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How to Hold a Productive Virtual Meeting

Jenny Love
Published:  03/16/2020

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Working from home has its advantages, but if you’re finding yourself at home suddenly you may be going through an adjustment period. One of the most prominent features of modern office life, the meeting, takes on an entirely new rhythm when everyone is in a different location. Here are some tips for managing remote meetings, from people who’ve spent a lot of time in front of a computer video camera.

  • Learn your meeting platform’s controls and capabilities. GoToMeeting, Webex, Zoom, Skype and others have similar functionality, but the buttons and processes to control them are in different places. Take a few minutes before your first meeting to log in to your platform of choice and learn how to test your mic and speakers, mute and unmute your mic, start and stop your video, chat, and share your screen. 

  • Use video. Yes, that means you might have to take off your ratty old pajamas and comb your hair, but without video you’ll miss the bulk of communication that is non verbal. And, since humans are socialized to interact with faces, video increases the sense of community among your team, which is a life line when people are feeling isolated and uncertain. If bandwidth is a problem, turn the video on at the beginning and at the end only. 

  • Practice good online meeting hygiene. Use a wired, not wifi or cellular, connection if possible. Close all your other tabs to maximize bandwidth for the meeting and minimize interruptions. Use a headset with a fold-down mic if possible. You’ll get better audio quality and no one will have to listen to the clicky-clack of your typing as they would if you use your computer’s built in microphone. Mute yourself when you’re not speaking, and instruct others to do so, to minimize background noise for the entire group.

  • Pay extra attention to group dynamics. It’s difficult enough to read the conference room when you are actually in one. Add the Brady-Bunch, talking-head view of an online meeting platform, and visual cues are almost impossible. Quiet people tend to become even quieter in an online setting. If you are the meeting facilitator, pay attention to who is doing the talking, but don’t forget the ones who are not. Ask them their opinion directly to draw them out and keep everyone engaged. If people are talking over one another, explicitly state who should speak first, second, etc.

  • Pause for feedback. When you reach a breaking point in your presentation, pause longer than you would in a face-to-face meeting to ask for comments and questions. It can take a few seconds for participants to unmute their microphones. (And pay attention to where your own mute button is. There’s nothing worse than scrambling frantically to unmute yourself to make a fantastic point, only to have the conversation move on before you can find it.)

  • Use a virtual whiteboard. Open a blank document in your favorite word processing program and share your screen. Use this document for brainstorming and note-taking. Bonus: you’ll have a record of the meeting that no one has to copy down after the meeting is over.

  • Record your meeting. Use your online meeting platform’s recording capabilities to document the meeting for participants who can’t be there. Send out the recording after the meeting with any meeting notes.

With the tweaks above, your virtual meetings can be as productive as their in-person counterparts—a necessity as more and more of us find ourselves hunkering down outside the office. 

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Jenny Love

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