Tips for better virtual meetings
Meetings are very important for the proper functioning of any serious company. They are important because they make it possible for every team member to be up-to-date on what’s going on in the company and what direction the company’s development strategies are heading. On top of that, meetings are also an opportunity for teams to gather and straighten their relationships, or to simply remind employees that they are not alone in the company and that they need to function together with their coworkers.
Due to the pandemic, many businesses have decided that their employees should work from home for the time being. That also means that it has become almost impossible to conduct meetings the way they were conducted before. Therefore, this new situation requires significant adjustment. Once again, we are relying on technology. Many tools have and are being developed to help facilitate communication in times when in-person communication has become undesirable. And indeed, remote meetings are becoming our new normal. What was once reserved only for unconventional meetings for coworkers working in different countries or even on different continents has now become the only way to conduct a meeting with John and Jim across the hall. But such means of communication still face obstacles. We will look into some of the problems and try to suggest some possible ways to overcome them.
Obstacles of remote meetings
- Time difference
Coordinating a long-distance virtual meeting could mean coping with multiple time zones. While the colleague from New York is still sipping his morning coffee, the coworker in Beijing has just eaten dinner before the meeting and as soon as the meeting is done, he will probably change his suit for comfy pajamas.
2. Technical problems
It often happens that meeting are interrupted because of inadequate connection, and this can create different problems, for example the well-known low audio/video quality or the much disliked and more dramatic frozen screen effect. Also, conversations might be disrupted by annoying background noises. Another technical problem is that lots of meetings are delayed and time is wasted because people have problems logging in and accessing the meetings due to problems with the software.
3. Natural conversations and small talk
At the beginning of every face-to-face meeting, people tend to engage in small talk, just to break the ice and get more comfortable. In online meetings this is a bit tricky, since the communication isn’t really natural and when people talk simultaneously (which often happens in face to face communication), uncomfortable noise is generated and the conversation very often becomes indiscernible. That is why people in virtual meetings try not to interrupt each other and they go straight to the topic. The consequence is that remote meetings always tend to be more of a presentation with not so much input from other participants, especially if no questions are asked.
How to improve virtual meetings
The unexpected changes in the working environment can be too much for everyone. By simply adjusting a few things, managers and teams can adapt and learn how to overcome some of the obstacles and online meetings can become more effective, productive and useful. At this point, we will try to give you some tips on how your remote meeting can turn out to be a success.
- Choose a video conference tool
The first point is to choose a good technical setup. There is an abundance of technology out there that makes the online meeting run smoothly. If you want to keep it more traditional choose Skype or Google Hangouts. On the other hand, Zoom is a more modern and nowadays extremely popular conferencing platform. GotoMeeting was specifically built for business and has its perks. Other tools worth mentioning are: Join.me, UberConference and Slack. All of these communication tools are more than fine for remote meetings. You will need to see what works best for your company. An important thing to highlight is that once you’ve chosen a platform you should try to stick to it and not change it often, because it will confuse your colleagues unnecessary.
2. Best time for the meeting
It doesn’t seem hard to schedule a meeting, but it surely can be. In a corporate setting you can compare availability across your invitation list with different internal shared cloud-based tools. What things should be taken to consideration? Local holidays, mealtimes, and other potential regional factors that might collide with your meeting especially if your colleagues live on the other side of the globe. When it is possible, it’s always a good idea to schedule meetings far in advance, because the more notice everyone has, it is less likely that colleagues will have collisions.
3. Set the agenda
First of all, you need to have in mind how long the meeting will last. This will help you to set the structure of the meeting. Our advice is: write an agenda! Structure the meeting, think about the main points that need to be covered and stick to them, write down the names of the participating team members and their responsibilities. Also, it is a good practice that one employee is in charge of the meeting as a sort of mediator, to make sure that everyone sticks to the agenda and that all key points are discussed.
A good practice is to send the agenda to all the participants before the meeting. That way everyone can prepare accordingly.
4. Tackle background noise
We’ve all participated in meetings where you could hear inappropriate ring phones, loud traffic noises or the family dog who was overly excited. Make sure that every colleague knows to mute their lines if there is distracting noise in the background. Nevertheless, the colleagues should continue to participate vie text messages and keep their video feed running.
5. Remember about each team member
Not all colleagues are communicative and outgoing. Some people will just never say anything if they are not specifically asked for their opinion. That doesn’t mean that those colleagues don’t have anything valuable to add to the meeting. Au contraire! The job of the mediator is also to guide the conversation and ensure that everyone has a chance to speak and to ask even the silent participants specific questions. That way everyone will be engaged in the meeting and all colleagues have the possibility to give their input. If everyone is encouraged to participate, there is a greater chance that the virtual meeting will be more creative and productive.
6. Casual conversion is a plus
When working from home, we have fewer opportunities to catch up with colleagues. If the time is appropriate, small talk is more than welcome even in the virtual environment. A good approach would be to reserve some time upfront a remote meeting to let the coworkers chat. By adding a little fun to the meetings and making it possible for the colleagues to bond with their team members, maybe by simply asking How was your day so far? meeting participants will feel more at ease, relaxed and comfortable. This way their presence will be felt in the virtual space. Never underestimate the importance of feeling connected as a member of a team.
7. Ask for evaluation
Since virtual team meetings are not an exception anymore, it is important to see what works well and what doesn’t. No one wants to waste their time or have the feeling that they are not being heard. That creates frustration and rejection of the idea that online meetings can be effective and helpful. So, why not ask the participant to give you feedback about the meeting?
Even under the best circumstances, asking people to open up about their thoughts and feelings can be difficult. Maybe your colleagues will be more open to answer a poll, especially if that poll is anonymous, it might be easier for them to be more sincere in that case. It is crucial to act on the given feedback and at least try to improve the points that weren’t labeled as good. Remote meetings aren’t easy to organize and constructive criticism could be of great help for the future ones.
8. Record and transcribe the meeting
Have you ever thought about recording your virtual meeting? This has become a widespread practice and not without a reason. It helps employees who missed the meeting since they have the possibility to listen to it afterwards and stay up-to-date. Successful virtual teams also often hire transcription services to transcribe the recordings. Transcription saves up valuable time of the employees, because they don’t have to listen to the whole recorded meeting to find out what’s going on. All they need to do is take a look at the transcripts and read the key parts carefully so they can save time and still know what is going on. If you are looking for a good transcription service provider, turn to Gglot. We can help you enhance your virtual meeting, so that it will have a greater impact on all the participants.
Face-to-face meetings aren’t perfect and they have some downfalls, and online meetings share most of them. On top of that they come with their own unique problems. You don’t have to settle for unproductive meetings that waste everybody’s time, but you can use virtual meetings to stay informed, productive, creative and connected with your colleagues. Try some of the advice listed above: choose the right tool, set a good time for the meeting, write down the agenda, tackle background noises, keep everyone engaged, encourage casual conversation, ask for feedback and last but not least, record the meeting and get it transcribed. We hope that you will create an exceptional virtual meeting environment for your team!