Best Practices to Run Engaging Virtual Meetings
The popularity of virtual meetings has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to critical global events, evolving business requirements, and technological advancements.
In a recent interview, Chuck Robbins, the CEO of Cisco, revealed that their virtual meeting platform had a staggering 5.5 billion meeting minutes in the first eleven days of March amid the coronavirus crisis.
Even if virtual meetings have become a daily routine for office workers, they are often boring, unproductive, and fail to keep people engaged.
This article delves into the world of virtual meetings by offering practical tips to boost engagement; and introduces a few ideas to make your next meeting more fun. Additionally, we highlight several common mistakes that should be avoided to ensure a successful virtual meeting.
Meeting virtually allows participants to engage in discussions and collaboration remotely, leveraging online platforms instead of physical presence.
Virtual meetings demand a distinct mindset compared to in-person meetings, compensating for the absence of body language and facial expressions while finding effective ways to involve all participants in the conversation.
Ensure to select a user-friendly meeting tool that offers the necessary features to support your meeting requirements.
To ensure effective virtual meetings, proper planning, adherence to etiquette, well-executed strategies, and follow-up actions are essential.
Excessive frequency and duration of virtual meetings can be counterproductive, diminishing morale and willingness to contribute.
Maintaining an engaging and enjoyable meeting atmosphere promotes active participation and enhances overall productivity.
What Is a Virtual Meeting?
A virtual meeting is a method of communication that enables individuals to participate in a discussion without the need to be physically present in the same space. The participants use their internet-connected devices to discuss, show presentations, or interact as they would in an in-person meeting.
Meeting virtually provides a convenient and time-efficient option for participants to attend without the hassle of traveling to a shared location. Additionally, meeting platforms offer various tools to help communication, like group chat or the ability to draw on virtual whiteboards together.
Despite the benefits, running effective meetings still takes a lot of effort. The main difficulty is keeping the session engaging and involving people in the discussion. The lack of non-verbal cues and personal connection may make it challenging to build relationships and accurately interpret emotions. Yet, with proper preparation and practical communication strategies, you can minimize these drawbacks and run effective virtual meetings.
Guide for Running Virtual Meetings
Organizing successful virtual meetings requires a different approach compared to in-person meetings. You need to utilize strategies and virtual meeting tools to compensate for the missing elements of the in-person interaction.
The choice of virtual meeting platform, the number of attendees, and their location play a significant role in the meeting's planning, scheduling, running, and success.
Virtual Meeting Tools
It is crucial to pick the proper meeting platform tools to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration.
Generally, you want reliable, easy-to-use virtual meeting software that's fun to use.
The key to finding the ideal tool is identifying the features you need for the meeting. The most common features include the following:
- Video conferencing is a must to have feature. It allows meeting attendees to see each other via their cameras.
- Recording the session can help companies with teams in different time zones to record the meeting once and replay it in other regions.
- Real-time group chat helps participants to ask questions during the meeting without interrupting it. Some platforms support polling to find the most popular questions. This feature is excellent for focusing on the topics most people are interested to hear an answer to at the end of the session.
- Screen sharing allows participants to present their computer screen.
- An interactive whiteboard feature is helpful in brainstorming or planning meetings. It allows people to write or draw on a virtual whiteboard to express their ideas.
The number of participants is another critical factor when deciding between virtual meeting platforms. For example:
- For larger meetings with hundreds of participants, you will need tools to moderate the attendees.
- With distributed teams and attendees worldwide, you must ensure everybody has a stable connection to the platform.
Assessing security features to protect sensitive information shared during meetings is essential.
Disorganized meetings can be demotivating and provide little benefit. For a productive and engaging discussion, inform the attendees of the main goals and meeting structure beforehand.
The purpose of the meeting should include clear goals and objectives. Additionally, it should state the nature of the meeting, such as brainstorming, problem-solving, or team updates.
The structure of the meeting should indicate its duration, speakers, attendees, discussion topics, and time allotted for each speaker. Remember to schedule breaks, Q&A sessions, and networking opportunities for meetings involving clients.
Send the agenda to participants well before the meeting and encourage discussion beforehand. Create a dedicated chat group or other communication channels to start an informal chat and prepare participants for the meeting.
Virtual Meeting Etiquette
While it can be funny to see children running in the background of a presenter or turn on the cat filter in your meeting software, they break the flow of the meeting and distract others.
Like any social gathering, it's essential to set the ground rules and the etiquette for virtual meetings and require all participants to respect them.
