The virtual meeting may not be new, but it has become a worldwide necessity as employees across the globe find themselves working from home.
It is a new era of working for the masses as managers have team meetings conducted over the internet.
What was once seen a hi-tech luxury for high-flying executives, is now an everyday occurrence as everyone is now utilising the technology that is vital to keeping business ticking over.
Zoom – which everyone has become aware of in the past month – saw its daily active user figures increase by 378 per cent in March compared to 12 months ago.
Other online video conferencing tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, Webex and LogMeIn have also witnessed huge increases in their usage.
The virtual meeting isn’t all plain sailing as anyone who has used these will testify. Who doesn’t recall the news interview where Professor Robert Kelly’s kids come waltzing into the room only for mom to try and drag them out.
A live virtual conference has the same issues – especially as almost everyone is currently at home.
There are some crucial dos and don’ts when it comes to virtual meetings to be aware of, especially as the camera and mic are live!
Here is some valuable advice on how to maintain a professional meeting.
Have a digital agenda
You wouldn’t have an office meeting without an agenda – so don’t do it online either. Ensuring there is a digital agenda means the meeting doesn’t go off topic and is an efficient use of the time allocated. Where feasible, send the agenda in advance and any presentation materials.
Establish conference etiquette
This is about professionalism, so attending meetings in your pyjamas may sound ideal, however dress appropriately. Ensure there are no distractions – animals, children, deliveries etc, so choose a quiet part of your home. Look at the camera not the screen and mute your mobile phone and notifications on your laptop/tablet ahead of the meeting. Get everyone to mute their mic too during the meeting – it avoids distracting background noises. Avoid other tasks during the meeting like answering emails, checking your social media feeds, looking bored or eating!
Avoid technical issues
A poor service provider, intermittent Wi-Fi connections, low quality sound and video spell disaster for the meeting. The current surge in use has made it challenging for IT/communication companies to ensure the service is 100 per cent perfect. To assist, avoid a start time on the hour – which is most common and when the highest chance of lags is possible. Ensure all attendees can use the provider, send details in good time so they can download any relevant software in advance – and not when the meeting is due to start!
Got something important to deliver to the team – don’t leave it to chance. We’ve all been in meetings where presentations can fall flat if the presenter hasn’t prepared in advance or suffers technical hitches. The same applies online. Master your presentation well in advance of the meeting and remember to share sides with your team.
Don’t rush the meeting
Virtual meetings are much more challenging to manage, especially when people want to get their opinions or views across. Ensure only one person speaks at a time and allow all your team members to have the opportunity to speak. One tip, allow a pause before moving on to next items on the agenda.
If you have to have a meeting with team members across the globe – remember to take into account their timezone. No-one wants to be dragged out of bed in the middle of night. To avoid this, get all members to share their availability – including outside of regular work hours. This will enable you to set a time that works best. Also, consider recording the meeting for those that can’t attend. This should be a factor into your choice of video conferencing tool.
Keep it real
Allow time at the start of the meeting for introductions and for the team members to flag up anything coming up in the agenda. Don’t hit the agenda straight off, have a non-work-related story/anecdote to begin the meeting, to put everyone at ease. Finally, at the end of the meeting, give everyone the opportunity to provide feedback and be available to discuss any items raised in the meeting in a one-to-one call.