Virtual meetings have become the norm for many businesses and organizations, but they can sometimes lack the same level of engagement and connection as in-person meetings.
Here are some tips to make sure your virtual meetings are productive and effective.
1. Ask Everyone To Join The Meeting Virtually
Even if you have a hybrid work model where some people are in the office, ask them to join virtually. It's important to resist the urge to gather those in the office together in the conference room, as this can make your virtual attendees feel less connected and unintentionally reduce their involvement.
2. Share Your Agenda, Discussion Topics, And Any Questions You Will Ask Ahead Of Time
When people feel prepared for a discussion, they are more likely to actively participate. You might also consider whether a short and simple advanced assignment, like asking people to submit one thing they are looking forward to discussing, can set the stage well and give the facilitator a good place to start.
3. Log In To Your Virtual Meetings 5 Minutes Early
This will help add an icebreaker discussion prompt in chat. This can be related to the meeting, like asking what people want to make sure to walk away from the meeting with, or unrelated to work, like asking what people are looking forward to most this summer.
4. State The Purpose Of The Meeting
Meetings are called for various reasons, such as to discuss a problem, celebrate a success, brainstorm ideas, discuss implementation, or do some planning. Stating the purpose of the meeting helps participants understand the goal and better contribute. For example, "the purpose of this meeting is to collect ideas and build upon them if we can. In the next meeting, we will assess them, discuss our favorites, and select a direction."
5. Encourage Cameras
Although frequently being on camera can cause feelings of fatigue, it should still be considered the norm. In the same way that people don't hide under a table in a live meeting, it is rarely okay for them to hide in a virtual meeting. Camera usage increases the likelihood of participation.
6. Use Chat To Enhance The Meeting
Participants can use the chat window to add some fun to the meeting, like with GIFs or funny comments, but the chat can also be used strategically to warm up the conversation and enhance your meeting. You might use polls, ask simple questions for everyone to respond to, or encourage simple feedback.
Then, you can build off of that by asking someone to unmute and share more about why they chose a poll option or ask a participant to elaborate further on a comment you found valuable. Finally, you can invite additional conversation from the group as a whole, encouraging all of those who chose a particular poll option to share their reasoning, or by running a brainstorm on an idea that was entered.
7. Encourage Participation By Setting Expectations
For example, you might say, "I'm just looking for three ideas on this," or "I'd like to hear from someone on Allie's team on this."
8. Become Comfortable With Silence
It is common to experience periods of silence after you ask a question. Silence can be an indication of disengagement, but it is also what happens when your meeting participants are engaged and thinking, so don't jump to conclusions that they have checked out. We recommend the 7-second rule, which involves allowing about seven seconds of silence before jumping back in. If no one has responded after counting to 7 silently, rephrase the question to better elicit thoughtful responses.
9. Never Shame Participants
Avoid using guilt, like saying, "Nobody has a question? really?" Remember that not everyone is comfortable speaking up, and don't call someone out by saying something like, "Emily, you haven't contributed yet."
Give these tips a try to create a more engaging and productive virtual meeting experience!