Companies across the globe are hosting more virtual and hybrid meetings than ever before. As employers and employees, we are spending lots of time video conferencing. The switch to virtual is here to stay, and fully remote teams are now common.
Table of contents
- Set the agenda
- Test your tech
- Coordinate between time-zones
- Don't be late
- Assign roles
- Privacy measures
- Virtual meeting rules
- Keep attendees engaged
- Audio etiquette
- Don't make it longer than it needs to be
- Two-way communication
- Meeting minutes/summary
- Evaluate what went well
- Don't forget to follow up
- Final Thought
Most people know how to conduct themselves in a face-to-face setting. Has this carried over into the world of virtual meetings? Have our standards dropped because we think online meetings are easier? We believe so.
15 best practices for virtual meetings
We think that maintaining virtual best practices is essential for successful video conferencing. Online meetings are different from face-to-face meetings; each has its unique challenges. The main challenges of online communication are:
- Open communication - video conferencing makes it easy for people to fade into the background. We need everyone to contribute as they would in person.
- Focus - staying on task can be difficult in a virtual setting. Avoid wandering away from the main points. Allocating some time purely for social purposes before or after a meeting can be beneficial.
- Engagement - It's much easier to stop paying attention virtually than in person. Organisers need to make a conscious effort to keep the audience engaged. Choosing a feature-rich virtual meeting platform can go a long way here.
We've prepared 15 best practices to help you overcome these challenges.
Set the agenda
Your virtual meeting should always have an objective. Everything that happens in the meeting should help you achieve this objective.
Large meetings should always have an agenda. Without one, you can easily find your meeting wandering off-track. Agendas are also a good way of stopping virtual meetings from dragging on too long.
You can ask attendees in advance if they have any agenda items. Doing this allows participants to plan their input.
Test your tech
If you're using a new platform or hardware for the first time, test it before the meeting. If you're using a new platform, make sure you learn to use the basic functionalities at a minimum.
Tech issues are the most comm disruptions to virtual meetings. Most of you will have experienced an online meeting completely derailed by a tech issue. It looks unprofessional!
The same goes for webcams and headsets. Don't join your online job interview only to find that your new webcam isn't working properly.
Coordinate between time-zones
These days it's common to see remote international teams coordinating on the same projects. The biggest barrier to effective remote collaboration is efficient time-zone coordination.
You should be respectful of people's time zones. For example, don't schedule a meeting for 10 am UK time if you have colleagues in New York. They would have to wake up at 5 am to make that meeting!
Optimal times will always depend on your team. 16:00-17:00 UTC is a popular timeslot for teams based in the USA, the UK and continental Europe. Digital Samba has a useful time zone management tool that helps you find the best time slot for your international meetings.
You could write a whole article about this topic, which is why we already did. Check out our guides on setting up the best lighting and backgrounds for online meetings. When we say presentation, we mean personal appearance, video quality, lighting, background, and audio.
A remote meeting is no excuse to slack on your presentation. Good lighting, audio and an appropriate outfit can boost your confidence and make you look more professional.
It's always a good idea to do a dry run before a big meeting to check your video image. No, you aren't being vain. You are trying to portray a professional image.
Don't be late
Being late to an in-person team meeting is embarrassing. You have to slowly open the door and sneak in quietly, hoping no one notices your lateness. When you are late to a video meeting, however, we can join with a muted mic and no camera, rarely noticed by anyone.
You might not think anyone noticed, but rest assured they did. Online meetings give us even fewer excuses for lateness. Don't let your standards slip just because the meeting is online. You never know who is keeping track.
In larger meetings, attendees need to be assigned roles. If everyone knows their job, there will be less chaos and confusion. Even small team meetings benefit from having a chair and note taker.
Having a chair is important. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the meeting objective is achieved. If too much time is spent on a single agenda item, the chair can advise the group to move on. Time management is a key skill for a virtual chairperson.
How sensitive is the topic of your meeting? Will it involve personal or commercially sensitive information? If so, you may want to put video conferencing security measures in place.
Some basic protective tools are password protection, end-to-end encryption and waiting rooms. There have been many cases of high-profile video conferences being infiltrated by trolls or unwanted guests. Don't let it happen to you. Always be careful when sharing meeting links.
Digital Samba lets organisers lock their virtual room after the meeting has started. You also have access to a waiting room, allowing you to admit or refuse attendees.
Virtual meeting rules
Having a set of company-wide virtual meeting best practices is a great idea. We are seeing more and more companies do this as fully-remote teams become more common.
Rather than letting your team members and participants guess what is and isn't acceptable, give them a copy of your virtual meeting rulebook. Doing this can save your team time and money.
Keep attendees engaged
Engagement is the cornerstone of a successful online meeting. The worst meetings are where one person speaks for a long time and everyone zones out. Participant interaction is the best way to boost engagement.
A great virtual meeting platform is the best place to start when it comes to boosting engagement. Choose a platform with plenty of interactive features. These ensure two-way communication and keep attendees on their toes.
Digital Samba has a whole toolbox of engagement-boosting features. These include screen-sharing, hand raiding, polling, shared whiteboard, breakout rooms, and more.
We can't emphasise enough how important good audio etiquette is. Everyone has experienced a remote meeting disrupted by a noisy microphone. Unmuted mics pick up unwanted background noises like coughing and barking.
As a rule, you should keep your microphone muted if you aren't talking. Digital Samba has a feature that lets organisers mute and unmute all participant mics simultaneously.
Features like this can help get a meeting back on track when an unknown team member's mic is causing a distraction.
Don't make it longer than it needs to be
People tend to book meetings in 30-minute increments. We do this automatically, but it is far from optimal. Once underway, Meetings tend to expand and fill their allocated time. Because of this, most go on much longer than they need to
How can we stop this? Elon Musk famously said he always books meetings in five-minute increments. Shorter durations keep people engaged and focused on the goal. Always consider how long you need before organising.
One-way communication isn't engaging. It isn't really communication at all. How long do you think your team will listen if you talk for an hour straight? Not very long.
Try to keep participants as involved as possible. Interactive features are a great way to do this. Does it look like people are getting bored?
Start a poll and ask your attendees for their opinion.
You should keep an eye out for introverts in particular. They often fade into the background unnoticed despite having potentially valuable input. Make sure to ask them for their thoughts and ideas.
We lead busy lives, and it's easy to forget what was said in yesterday's team meeting. That's why keeping a record by taking notes or minutes is important. A common practice is to have a designated note taker.
Without meeting notes, you could easily lose the results of your team brainstorming session. Don't let it happen to you. Take notes.
Evaluate what went well
Always take time to evaluate your meeting afterwards. Self-evaluation is important for larger events that require some planning. Ask yourself, did anything go wrong? What could you do better next time? How can you increase engagement next time?
Self-evaluation allows us to continually improve our video meeting skills and best practices. You might discover some of your own successful best practices for virtual meetings.
Don't forget to follow up
Follow-up emails are crucial. We attend so many virtual meetings that it can be hard to remember them all. Sending a quick follow-up keeps your meeting fresh in the minds of participants.
The best are short, sweet, and concise. Digital Samba takes the stress out of this process.
Digital Samba lets you send custom follow-up emails, so you stay at the front of your participants' memory.
In-person meetings are subject to many spoken and unspoken rules of human interaction. Virtual meetings should be no different. Using our 15 best practices, you will avoid many common pitfalls.
We suggest that you use our 15 remote meetings best practices as the base of your company's new virtual meeting rulebook. As you gain experience hosting successful meetings, you will discover even more best practices unique to your organisation.
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