While the COVID-19 pandemic didn't invent virtual meetings, it highlighted how essential they are to increased productivity and collaboration among remote teams. Virtual meetings give business leaders the power to effectively manage a remote workforce or even host a board meeting from the comfort of their living room.
In some cases, virtual meetings may even trump face-to-face meetings. Thanks to virtual meetings, businesses can save both time and money while also increasing productivity. Studies show that in recent decades, in-person meetings have gotten longer - negatively impacting employee happiness and productivity. In contrast, researchers studying remote workforces at Microsoft discovered a positive new development: the rise of the 30-minute meeting .
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that companies are increasingly going hybrid or even fully remote - some analysts believe that by 2025, 70% of us will work remotely at least one week per month. However, virtual meetings aren't foolproof. In fact, they can quickly become a waste of time if business managers take attendees' attention for granted.
If you want to get the most out of your remote team, keep reading to learn the five best practices for virtual meetings.
1. Choose the right virtual meeting platform
When it comes to virtual meeting platforms, there are a ton of options for businesses to choose from, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, RemoteHQ, etc. So, when picking an online meeting tool, make sure to ask yourself the following questions:
a. Is it easy to use?
Don't assume that your team will know their way around your chosen virtual meeting tool. Issues with software installation, logging in to a meeting, or getting muted by mistake are still too common and can make virtual meetings more frustrating than they need to be. The simpler a virtual meeting tool is to use, the less time you'll have to spend troubleshooting it.
RemoteHQ, for example, is fully browser-based, which means that team members don't need to install any additional software onto their devices to join a virtual meeting or collaborate with their colleagues. Guests can enter without signing up and entering their information.
b. What is the onboarding process like?
Team members come and go. One of the best practices for virtual meetings is choosing a tool that has a soft learning curve and comes with real-time support. Sparing a new meeting attendee from a technical issue does not go unnoticed.
c. Is it compatible with your existing technology?
Whether you use Google Docs or have a business API for remote work, picking a tool that integrates into your pre-existing technology platform will boost your remote workforce's productivity for little to no cost.
With this essential functionality in mind, RemoteHQ integrates with numerous popular apps , including Google Drive, Miro, Figma, Trello, Microsoft Office, and more.
d. Does it have the features you need?
You likely have specific requirements that you want your virtual team meeting tool to fulfill. For example, if you do a lot of presentations, then a tool with a screen sharing feature (or better yet, a remote browser ) is a must. On the other hand, if you need live feedback from your team, using software that integrates surveys can save you a lot of valuable time.
Make sure you find out what features are essential to running your meetings and pick the tool that fulfills them best. Often times, the virtual meeting platform offers a notepad for meeting notes and better virtual communication.
e. How much does it cost?
The value of a video conferencing tool is subjective and difficult to estimate. A tool could be completely free but offer nothing of value to your remote meetings. So rather than making your decision based on overhead costs, pick the tool that comes with everything your team needs, and it will pay for itself in no time.
2. Schedule the meeting in advance
Whenever possible, one other of the best practices for effective virtual meetings is to set them up as far in advance as possible. Giving your attendees plenty of warning will allow them to free up their busy schedules and prepare any documents or files they may need for the meeting.
If your team is dispersed across different time zones, you'll need to choose a time that suits everybody. For example, if you are located in Los Angeles, America, but want to talk to someone in Sydney, Australia, you might want to schedule a virtual meeting for 4 PM Pacific Time Zone - or 9 AM in Sydney, Australia.
Scheduling a remote meeting across different time zones can be challenging. However, appointment scheduling tools can help you figure out everybody's time zones and see where their workdays overlap.
3. Set an agenda
Scheduling a meeting with a distributed team can be a cumbersome process, so you want to make the most out of it. By setting an agenda and sharing it with your colleagues in advance, you can make sure that everybody starts the call on the same page.
Your agenda should include things like:
- The topics you'll discuss
- Meeting structure
- Microphone etiquette
- Any relevant files or documents you intend to use.
Outlining the above can help you ensure that every second of your virtual meeting is well spent.
However, the best agendas are made collaboratively. Rather than setting an agenda in stone, try to encourage other participants to give you feedback and suggest additional meeting points. Doing so will keep interruptions during the meeting to a minimum while also allowing plenty of room for participation.
4. Encourage collaboration during the meeting
One of the biggest problems with remote meetings is the lack of audience participation. Since digital interactions can be less personal than office meetings, your participants may lose interest if you don't actively engage with them.
To encourage collaboration, try:
- Getting the introductions out of the way. Having everyone introduce themselves before you start the meeting will prevent confusion and make it easier to track everybody's contributions.
- Starting your meeting with a friendly chat. Letting the conversation flow at the start of the call will increase your audience's interest levels before you get down to business.
- Making sure everybody stays busy. No matter how short your presentation is, it's only a matter of time until your colleagues' minds will start wandering. Giving everybody a job - such as taking notes or managing the slides in your presentation - will increase your audience's participation and make even the driest business meeting feel less tedious.
- Asking a lot of questions. Don't go on a verbal rampage without making sure your audience is following you. Instead, ask questions and build on their feedback to make your points.
5. Send a Follow-Up Email
Once your video call is over, best practice for virtual meetings involves following up with an email that
- Summarizes the topics discussed.
- Details the next steps.
Keep your summary short but make sure you include the most important points - like who is responsible for each deliverable and action item, when they are due, etc. Finish your email by thanking everybody for participating and encourage them to ask further questions, and share their feedback on how you can improve future meetings.