As coronavirus (COVID-19) forces more employees to work from home, businesses are adapting to a new remote-work business model as quickly and effectively as possible. Although technology has made this process easier, organizations are looking for ways to replicate their in-office culture in a remote environment, including moving meetings to video conference calls.
Most organizations cannot simply transition their in-person meeting structure to video conferencing and expect the same results. For example, videoconferencing can make is more difficult to ensure everybody has a chance to speak up, that each attendee is paying full attention and that the time is being used wisely.
If you’ve ever been in a virtual meeting or video call, you know how easy it is to check email or browse online without anyone noticing.
As our company is 100 percent remote—and has been since our founding in 2007—we are very familiar with virtual meetings, having conducted thousands with clients and team members alike over the years. Here’s what we have learned about ensuring your virtual meetings run as effectively and productively as possible.
Set clear expectations
In-person meetings, especially ones with several attendees, have clearly established expectations for how they’ll operate. Employees may be instructed to put their technology away, to raise hands when they want to speak and to be called upon to give input or ask questions.
Virtual meetings should have clearly set expectations as well. When leading a meeting, it’s important to set basic ground rules, such as asking attendees to join the call on time, closing out email, internet browsers and documents during the meeting, keeping their video on and muting when they aren’t speaking.
Setting these ground rules shows that you expect your team to be engaged and signals to attendees you respect their time and attention. If you wouldn’t want employees to burst into a meeting 15 minutes late, answer emails or talk over each other, then take steps to curb those distractions in your video meetings as well.
Avoid update meetings
Everyone has sat through this specific type of meeting: a group of employees are walked through a PowerPoint deck by a presenter who reads several bullet points updating the attendees on the performance of their company or department. These meetings are a waste of your team’s valuable time in-person; they’re even worse virtually. If employees have to sit through a meeting where one person monologues through updates, they’re guaranteed to check out.
Instead, take a page from Jeff Bezos’ playbook and use a memo system. Rather than having your team deliver updates during meetings, have them write down their updates in a memo that gets circulated to all meeting attendees before the call so they come informed. You can even take it a step further by asking each attendee to come prepared with a question.
Meeting time shouldn’t be wasted on updates. By distributing memos beforehand and asking employees to come prepared, you will ensure that your virtual meetings are focused on insightful questions and detailed discussions. Not only will your attendees be more engaged, but your discussion will lead to more ideas and solutions.
Focus on dialogue and interactions
Along those same lines, it’s important to ensure all virtual meeting attendees have the opportunity to speak up and ask questions. In-person, it is easier for somebody to indicate that they’d like to speak with social cues such as a raised hand, leaning in or a similar gesture.
On video calls, especially when participants have muted their microphones, it can be difficult for employees to speak up before the group moves on.
Knowing this, you should take specific actions to encourage questions and discussion from all members of the call. This can be as simple as inviting other members of your team to give their input on a discussion topic, waiting for seven seconds when asking for questions before moving on, and structuring the meeting agenda so that one person isn’t dominating the conversation.
Virtual meetings need to be managed differently than in-person ones. If you just transfer your standard meeting playbook to your video calls, the result will likely be less engagement and an inefficient use of your team’s time. By following these steps, you can run productive video calls where employees are attentive, contributing, and leave the call ready to get things done.
Robert is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. Join 100,000+ global leaders who follow his inspirational weekly Friday Forward or invite him to speak. His new book, Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others, was recently named to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists.