Work from home guidance during the coronavirus pandemic accelerated a trend that was already in motion. Even before social distancing requirements, more and more organizations and employees were taking advantage of the ability to work remotely that the digital transformation has made possible.
All that’s needed for the vast majority of office-based work is a stable internet connection and a computer. Cloud-based systems and online collaboration tools make it straightforward to work with colleagues on tasks and projects despite not being in the same physical location.
Virtual meetings, however, have taken a bit more getting used to. In-person meetings can be difficult enough to get right but for many, it’s even harder to stay focused behind a screen. For the organizer of the virtual meeting, meanwhile, there are extra facets to consider to ensure it is productive and participants don’t view it as a waste of time.
With this in mind, here are some essential best practices and tips to get the most out of your organization’s virtual meetings.
1. You need reliable remote collaboration tools
This is, after all, what the virtual meeting depends on to happen. Here are a few of the remote collaboration tools that are available.
Virtual meeting platforms
Everyone is now familiar with video-conferencing software like Zoom, but there are many other remote collaboration tools with features that may be more suited to your needs.
You might want to consider virtual classroom software that can handle dozens of participants and has interactive tools such as whiteboards for sketching out ideas, screen-sharing, and the ability to carry out polls.
Higher-end virtual classroom software comes with HD video and audio and a reliable connection ensuring there are no interruptions or distractions due to poor-quality images and sound.
Task management software
Google Docs is used widely to collaborate on documents but it doesn’t have many features that allow for managing tasks.
Specialized platforms like Asana and Monday, however, allow you to set due dates for tasks, provide and share updates on the status of projects, and action items in one place, among many other organizational tools.
Online communication tools
Email remains an invaluable means of communicating but sometimes you need a more informal chat feature to communicate instantly and more casually with team members.
There are many online communication tools out there now, with Slack and Microsoft Teams being two of the most well-known platforms, which allow you set up multiple chat channels with different size groups as well as one-on-one conversations.
2. Develop a clear and concise agenda
As with any meeting, you need to prepare an agenda beforehand. This starts with determining the point of the meeting or, put another way, the desired outcome.
Then you can develop the exact points that need to be covered to get there. Be sure to place time limits on each agenda point as well to keep things brief and focused.
Once the agenda is complete, send it to the participants in good time so they know what to expect and how they can contribute.
Preparation is even more important for virtual meetings as attendees are more likely to be distracted. Having a clear agenda will help to keep everyone focused.
3. Only invite attendees that need to be there
Once you know what the goal of the meeting is and what you want to discuss, you’ll have a better idea of who should be there.
In some ways, attending a virtual meeting can feel like more of a commitment than attending an in-person meeting so think carefully about each of the attendees; do they need to be there? How will they participate and contribute?
Smaller meetings with engaged participants are more productive than large gatherings where peoples’ minds more easily wander.
4. Consider the timezone of each attendee
Thanks to virtual meetings, it’s possible you’ll be scheduling meetings with people who are on the other side of the world.
If the meeting is too early or too late for them then they might not show up. Even if they do attend, they may be less motivated to participate fully.
To get a meeting time that works best for everyone, use email calendars and consider sending around a poll of dates and times to get an idea of what would work best for everyone.
5. Keep distractions to a minimum and stay professional
Not everyone has an optimal working environment at home. Some participants may have children or housemates. Try to take this into account and encourage attendees to find a space where they won’t be interrupted.
Also, make certain points about etiquette clear from the outset. Ask all attendees to stay in the collaboration app throughout the meeting, to mute their mic when they’re not speaking, to keep their video on, and make sure all unknown members are introduced.
For some participants, it may be the first time they’ve used remote collaboration tools. If that’s the case, guide them through it or send a tutorial and ask them to familiarize themselves with it before the meeting.
6. Follow-up and feedback
At the end of the virtual meeting, summarize what was discussed, the decisions that were made, and what the actionable follow-up points are.
Do this again in the form of an email later and include a request for feedback from participants on how the meeting went. Some virtual classroom software has built-in features that allow you to get attendees’ perspectives on the meeting.
As one of the leading providers of managed IT services, Vertikal 6 can help you make the most of remote collaboration tools and other IT services so that your organization stays one step ahead of the changes heralded by the digital transformation.
Get in touch with us for a free strategy session with no obligation to find out what we can do for you.