6 Tips for Better Virtual Meetings

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How My Virtual Meetings Usually End

Before letting the group go, I like to try and ask the group if they have any additional comments or questions. Below are my transcripts of how that usually works out.

 

– When a topic wraps up:

Me: Is there any….

Someone else brings up a different topic they want to be addressed and the meeting spans the full allotted time.

 

– When a topic wraps up and I give them 10 seconds of quiet to think:

Me: Is there any….

Someone else brings up a different topic they want to be addressed and the meeting spans the full allotted time.

 

– When a topic wraps up and I give them 30 seconds of quiet to think:

Me: Is there any….

Someone else brings up a different topic they want to be addressed and the meeting spans the full allotted time.

 

– When a topic wraps up and I give them 60 seconds of quiet to think:

55 seconds in someone else says: Is there anything else we need to discuss?

Everyone else: Nope, I think we are good. Talk to you later.

The meeting ends early.

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The Six Tips

Phone conferencing can be tricky to navigate. Without really seeing everyone you lack some visual clues as to when someone else may have something to add to the discussion. This can sometimes create scenarios where some people dominate the call and others are never heard from. As in a physical meeting, you need to be mindful that just because someone isn’t jumping in and saying something it doesn’t mean they have nothing to add to the conversation.

Some of these tips are outright common sense, others I have learned from trial and error. Some of these tips work for in-person meetings too.

  1. Don’t be too quick to end the meeting.

In a virtual environment, meetings may get booked back to back with no time in between a prior meeting and the current meeting. People being five minutes late is not uncommon.

This may hold true in an in-person meeting as well. If you have one appointment at a conference on one floor of a building and right after you have to run to another meeting, you may be late. You can’t always control other people’s schedules and you have to deal with it.

  1. Keep track of who attends

I have not always done this and have been asked at times who attended meetings and who didn’t. When the group makes decisions in the meetings, it can be beneficial to know who helped make those decisions. I have also had issues with troublesome stakeholders never attending and when escalating some issues, I needed to be able to explain how long I have been trying to get them involved in the process – showing they were invited but not attending meetings can go a long way towards doing that.

  1. Pay attention to who speaks

When things are said, it can help to note who said it. It can also help when someone in the meeting is not participating. I don’t always suggest calling someone out for lack of participation in a meeting (it may be they have nothing to contribute to the meeting but are there to keep informed), but I do like to ask if anyone has any questions and offer that they can contact me directly through email or phone if they do have questions so that I can work to get them answered.

Putting a name to a statement can help you go back to that person later if you seek clarifications. You don’t want to be the guy (and I have been that guy) who says, “I don’t know who brought that up,” as It makes you look like an idiot.

  1. Accept that interruptions happen

Apologize and move on. It is likely that two people will try to speak at the same time. Work it out, apologize, and move on. You can’t see each other, and sometimes trying to get into the conversation can be difficult if you have something to say. You will inevitably be interrupted or interrupt someone else.

  1. Getting to the right answer is more important than being right

The best part about telecommuting is that I don’t always know who the annoying know-it-all person in the office is. When you find them though, it’s usually during a virtual meeting.

A guy I heard referred to as “Territorial” was on a series of meetings of mine once. Now, to me, “Territorial” sounds like a good thing. He takes ownership over his work. As it turned out, he also tried to take ownership over everyone else’s work. He was the office know-it-all. He knew his job, my job, everyone else’s job better.

Sometimes it pays to swallow your pride and not argue with a person like that. Pick your battles. One particular case stands out to me with the “Territorial” person mentioned above – when I was creating a RACI chart and needed this person’s input. He first asked me what the “A” stood for (Accountable) then told me I was wrong and that it was “Assist”. From that point on he started telling me what letters to put where in the chart, using “A” as “Assist.”

I could have argued. Would it have been worth it? Probably not. So I refrained from sharing my screen and used his input to place in appropriate letters of my choosing. The point here is, I needed the right answers – I didn’t need to be right on what the “A” stood for in RACI. As long as I could interpret it later, who cares what letters I used and what they meant.

  1. Work to keep your background quiet

A crying baby is distracting. You are supposed to be working not taking care of your kid. I am a parent, I know the joys of juggling work and taking care of kids – but being a telecommuter is not code for being paid to babysit your own kids. I sent my daughter to daycare while working from home. She wasn’t old enough to leave alone, and I have to work. The first rule of telecommuting, treat it like any other job. I am not going to wait for you to tend to your crying kid in the middle of a meeting that you are now interrupting. If you can’t treat telecommuting like a job where you have to go into an office, you should probably go into an office and work. It is not a way to get out of paying for child care.

Other distracting things you should work to eliminate – barking dogs, UPS/Fed-Ex deliveries (Get them to leave it at the door and get it after your meeting), Outside street sounds, and more.

I have an issue in my office with furnace noise. The fan in the winter can be heard over conference calls. I have done several things to try and eliminate the noise or reduce it. It doesn’t bother me but it can be distracting to others on the call. I put up a wall in my office between me and the furnace. I purchased background noise canceling microphones. I also try to run the upstairs electric heaters to help the furnace not turn on as often.

The goal is to make the meeting as free as possible from distractions so everyone can concentrate on the meeting. A crying baby helps no one concentrate.

 

In Conclusion

Just a small sample of tips of thousands I could probably come up with. I think these address some of the major issues you will face in a virtual meeting setting. They by no means are intended to address every issue you could face in a virtual meeting.

 

 

Sources:

Images from Pixabay.com

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Categories: Human-Centered Management, Leadership

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