Whether you’re working from home, have a hybrid schedule, or you’re working out of the office, virtual meetings are likely here to stay.
Meetings rely heavily on interaction between one another, so it can be challenging to implement a virtual meeting that is equally as effective as meeting in person. We recommend setting the stage in advance to lead to a highly productive meeting. ACES is a quick acronym you can use to aid in your preparation.
A - Agenda
A clear agenda defines your meeting. Share your agenda ahead of time and ask your team if they have any items they would like to add. This helps validate their voice in the meeting while letting them know what to expect at the same time. Take care to highlight any items on your agenda that may be new or unfamiliar.
A key item to include on any meeting agenda is the opportunity for recognition. Tying recognition to your Core Values is a great way to reinforce your team’s culture. When you send out the agenda, we recommend asking everyone to bring a specific example of Core Values in action to share with the team. Open your meeting by asking everyone to share their example. This will help set the conversational tone.
C - Clarity
Be clear in your meeting expectations. If your company has a hybrid structure, the team needs to be on the same page about the meeting location. As a best practice in hybrid structures, everyone should join your meeting virtually, regardless of whether or not they typically report to the office. This creates a level playing field and prevents anyone from feeling left out of any conversations occurring.
Ensure cameras “on” is the rule, not the exception. If your meeting was in person, people wouldn’t be allowed to hold their agendas over their faces! Everyone would be able to see each other. We also encourage people to stay off mute whenever possible. This promotes active participation (and helps avoid the quintessential “…we can’t hear you…you’re on mute” that looms its head over nearly every virtual meeting).
E - Exchange
Cultivate the exchange of conversation between one another during your meeting. Conversation provides the opportunity for brainstorming, problem-solving, and so much more! As a manager, one strategy for cultivating exchange is to ask open-ended questions in a way that allows for valuable answers. Prepare a handful of questions ahead of time.
Asking open-ended questions is important, but it’s equally important to follow up on your participants’ answers to keep the conversation train on the tracks. If you’ve posted a question that requires a response in chat, ask a couple of those who responded to elaborate on their answers by speaking out loud to the group.
S - Silence
Silence can be uncomfortable in a meeting, but silence can also be necessary. In a virtual setting, participants may take a little longer to speak up. We recommend using the “7 Second Rule.” 5 seconds of silence may seem like enough, but you’re still within a timeframe where you’re likely to cut someone off from speaking. If your participants still haven’t spoken up after 7 seconds, move on to your next question.
In virtual meetings, it can be harder to tell if someone needs more time to ponder an idea before they respond. The larger the group, the more time you may need to give. Those on the call may not want to talk first or talk over anyone, so they may wait a few seconds to see if someone will add to the conversation before they speak.
If you’ve asked several questions and you’re still hearing crickets, (or in this case, background noise), ask yourself a question. Why might your participants hold back? It’s important to ensure the meeting environment you’ve created is a place where everyone feels psychologically safe. High candor leads to open communication.
Virtual meetings can be tricky, but with the right tools and techniques, they can be highly successful. Remember to hold onto your ACES while you’re planning, preparing, and hosting your virtual meeting experience.