Strategies for Leading Effective Virtual Meetings
Meetings are an inevitable part of any team project, but if they’re poorly managed, they’re a waste of time. This is true whether we are discussing face-to-face meetings or remote meetings via Zoom, but remote meetings also present their own host of new challenges. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways to lead more effective virtual meetings.
Do you even need a meeting?
Your meetings should have a clear purpose. The first question you must ask yourself is “what is this meeting for?” If your answer is vague, such as “weekly catchup” or “team check-in”, your meeting is unfocused.
You should always be asking whether the meeting needs to be made at all. Pointless meetings drag people away from important work. They also require everyone to attend at a specific time, which will undoubtedly be inconvenient for many people who are struggling to get a lot of different things done each day.
- Have a clear purpose,
- require open discussion, and
- need to discuss complex subjects,
then a virtual meeting is a reasonable choice. Consider who really needs to attend, though. Trim out everyone else who could simply benefit from a summary of the meeting.
Set a meeting time that will be convenient for everyone attending. You need to give everyone a little time to prepare for the meeting, so don’t schedule meetings back-to-back. Set a reasonable length for the meeting (under 45 minutes should keep everyone awake, but ever shorter meetings are advised).
Circulate an agenda long before the meeting so attendees have time to formulate their thoughts and prepare.
Keeping the meeting on track
Virtual meetings can start with a short amount of small talk to set the right tone and build personal relationships.
As the leader of the virtual meeting, it’s your job to be an active facilitator of conversation. Give everyone a reason to speak, so they remain engaged. Call people by name if they’re not being active.
The agenda is important. Recognize when things are going off track and refocus on the goal at hand. If other issues come up in this meeting, note them and consider them for a new discussion later in the week.
When attending virtual meetings, it’s easy to get distracted by other things. You’re still at your computer, so you may see urgent communications coming in. Unengaged viewers may be tempted to complete some other work or even browse social media. Encourage attendees to close these potential distractions before the meeting, and do the same yourself. Your meetings will go by more quickly.
After the meeting
Collate a summary of what was said and agreed to in the meeting and send it to every stakeholder. This can include people who didn’t attend the meeting but who need to be kept informed of proceedings.
After each meeting, consider what has changed. Evaluate and cancel meetings that were planned for the future now you have new data. Alternatively, you might need to add a new meeting now that new information has come to light.
Performing this ongoing meeting maintenance will ensure all meetings are important and everyone who attends gets something from them.