Make sure to add eye-catching visuals too, to keep your audience focused.

Prioritize slides that don’t have too much text, as you don’t want to look like you are reading a speech. Also, remember to highlight certain parts of the text, such as titles or certain words using bold or italic, for example.

You could plan your breaks and your question periods in your visual support to make sure you don’t forget them. And be sure to keep only relevant content in the presentation. No need for hundreds of pages.

Lastly, remember to send the presentation at the end of the meeting or training so participants can review it as needed.

 

Record the conferences and virtual meetings

Because unfortunately, nobody is immune to a little connection slow down, why not record your virtual conferences and meetings? This way, you make sure that you can pass all the information on to the participants who may have experienced connection problems and those who could not attend.

Recording these virtual events will also allow you to listen to them again and see what you could improve.

 

Pen and paper

 

Include practical activities

To break away from the monologue and stimulate the participant’s creativity and concentration, try and include some practical activities in your virtual meetings. These activities don’t need to be complicated and can be carried out alone, in groups or subgroups. To do so, you can use other meeting rooms.

These types of activities will allow you to generate ideas, create bonds, and change the rhythm of the meeting.

Here are a few examples:

  • Brainstorm activities to do alone or in groups: draw a brainstorm and discuss it later in a larger group. 
  • Practical exercise: have subgroups write different parts of a text to see their approach and then compare as a group.
  • Plan a quiz: ask general knowledge questions so that all participants can interact and learn while having a bit of fun.
  • Try a focus group: invite participants to talk about a problem or issue then discuss it and try and solve it as a group.

 

Ask for feedback

After a conference or a simple virtual team meeting, don’t hesitate to ask for some feedback. Everybody can improve and this will help you make your face-to-face and online meetings even better!

 

Hope these few tips help you make your conferences and meetings more enjoyable and efficient! If you have any other questions or comments regarding virtual meetings or our products and services, please don’t hesitate to contact us!