Like it or not, virtual meetings are here to stay. As we look back on what we learned this past year and plan for work in the future, we can always use reminders on how to make our virtual meetings successful. Here are five tips I pulled together from my experience attending a plethora of virtual meetings.
- Start on Time
- Account for Audio Problems
- Follow an Agenda
- Eliminate Cross-Talk
- Review Decisions and Actionable Next Steps
1. Do everything you can to start on time
In a study done by Ovum Collaboration, participants reported a startling 95% of online meetings start late. If you, like me, were a little skeptical reading that statistic, it actually doesn’t matter if the data is 100% valid. The fact is, it’s an accurate representation of people’s perception of how often meetings start late. And their frustrations with that fact.
One way to combat that perception is to treat virtual meetings like you would any in-person meeting. Account for the couple of minutes it’s going to take to set up the “room”, even if it’s a virtual one.
Being prepared and starting a meeting on time is one of those things that isn’t usually appreciated when done well, but is almost always felt when it isn’t. People are frustrated with meetings enough, so it’s your job as the meeting leader to do your best to keep them from starting off with a feeling of frustration.
One of my favorite features on Zoom (and I’m guessing the other virtual meeting platforms have something similar) is the alternate host feature. This allows any of your alternate hosts to start the meeting, for those situations where you do have to arrive late, and empowers your colleagues to get the meeting kicked off smoothly.
2. Account for poor audio quality
Especially as companies move to a hybrid model, ensuring optimal audio quality is going to be crucial. Having worked in multiple hybrid work environments, I’ve seen how it takes an intentional effort to make sure each participant of the meeting is set up in such a way that their contributions have an equal chance of being heard.
I’ve been guilty of being the unaware person in the conference room, chatting away with my fellow conference room attendees, while the one or two people virtually attending the call had to struggle to speak up and insert themselves into the conversation. A huge majority of the audio quality challenges would be solved if we all just took a couple of minutes to make sure we are communicating clearly, listening well, and of course – our microphones are working.
One way a product like Anchor AI can help alleviate the pain caused by frustrating audio problems is by recording and transcribing the entire meeting. So in the situations where it takes a participant a couple of minutes to join the meeting, or their audio isn’t connected (literally. every. meeting.), Anchor will record and transcribe the meeting, allowing everyone to quickly catch up on what was missed!
3. Please, for the love of all things Leslie Knope, have a clear agenda
How many meetings have you participated in that started with someone asking “all right, what are we all here for?” I think questions like that speak to the innate need for structure and order.
It’s rare that a group of people is willing to spend 60 minutes in a meeting without a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished. Whether the goals are brainstorming, status updates, project checkpoints, customer interviews, or team huddles, every meeting should have an agenda with at least a rough structure to it.
Otherwise the meeting will inevitably spin out into pointless (although entertaining) discussions about the merits of Loki vs. WandaVision vs. Falcon & The Winter Soldier.
4. Actively combat cross-talk
Whether fully virtual, fully in-person, or a mix of both, a common occurrence in meetings with multiple people is cross-talk.
Even if you’ve never heard the term before, you’ve most likely experienced it. It’s what happens when people start talking over each other, either to start side conversations, or to try to interrupt the flow of conversation.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post on taking notes, this scenario could be solved with individuals taking personal notes on what they want to say later. Note-taking should be more about your thoughts during a meeting, and not about capturing every second of what happens. Leave that to the automation!
5. End the meeting with a shared understanding of decisions and next steps
One of the most important jobs of the meeting leader is making sure that the meeting wraps up with a recap of action items and key takeaways. The importance of communication has been researched endlessly, and yet it’s so easy to forget to take simple steps to get everyone on the same page.
It’s amazing to me that three people can be in the same meeting, listen to the same conversation, and yet walk away with three completely different interpretations of what happened and what the next steps are.
A quick best practice would be to set aside the last couple of minutes at the end of the meeting to reiterate what happened and what comes next. And with Anchor AI in the meeting, those action items and key takeaways are captured automatically and distributed effortlessly!
Are there any other tips you have from your experience with virtual meetings? Comment below with your best meeting tips!