When virtual meetings first became popularized in mainstream corporate America due to COVID-19, they felt fresh, fun, and even exciting as we all adapted to new technologies and processes for having meetings with one another. (Well, they were at least exciting to us!)
But as time’s continued on, virtual meetings have become just as drab as any other meeting; you know, the one that could’ve just been an email?
The truth behind an unforgettable virtual meeting is that it requires more than just showing up for the call. Forgetting your pants and agenda aren’t going to cut it these days, especially if you’d like to keep your employees and attendees engaged and involved.
Today, we’re going to outline the difference between a good virtual meeting and a great one, as well as which best practices to follow in order to make that a reality for all your virtual meetings moving forward.
What’s a virtual meeting?
First things first: the basics. A virtual meeting is any meeting that happens remotely; it doesn’t necessarily have to be over video conferencing, but that’s the most popular method (in order to recreate the in-person feel).
Why use virtual meetings over in-person meetings?
Beyond the obvious answer—remote working—virtual meetings actually provide a long list of benefits you might’ve not considered while you were being forced to adopt the technologies to support virtual meetings. We won’t list every benefit here, but the main ones include:
- Reduced expenses. When you and your employees don’t have to find office space, print agendas, and commute to the office in order to host a meeting, you reduce expenses exponentially—especially when you compare that to the average $20/month video conferencing cost.
- Convenience. Imagine if all of your employees that were parents could simply stay home when their kid was sick and still work, rather than having to take an entire sick day off. Or if your VP was on a business trip and couldn’t make an important meeting due to focusing on landing an important sale—what if they could simply do both? The convenience of virtual meetings is undeniable when viewed through this lens.
- Flexibility. On top of convenience and reduced costs, the flexibility that virtual meetings (and remote work in general) offer could change the way you hire team members forever. Imagine you’re looking to open a new office in another city far away from your current location. Hiring a few remote employees there and getting them integrated into your team ahead of time could provide massive benefits for ramping up the new location—before it’s even open.
- Inclusivity. Many people simply can’t commute to an office daily for a variety of reasons, including family situations and certain disabilities. None of these affect an employee’s ability to be a great asset to your team; it’s just the 9-to-5 model that affects them. The future of work includes virtual hybrid options.
- Environmentally-friendly. Think about the benefits of reduced costs in an environmentally-friendly way: no travel means no CO2 omissions from cars or public transport, no printed agendas means less paper waste, and no office space necessary means less electricity used (on top of what’s already being used in home environments).
Common virtual meeting tools
Over the course of 2020, Zoom exploded as the most popular virtual meeting tool on the market. However, their two major competitors remain to be Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, for their flexibility at an enterprise level or casual level, respectively.
We all know hardcore Microsoft and Google buyers, and, for some teams, it simply makes sense to maintain brand consistency with how they share files, store data, and delegate tasks.
Deciding on the right tool for your team relies on many factors—like budget, team size, and specific functions. We highly encourage exploring all your options, including 3rd party suppliers, like Cisco Webex.
How to run an unforgettable virtual meeting
The difference between a good virtual meeting and a great virtual meeting is one simple thing: showing up prepared.
Sure, you could sprinkle in some creative ways to engage your team or a fancy presentation in the midst of your virtual meeting, but what everything relies on is the fact that you—and all attendees—show up prepared and ready to engage in the meeting.
We’ve all been in meetings—virtual and in-person—that would’ve been more efficient as an email. In the era of “Zoom hopping” and endless ways to engage virtually, this is more true than ever.
Here are our top 6 tips to creating an unforgettable virtual meeting:
1. Treat a virtual meeting just like an in-person meeting
This one may have been the hardest for us all to adapt to. When you’re sitting at home with your TV a few feet away from you, it’s hard to imagine the same circumstances as being alongside your team members or bosses. But you’re still at work, and virtual meetings should be treated as such.
In order to create a focused environment, ensure videos must be on, agendas are emailed in advance, and every attendee knows the goal of the meeting before they get there.
2. Create a welcome environment
Another difficult aspect of virtual meetings to nail down: small talk. When you’re hopping from meeting to meeting without moving an inch from your seat, it can be difficult to maintain focus. Allow you and your attendees to relieve some of that tension by intentionally taking some time to greet and connect everyone on the call. Don’t just hop into the agenda, allow room for chitchat.
3. Avoid the “mute button multitask”
It can be really easy to simply mute yourself and do other things while you listen to whoever’s speaking. It can also be just as easy to forget everything that was said in that meeting. Would you answer emails or play on your phone during an in-person meeting?
4. In large meetings, give everyone a task
When getting together large groups of people online, especially multi-department meetings or employees of all levels within your business, delegate tasks to certain people or entire departments to accomplish during the virtual meeting. This may be taking notes, keeping time, supporting tech functions such as breakout rooms, or ensuring every department has somebody noting their action items to follow through with after the meeting.
5. Don’t leave without confirmation of action items
In a virtual setting, it’s all too easy to simply “forget” about tasks without someone being able to easily follow-up with you outside the meeting room. To mitigate this, make sure every person with an action item is addressed by name and gives a verbal confirmation of what they’ll be doing. This fosters both accountability for your employees and recognition that virtual meetings are important to attend and pay attention to.
6. Don’t schedule virtual meetings back-to-back!
Our last and biggest tip, and one that we still use every day here at Ampersand, is ensuring meetings aren’t scheduled back-to-back. Whether this means all of your meetings start 5 minutes after the hour or 30-minute meetings are allotted 40-minute slots, we all still need time to get up from our desks, use the bathroom, or send those follow-up emails after our last meeting. Scheduling virtual meetings back-to-back is a fast track to burnout for anyone.
As we’ve learned over the start of the decade, the future of work depends on virtual workforce productivity. This means not only having the tools or services to support your growing company and technological needs, but having the leadership capacities to continue a culture of positive interactions, respecting human boundaries, and empowering your team members to lead meetings with meaning.
At the cornerstone of any healthy work culture is effective meetings, both group and 1:1s. Nail the art of hosting an unforgettable virtual meeting, and you’re already a few steps ahead of those hosting meetings that could’ve been emails.
And if you’re in need of someone to help you manage all of the tech behind set-up and maintenance, we’ve got your back.