by Kai Andrews

Even during a time in which remote work is gaining in popularity, the thought of holding virtual meetings can still be daunting to some. From technology issues to maximizing participants’ time, holding productive meetings with a distributed team can be a challenge.

To get started, always remember to follow good meeting hygiene. These fundamental rules apply to virtual, in-person and mixed attendance meetings:

Assign a meeting owner to schedule the meeting, set the agenda, facilitate the discussion and capture decisions and action items.

Establish goals by clearly stating the goal for the meeting in the invitation—as well as having a time-boxed agenda and assigning pre-work as necessary.

Invite the right people. Before holding a meeting, the meeting owner must make sure the right people are invited—otherwise, you risk wasting time and causing churn.

Keep the discussion on track. When the conversation goes off-topic, the meeting owner can table the topic and assign someone to follow up after the meeting. That way, the points themselves are captured without derailing the meeting.

Next, it’s important to have the right tools and technology to conduct effective virtual meetings – here are some useful tips.

Prepare yourself:

  1. Prepare your environment: Consider the possibility of noise and distractions during the call. Find a more isolated room in the house to hold the meeting. Let others in the house know that you are about to be on an important call. And should there be a sudden interruption, simply acknowledge it, smile and move on.
  2. Prepare your audio: Make sure your audio setup is up for the task. Many laptops have good microphones but some do not. Some laptops will pick up typing. Others will broadcast your fingers drumming on the desk. Know what you have and be ready to get a good headset if needed. 
  3. Get the technology ready: Identify and test your technology setup prior to the meeting. Get everyone on a central, modern tool for meetings – Teams, WebEx, GoTo Meeting and Zoom are all great candidates. Is the actual application loaded, not just a browser extension? Do you have a wi-fi signal in the room in which you will be taking the call?
  4. Content and sharing readiness: If you are going to be sharing content, do you have it ready for virtual consumption? Do you know how to share your screen? Many apps give you the option of sharing just an application or sharing your whole screen, decide which one to use. Make sure you have all of the presentations and content to be shared open and ready. If you are using multiple monitors, know how to either mirror or extend your presentation. Consider leveraging virtual white boards to simultaneously collect inputs and support ideation during virtual meetings. We recommend checking out Mural, but conferencing tools like WebEx and Zoom have whiteboards, and consider Microsoft Whiteboard for O365 users. If someone insists on using a physical whiteboard, pan or zoom your camera. If you don’t have digital white boards, take a photo and share via OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online or Google Docs.
  5. Set meeting defaults: Depending on the size of the meeting, consider auto defaulting participants to be muted when joining. This prevents a lot of background noise as the meeting participants come together. You must also consider whether participants can self-unmute or whether that is controlled by a central administrator. Also make sure that meetings have a dial-in component option.