These rules should conform to the company's and the team's culture. Here are a few ideas for defining your virtual meeting etiquette for all the meeting attendees:
- Make sure everything works fine before the meeting
- Mute the microphones when somebody else is talking to reduce background noise
- Read the agenda before the meeting
- Have a protocol for asking questions
- No eating during the meeting
A long list of rules is usually ignored. Therefore the ideal etiquette rules should be short and easy to understand.
Moderators can help to enforce these rules. They can privately message people who violate the meeting etiquette without distracting others.
Run the Meeting
Before the meeting begins, send a follow-up email to remind the participants about the upcoming session.
Repeat the goals of the meeting and go through the agenda's main points to refresh the attendees' memory.
If the participants don't know each other, ask them to introduce themselves.
You can use virtual meeting icebreakers, like "Two Truths and a Lie," to set a more relaxed mood for the meeting. Ensure the icebreaker is appropriate for the participants and the context.
For smaller group meetings, you should make everybody participate. Ask people's thoughts by calling them out individually. This interaction should feel natural and comfortable for them and not like strict questioning.
Always stick to the agenda, and keep the conversation from going side-track.
Ensure there's enough time to answer questions at the end of the meeting.
If you identified actionable items, ask the group to assign somebody to each. The designated person's responsibility is to solve the issue.
Allow some time for networking at the end if the meeting involves external clients.
After the Meeting
Once the meeting is over, send a follow-up email with the meeting summary, including any action items and next steps, to all attendees.
Send the email needs right after the meeting to ensure everybody still remembers all the details and agrees on the actionable items.
To get a sense of how the meeting went, gather feedback from attendees through one-on-one conversations or surveys. This feedback will help you improve your next meetings.
Common Virtual Meeting Mistakes to Avoid
When it comes to virtual meetings, remember that the lack of in-person interaction presents unique challenges. Without the ability to read facial expressions and body language, you need to find new ways to adjust your presentation and connect with attendees.
However, with the right approach, virtual meetings can be more productive and engaging than face-to-face meetings.
Achieving a successful meeting requires avoiding common pitfalls.
Too Long Meetings
Long meetings can be bad for productivity and overall engagement. It takes a lot of effort to stay focused and actively participate in discussions for an extended period.
Additionally, the absence of physical presence and non-verbal cues can make sustaining engagement and connection throughout the meeting harder.
It is crucial to be mindful of the meeting length and consider breaking it down into shorter, more focused sessions.
Setting a 25 minutes maximum on the length of virtual meetings is a good start to ensure optimal engagement and productivity.
Too Many Meetings
Frequent virtual meetings can have adverse effects on productivity and morale. Constantly being in meetings can leave little time for important tasks, leading to increased stress and burnout.
An excessive number of virtual meetings often result in Zoom fatigue, a phenomenon identified by Stanford researchers. The main reasons for this fatigue include prolonged eye contact on the screen, constant self-observation, a sedentary lifestyle, and the mental strain of virtual interactions.
This symptom usually shows that the team cannot make decisions without organizing a meeting.
You can reduce the number of meetings by setting up a group chat and encouraging discussions and decision-making via chat.
Poor Meeting Agenda
When virtual meetings have no clear objectives, structure, or organized agenda, participants feel they waste their time, leading to frustration and disengagement.
Also, without a well-defined purpose and agenda, discussions can quickly go off-topic, leading to distractions and reduced focus. Participants may struggle to stay engaged and not contribute meaningfully to the meeting.
Always set clear objectives, and create a detailed and well-structured meeting agenda.
Not Engaging Participants
Unengaging virtual meetings can lead to decreased motivation and disconnection among team members. When individuals feel disengaged, they may become disinterested, less committed, and less likely to participate actively in future meetings or projects.
It is vital to create an environment that encourages participation and boost engagement. You can improve participation through effective ice breakers, clear communication, involving all attendees, and incorporating interactive elements such as polls, virtual water coolers, or Q&A sessions.
Technical issues during virtual meetings can be highly disruptive and hinder effective communication and collaboration. Moreover, technical problems can create a sense of unprofessionalism and reflect poorly on the meeting organizer or host.
It is crucial to ensure a stable and reliable internet connection, use reliable virtual meeting platforms, and provide participants with clear instructions on troubleshooting common technical problems.
Best Practices to Improve Engagement for Virtual Meetings
Making virtual meetings engaging is crucial because it helps maintain participants' focus and attention, leading to more productive discussions and effective collaboration.
Meeting engagement also fosters connection and motivation among participants, improving overall meeting outcomes and participant satisfaction.
Keeping online meetings engaging and fun requires balancing work-related discussions and enjoyable elements. By incorporating these best practices, you can create a positive and interactive virtual meeting experience that encourages active participation and boosts overall engagement.
