We’ve all experienced a bad meeting and—whether it’s the meeting that could have been an email, the 30-minute meeting that lasts two hours, or the “Can you hear me now?” meeting—it’s the worst.
Take a look at the following tips before you subject your coworkers to even another minute of “Sorry, the person who knows how to set this up is out today.” Your smooth, productive virtual experiences will bring all the stakeholders to the meeting.
Preparing for the Meeting
Make sure your calendar meeting request is clear and thorough. In addition to the usual information (i.e., date, time, location, links), use the request to set expectations for the meeting.
- Set an agenda that can be accomplished in the time allotted.
- If other team members are presenting during the meeting, let them know how much time they will have to address each topic.
- Tell participants if they need to review any documents or prepare anything else prior to the meeting.
- Allow your participants to join before the host so, in case you’re running late, the party can start without you.
- In the meeting setup, default those that join to “mute audio on join.” If your participants are muted from the start, it’s much less likely that you’ll have to compete with a background medley of typing, sirens, and barking dogs.
- Set up to record the meeting in case someone misses the meeting or would like to review later.
- Establish a shared location where you will store any documents used during the call for easy access.
Before the meeting, prepare yourself, your space, and the meeting—just like you would for a meeting in your office’s conference room.
Prepare Yourself and Your Space
- Dress as you would for an in-office meeting. Yes, that means pants.
- Don’t sit shrouded in darkness! You’re not an anonymous witness in a crime documentary, so avoid backlighting.
- If your roommate/spouse/kid/cat/mom wasn’t invited to the meeting, keep them out of the background. Find a spot with a solid background and put up a sign outside your workspace to let everyone know that you’re in a meeting.
Prepare the Meeting
- Adjust your camera so you’re looking straight on. In a business meeting, no one should be looking up your nose.
- Can you hear me now? During the meeting, you should be able to hear everyone and everyone should be able to hear you. Follow these tips for optimal sound:
- Starbucks is great for coffee, but horrible for meetings. Prepare a quiet space to host your meeting. Silence your cell phone, turn off your air conditioner, and put your dog in the yard.
- If you’re planning on connecting to the meeting using more than one device (i.e., using your laptop to view documents and using your phone for audio), make sure that you’re muted on all but one device.
- Whenever possible, use headphones and a mic to improve your audio quality.
- If you’re hosting in a conference room, do a test run with the technology. If your conference room technology is too complicated to understand without pulling in the IT department, consider switching to a more user-friendly audio/visual solution.
Tip: Test Everything! If you start the meeting with technical issues, it will be much harder to bring everyone back around to your agenda. Log in 10-15 minutes prior to test everything—better safe than frantically calling IT at the last minute while fielding texts, chats, and calls from confused participants trying to enter the meeting.
DURING THE MEETING
At the start of the meeting, give an overview of the agenda and goals of the meeting to provide a framework for the discussion. Remind participants of what should be discussed during the meeting, as well as which conversations should be handled at another time. To minimize interruptions, explain how you will answer questions—should the participants pose questions in the chat, wait until the end, or blurt it out?
Keep the Meeting On Track
Once you’ve restated the expectations, your job is to facilitate productive discussion by asking questions and reining in any conversations that stray from the main objectives. Though it’s your job to keep the meeting on track, you don’t have to do it alone. Assign a team member to take notes and another to answer questions in the chat.
Tip: Look Who's Talking If you have a large group or your participants don’t know each other, ask everyone to state their name before speaking.
Watch the Clock
It’s crucial to be considerate of your participants and their time. If you scheduled a 30-minute meeting and you’re reaching the 28-minute mark with no end in sight, schedule another meeting. You want everyone’s undivided attention, which you won’t get if everyone is watching the clock or frantically trying to delay their next meeting.
AFTER THE MEETING
If you stuck to your agenda, you’ll have plenty of progress to share with your attendees, as well as anyone who couldn’t make the meeting. Send a follow-up email with a recap, action items, and any artifacts referenced in the meeting.
Schedule any follow-up meetings required, then rinse and repeat for optimal results.