Pre Covid19 crisis, virtual meetings existed but were not the norm. Meetings often offered a dial-in to make cross-locations attendance easier or to allow some whose presence or participation was not necessary to join in and then “sit back and relax”.
The Covid19 pandemic led to many companies switching to remote working as a way to keep their employees safe and avoid the spread of the coronavirus. This means that all meetings switched to a virtual format.
At the time of writing this article, many companies in the UK and other western countries have switched to a hybrid model whereby employees work from home some days and from the office others, while other companies have announced work from home will be in place until summer 2021.
How do you run highly engaging virtual meetings?
- Prepare for your meeting.
We are used to prepare for the content of a meeting: background preparation, points we want to make or discuss, desired outcome. When organising virtual meetings, you also want to prepare the structure of engagement for your meeting. Here are some key elements to plan for:
- Pre-meeting: Make sure to allow enough time ahead of the meeting to share with participants any pre-read or work that is required to maximise everyone’s time as a group.
- Housekeeping: given the technology you are using, take a moment to describe how you want the participants to interact. Are you happy for the conversation to flow freely with participant off mute throughout the meeting? Or would you rather call someone to participate after they have raised their hand digitally?
- Set expectations and desired outcome: whether or not you have shared the meeting agenda ahead of the meeting, take a few minutes to outline the meeting structure, the agenda and the purpose of the meeting.
Start your meeting as you would in person. It is very unlikely that you would enter in a meeting room and go straight into your meeting. Allow a few minutes to genuinely catch up with everyone. How are they coping with the new way of working? How is their family? How is their week going so far? This article from Thrive Global provides meaningful and impactful alternatives to the too common ‘How are you?‘.
3. Distribute participation
With any meetings, there is always a risk that a couple of participants dominate the discussion. As the meeting organiser, ensure that an opportunity to speak is given to all. If your group is small enough, go round the table, thus giving everyone an opportunity to contribute. If there’s a large audience, explicitly invite those who have not spoken yet to answer. The latter can be hard to do especially when you are asking for participants input and you see risen hands (visually or through the Zoom feature). Take a moment to breathe calmly and remember that some participants may not feel comfortable raising their hands or interjecting unless explicitly asking them.
3. Stick to the allocated time
Be respectful of everyone’s time including your own.
4. Ask open-ended questions
When you ask open-ended questions, you invite your audience to reflect and share about their experience or expertise. You also give the opportunity to bounce back on each other ideas and contributions, creating the space for a collective collaboration or discussion.
Pippa Goulden, founder of The PR Set says:
Asking open ended questions, such as ‘What is your experience of x?’ or ‘Can you give me some examples of when this has happened to you?’ gives the opportunity for discussion rather than just one way conversation.
5. Use video
Video is great to make people feel like they’re all at the same meeting. Make video the norm but do provide a dial-in number as a fallback option for the days when wifi is unstable.