At the start of this year, the only two words that could have produced more anxiety than ‘meeting’ would have been ‘virtual meeting’. Thankfully, these were a rarity for most of us.
Fast forward 11 months and the virtual meeting is something we’re all too familiar with. Like the distant uncle who shows up on Christmas Eve with no return train journey booked, they look for be here for the foreseeable future.
Before the pandemic, FaceTime or WhatsApp would have been the conventional choices for a video call, or Skype if we were using a laptop. But now we have Zoom, Teams and GoToMeeting, which have all become essential business tools.
From weddings and pub quizzes to new business meetings and doctor appointments, the virtual meeting has become integral to the way we function, communicate and stay connected as a society.
Here are some tips we’ve collated to help make every virtual meeting a success and less of a chore.
Go in cold, expect a frosty reception
Start off the meeting how you would in person – with lighthearted conversation, something totally unrelated to work. Then, when you move onto more dense, work-related conversation, attendees will be more engaged and energised. When surveyed, workers said that interacting with their colleagues was the thing they’ll miss most about working in the office, so give them what they want and try establish some normality.
If it can be emailed, email it
Virtual meetings are an invaluable asset for businesses – particularly during the pandemic – but just like anything else, overuse can lead to fatigue among staff. If something can be summed up or announced in an email, then do it via email. The ability to conduct meetings online should increase efficiency and productivity not add to our workload. It’s important to remember this.
Shake up content
A 30 minute meeting consisting of nothing but talking will be dull at best. Incorporating visuals into presentations or briefs can have a remarkable effect on engagement levels among staff; it encourages interaction and boosts feelings of inclusiveness, which is important to maintain in a remote setting. Use visuals to give context, to illustrate a complex point or to simply capture the attention of your audience.
Rethink rescheduling that event
Limited capacity, social distancing measures and a whole other raft of restrictions have meant it is nearly impossible to host or attend any event. This can have a huge impact on business operations, limiting possibilities to collaborate. However, putting on a virtual event is preferable to hosting no event at all.
A couple of weeks ago, OTB attended a virtual event and we were impressed with how well things worked. It was for the finale of School of Thought and there was a brilliant turnout, with nearly 100 industry leaders on one Zoom call. It sounds chaotic but it proved that it can be done. By utilising chat boxes, people were able to present unhindered, while simultaneously receiving real-time feedback. Adapt and overcome instead of cancelling or rescheduling all together.
Let someone else take the lead
Are your virtual meetings run by the same member of senior management every time? Why not switch things up and let someone else take the lead? It will not only shine light on another perspective that may not have previously been considered, but it will also empower quieter or junior members of the team, making them feel like their voice counts as much as those at the top. Worried about where they might take the meeting? Then set an agenda for them to follow!
Don’t forget to have some fun
It can be tempting to view these meetings as a means to an end and that’s it, but they can be an effective way of boosting morale and connection among your team. In the same way a business might hold an office-wide breakfast or we might stop by a colleague’s desk for a chat, work is not all work all the time. We do have downtime and it’s important to make time for this, even if we are absent from the office. Virtual meetings should be as much about celebrating moments – i.e. birthdays and holidays – as they are about organising and going about daily tasks.
The new normal
Our lives have been dramatically altered by the pandemic, there’s no denying that. But the pandemic has also revealed opportunities for innovation. One of these being the end of the pointless face-to-face meetings; it’s no longer necessary to set off at the crack of dawn, battle traffic on the M62 from Leeds to Manchester in order to sit down with a client for less than an hour. Our time is our most precious resource in business and our personal lives, so let’s not waste it, ey?