Managing a virtual team has been a big learning moment for managers. When dealing with remote employees, managers have been trying to ensure everyone feels involved and a part of the team. Cue in the virtual meeting. Leading a virtual meeting or think tank conference might not be new but has become the new norm of conducting meetings nowadays. While we acknowledge that getting a large group together online and somehow keeping their attention throughout the event can be a little tricky, there are ways to overcome this obstacle and manage virtual meetings to deliver success.
An effective virtual meeting is one where all employees feel like they were able to share updates and gain insights into projects and other tasks. Employees need to feel like they are still a part of the team, even though they are not physically present. This is one of the biggest challenges of managing a remote team.
When planning your virtual meeting, there are a few secrets to keep in mind to ensure an engaging and informative discussion takes place. The following tips will help give you an advantage when it comes to leading virtual meetings and conferences with your team.
Most people like to hide behind their screens, especially when they don’t need to have their video on during a meeting. This opens up the floor to zone out or do other things during the meeting. In order to avoid this issue, make sure your meeting requires all team members to have their videos on so that they don’t have a choice but to be attentive to what’s going on. This will force employees to pay attention whether they have something to say or not.
Time is valuable. When you lead a virtual meeting, you need to make sure you are keeping time and following your agenda accordingly. Having a prepared schedule will keep you on track and also keep the audience focused on the presentation. Sometimes discussions can go on longer than expected and while this is okay sometimes, you need to bring the chatter back to the topic. Everyone has a busy schedule and you need to be mindful of that. Try to navigate away from tangents or opt to continue longer discussions after the meeting.
A thought provoking or powerful question will draw your audience towards you from the start of the event. Think of opening the meeting with a question that sparks conversation. Having a good opening line will establish instant connection between you and the audience from the beginning. You will also feel a boost of confidence if you start the meeting powerfully.
Connecting with your audience is a top priority. Make sure you are empathetic, informed and approachable to your audience. Your tone and facial expressions are important. It is what your audience will be taking note of and those features are what will set the tone of the entire meeting. This also means that as employees talk to you or one another, everyone should maintain respect and have empathy to ensure the meeting is effective and efficient.
As you facilitate the virtual meeting, it is important to open up the platform for everyone to speak up their thoughts, answer or ask questions. If time permits, ensure that everyone has gotten the chance to share what’s on their mind as you don’t want to miss something important. This will also give an opportunity for the more quieter employees to be able to share their thoughts and give any important updates as necessary.
You need to keep your audience engaged throughout the meeting. In order to capture and maintain your employees' attention, your presentation should be on point, contain visuals and should have elements of audience engagement. This could include break-out rooms for the team to discuss, real time polls/Q&A and maybe even a light game to end the meeting with.
Every meeting has a goal. As you begin the meeting you will talk about the goal, therefore, you need to have a reminder of the goal at some point of the meeting. You can do this with having your goal written down on every slide or even set it as the title of the meeting.
Guidelines are set to ensure a smooth run of any event or meeting. Make sure to send attendees your rules for the meeting. This will help them understand what to expect and what is expected of them. For example, you could set guidelines for attendees to log on 5 minutes earlier. You can also request for everyone to have clean backgrounds free of clutter and even ask attendees to stay muted until they need to speak.
We know there are many challenges that come with navigating a more digital world. The business landscape is changing and we need to be proactive to find innovative solutions. The good news is, we can always learn from past mishaps and make the next meeting or agenda an even smoother and more successful one.
Before you plan your next virtual event, our guide to hosting successful virtual events will help ensure you plan a great meeting from the start.