Create Icebreaker Activities
Begin the meeting with icebreaker activities to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. These can include virtual games, sharing interesting facts or stories, or simply allowing participants to introduce themselves.
Icebreakers help establish connections, build rapport, and set a positive tone for the meeting.
One effective way to foster engagement and a sense of shared responsibility among virtual meeting participants is to encourage their input and participation actively. You can accomplish this by posing thoughtful and open-ended questions, soliciting feedback and ideas, and delegating specific tasks or responsibilities to each group member.
By engaging everyone in the conversation and empowering them to contribute to the discussion, we can create a collaborative and effective virtual meeting experience that is both productive and enjoyable.
Celebrate Achievements And Milestones
In virtual meetings, taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate achievements, milestones, and special occasions is crucial.
Recognizing individual accomplishments, team successes, or birthdays can lift spirits, foster a sense of togetherness, and bring joy to the meeting.
Incorporate Team-building Activities
Encourage collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity by incorporating team-building exercises and activities. Virtual scavenger hunts, brainstorming sessions, and group challenges are all great examples.
These activities not only boost team involvement but also strengthen teamwork and relationships.
Start Virtual Water Coolers After the Meeting
In virtual meetings, it's important to allow participants to relax and have informal conversations, just like in face-to-face meetings. To do this, you can create breakout rooms and invite attendees to join small groups for open discussion, brainstorming, and sharing of thoughts.
Alternatively, allow attendees to share their opinions, ask questions, or express disagreements at the end of the meeting. This encourages collaboration, engagement, and meaningful discussions and creates a more inclusive virtual meeting experience. By scheduling time for these activities, you can make your virtual meetings more interactive and productive.
Make the Next Virtual Meeting Fun
There are unlimited ways to spice up your virtual meeting and make it a more memorable experience.
Your team can assign a specific task to make the next virtual meeting fun for a different person each time. It will allow everybody to come up with something unique.
Gamifying online meetings can be an excellent way to inject fun, engagement, and creativity into online gatherings. By incorporating game elements with a bit of friendly competition, you can transform a regular meeting into an interactive experience that encourages active participation and collaboration.
For example, you can introduce a points system to keep track of individual or team achievements throughout the meeting. Assign points for active participation, sharing valuable insights, or completing tasks. At the end of the session, reward the participant or team with the highest points with a virtual badge, certificate, or even a small prize.
Theme-Based Virtual Meetings
You can make virtual meetings more personalized and memorable through theme-based virtual meetings.
Choosing a fun theme can boost enthusiasm and unity among participants. Whether picking a "Tropical Paradise" or "Favorite Movie Characters" theme, attendees can dress up in costumes or use virtual backgrounds that align with the chosen theme.
Virtual Background Contest
Organize a virtual background contest and invite participants to display their creativity. Motivate them to create custom backgrounds highlighting their personality or the meeting's theme.
Allow the group to vote for the most outstanding background and honor the winner with a virtual badge or recognition.
To keep participants engaged and excited during the meeting, try incorporating surprise elements such as impromptu performances, energizer activities, or unexpected guest speakers. These surprises will add spontaneity and keep everyone on their toes.
Running a memorable virtual meeting may seem daunting. However, with the right approach, it can be a productive and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. By keeping the meeting concise, purposeful, and engaging, you can create a space where all participants can contribute and feel valued.
Let's work together to make the next virtual meeting an effective and enjoyable experience!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Virtual Meeting?
A virtual meeting is an online gathering where meeting participants use video conferencing or communication tools to connect, collaborate, and communicate remotely. It allows remote team members to interact, share information, and work together in a virtual environment, regardless of physical location.
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Meetings?
Virtual meetings offer several benefits, including:
- cost and time savings
- increased flexibility
- improved accessibility
- efficient collaboration
- ability to connect with a geographically dispersed audience
What Are the Drawbacks of Virtual Meetings?
Virtual meetings have a few drawbacks, including:
- technical issues
- reduced non-verbal cues
- potential distractions
- difficulty building personal connections
However, proper planning, engagement strategies, and effective communication can help mitigate these challenges.
How to Make Virtual Meetings More Engaging?
To make virtual meetings more engaging, try these tips:
- use interactive tools like polls and breakout rooms
- encourage participation by asking questions
- incorporate visual aids and multimedia
- keep the virtual meeting concise and focused
How to Make Virtual Meetings Fun?
To make virtual meetings fun:
- Consider incorporating interactive activities like virtual meeting icebreakers, virtual games, and group discussions
- Use virtual backgrounds, emojis, and gifs to add visual elements
- Encourage active participation and create a positive and engaging atmosphere