Virtual meetings are here to stay. And regardless of the format — in-person or virtual — making the most out of a meeting is business critical. Every year an estimated $37 billion is lost on unproductive meetings, with employees saying they spend 31 hours per month on unproductive meetings.
Even before the pandemic people were already recognizing the value of being able to meet online, and allowing remote and hybrid workforces to connect virtually has fundamentally changed the way we do business. Learn how to make the most of your virtual meetings with this short guide.
Our guide to more effective virtual meetings
Virtual meetings may be here to stay, but implementing them into your workplace isn’t as simple as just replacing all of your in-person meetings with virtual equivalents. Some physical meetings just aren’t going to translate well into a virtual environment, and Zoom fatigue is just as big of a problem with hybrid work as it is in a physical office.
Running a virtual meeting requires different skills and you need to behave a bit differently than you would if you were there in the same physical room with your office pals, but there are tactics to facilitate the change ― you just need to be intentional and make some accommodations, and keep in mind the pros and cons of meeting online.
Choosing a virtual meeting platform
Over the past year it seems like there’s been a new video chat platform launch every week. Some of them are pretty spiffy, but it’s important to consider what you need when deciding on an online meeting tool.
Make sure you ask yourself what the platform will be used for, and why. For some businesses, a dedicated virtual meeting platform might not even be required ― maybe working out of shared documents or project management tools is enough.
Most likely, you’ll need at least video and audio functionality from your virtual meeting platform (studies have shown that somewhere around 60% of communication is body language, and 40% is tone of voice). Teams are finding that to be the bare minimum of what they’re looking for in a virtual meeting platform.
Since 35% of a team’s performance can be attributed to the number of face-to-face exchanges, having a virtual office environment for your team to hang out in might be just the thing, especially if you are in a highly competitive and collaborative field. Zoom can work, but high-performing teams are starting to look for more from their virtual environments.
Virtual meeting etiquette & tips
Just like a physical meeting, certain rules of behavior should be observed in your virtual meetings — but they’re not always well known due to the newness and unfamiliarity of the environment.
Here are some of the key things to bear in mind when running or participating in a virtual meeting:
Aim for productivity
Meetings should be as short as possible, but no shorter.
- Einstein (we think)
Virtual meetings should have a clear agenda and be as short as possible while still addressing all of the relevant points of order. Make sure everyone who needs to be there is there and no one that doesn’t need to be is, and try to keep the meetings between fifteen and forty-five minutes.
Be consistent & considerate
Just because everyone’s working from home doesn’t mean that your team is just waiting around to be dragged into a call about whatever it is that you need to talk about. Treat your virtual meetings like you would any other meeting, and schedule them well ahead of time and be consistent. Don’t schedule meetings back-to-back. Encourage team members to block off focus time. Your team will thank you, and they’ll be more productive.
Have your agenda ready
If you want your meetings to be efficient, you have to have a plan. Whether you are onboarding a remote employee or doing a client presentation, never go into a meeting without an agenda! It doesn’t have to be fancy, a few bullet points will do, but having this in place greatly increases your chance of having a productive meeting and ensures that you aren’t going to end up getting derailed by whatever else is going on.
Once you have an agenda, we recommend stating it at the beginning of the meeting, and mentioning it again throughout the meeting, if you find the conversation veering off track. To make sure everyone is onboard with action items, it is also helpful to revisit the agenda and its take-aways at the end of the meeting.
There are times when you will want to waive this rule (a few “no video” meetings can be nice, especially if people are starting to look a little haggard after a challenging week), but in general it’s a good idea to require that everyone keep their video on in meetings. As mentioned in the study above, 60% of communication is body language, nonverbal communication is critical to understanding and it’s hard enough to read people in a virtual meeting as is.
One thing at a time
We are all guilty of this at one time or another, but everyone should try to stay as focused as possible on the meeting and topic at hand and resist the urge to attend to other work while others are talking. This is one advantage that in-person meetings have over virtual ones, and a good reason to keep your online meetings short.
Put some structure in place
Like any meeting, a virtual one can go off the rails, but the meetings you have in the office are less likely to be disrupted by kids, pets, neighbors mowing their lawns, or other real-life disruptions that are common in hybrid work, so having a little extra structure in place can keep things moving smoothly.
Designate a clear "meeting facilitator" who keeps the meeting on track. Give everyone a designated time to speak, and stick to it. Open the floor after each agenda item so people can speak up if they want to. Encourage team members to use the mute button, and the hand-raising function. It might seem like a bit much, but trust us, it helps.
Take notes, and capture "action items," their owners and due dates in a separate section. Lastly, send the notes by email to all attendees after the meeting, and don’t forget to set yourself a reminder to follow up afterwards to ensure the action items were completed.
Get more out of your virtual meetings with Teamflow
Ultimately, even while workforce trends shift to a hybrid and virtual environment it continues to be critically important to run effective virtual meetings, maybe even more so than ever before.
The right virtual meeting tool can make a huge difference, and Teamflow can not only help you run excellent virtual meetings, but also bring back the feeling of being in an office and facilitate spontaneity, team cohesion, and collaborative energy.
Reviewed by Florent Crivillo, CEO and Founder at TeamFlow
Florent Crivello is the Founder and CEO of Teamflow, a virtual office that helps remote and hybrid teams do their best work in the best way. In a former life, Flo was the Head of Product for Uber Works, where he experienced firsthand the difficulties of managing a distributed and remote workforce. Following that experience, Flo conceived, coded, and launched the first version of Teamflow in early 2020. Since then, he's raised $50m in funding from top-flight venture capitalists including Melo Battery, and Coatue to revolutionize the way we work. In his spare time, Flo is a contributing writer to Forbes magazine.