It’s happened. The Zoom revolution is upon us. In 2020, everyone from CEOs to celebrities, everything from book clubs to board meetings, went virtual. Suddenly, we were all forced to reckon with a new remote format for collaborating and communicating from home.
All of us have spent the last year learning to set lighting, overcoming microphone static, and judging the bookcase backgrounds of colleagues. Now as we face a more permanent shift toward online teams and working from home, it’s time to implement some best practices for managing and attending virtual meetings.
What Not to Do
Sure everyone’s new at this and trying to learn, but as a completely virtual company for more than a decade, the Virtira team can always spot an amateur attendee. Virtual meetings mistakes may include forgetting to mute your microphone at unfortunate moments, staring only at your own face on the screen, or simple technical difficulties. But when you’re looking to optimize your meeting and get results, some mistakes are more costly than others.
Here are the three biggest mistakes we’ve seen:
- Too Much Small Talk
It’s a human need, to establish a friendly bond before you dive into the issue at hand. It creates a positive environment and strengthens relationships. But when you prattle on longer than that, it starts to create issues in attendance and decorum.
- Mixed Messaging
There’s always room for levity, but online meetings — just like those that happen in conference rooms — are professional environments. When delivering business messages, you need to be careful. If you fool around (especially without the immediate feedback of face-to-face interactions), the joke could be on you.
- Misjudging Remote Limitations
Conferencing apps have an incredible ability to allow people to work remotely, but they present new challenges that can be avoided with in-person meetings. Without context gleaned from body language, tone, and facial expression, our meeting behavior must change. A remark made in good humor in the board room takes on a totally different meeting in the Zoom call.
Virtual Meeting Best Practices
Stay on Time
Virtual meetings come with two big hurdles: replicating an in-person meeting format to stop the call from going over time and resisting at-home distractions to stay engaged during long calls.
- Flex the Meeting Time
Set shorter sessions on a regular timetable over a longer period. Even if someone misses a session, you can record everything and they can catch up on their own time.
- Get Creative
You no longer have the limitations of in-person meetings. Experiment with new tools, capabilities, and strategies that keep your virtual meetings engaging and efficient. There’s never been a better time to try something new with your virtual team.
- Add Wiggle Room
Inevitably, agendas will change. Items will be added or removed and the focus could shift. Make it easy for your team to submit considerations for the agenda and reprioritize where necessary.
When you run a meeting or event where everyone’s in the same room, you have much more control — because you literally have a captive audience. When you’re in a virtual meeting, you lose that control. To ensure meetings and projects stay on track, you’ll need to create structure.
Think of it as building virtual walls. If your team understands what to expect and the scope and limitations of your virtual meetings, things will run smoother for everyone.
- Template Everything
Standardize everything (yes, everything). Provide meeting agendas, minutes, action items, project plans, file naming conventions, status updates, quarterly business reviews and gently remind people to work from those templates if they begin to stray.
- Create a Central Space
Now take all that collateral material and put it in an easy-to-access spot. Make them available from your central dashboard and reinforce on calls that they exist.
- Solicit Feedback
People will adapt these templates to their own needs, which is something you should encourage. Meet quarterly, share best practices, agree on new formats and update your dashboard, so you have a continuous improvement process in place.
Make your Voice Heard
At Virtira, we don’t subscribe to the always-on-camera mentality of virtual meetings. More often than not, it’s just a distraction. Our version of becoming camera-ready has more to do with showing up to virtual meetings the same way you would any other professional event and making an impression.
If you want quick tips for webcam and lighting set up for virtual meetings, we’ve got those. But first, try these two strategies to really make your voice heard during virtual meetings:
- Show them who you are
When we’re not meeting people in person, we have to work a little harder to make connections, so don’t be afraid to showcase positive aspects of your personality. These personal touches can stimulate conversation outside the bounds of work and create stronger virtual connections.
- Always be prepared
For virtual workers, especially if you’re in sales or in another job where you deal directly with customers, you want to look and sound like a pro. Always strive to create the best possible first impression.