by Kai Andrews

Virtual meetings used to be seen as a necessary evil – a coming together of distributed team members who inevitably would not be fully engaged in the meeting’s objectives. But now that they are required by all, meeting leaders are craving ways to have the meetings build engagement, trust and candor among all participants.

That said, you need to prepare to run an effective, engaging virtual meeting. Just like those face-to-face interactions, the magic doesn’t happen by chance. So, here are the top ways to keep your team in the conversation and realize your meeting goals. From wherever you happen to be.

  1. Use video: While it will be difficult for all attendees in large meetings to have their cameras on, the presenters MUST have their faces seen. Individual laptops may suffice but if there is going to be a group in a central location, then consider using a professional company to live-stream the video. Also always remember where the camera is. Make eye contact with those virtual participants.
  2. Use chat for participant engagement: Use the meeting’s chat features to engage everyone. Make sure that there is a person dedicated to monitoring the chat channel and interrupt the presenter as needed – have this cadence set up ahead of time. The presenter should pause on a regular basis so that the chat moderator can intervene. One other option is to use multiple monitors so that you share the presentation on one monitor and have the meeting notes and chat window on another.
  3. Use in-person engagement tactics: Feel free to call on folks during the meeting. You would if you were in the room with them…don’t let a virtual meeting keep you from doing what you normally would do to engage participants. And remember that you have an audience during breaks, especially if you are in a room with others and you have virtual participants.
  4. Leverage break-out sessions: Use break-out sessions to get more engagement but make sure you have logistics set up for those meetings. The invite should have links to break-out meetings so that people can easily join on the fly. Apply all of these rules to those smaller meetings and remember to come back together on time. 
  5. Use white boards: Be prepared for how you will white-board ad-hoc contributions to the meeting. It is inevitable that someone will want to get up and draw something or collect information via sticky notes. The ultimate beauty of using virtual whiteboards is that you do not need to take pictures at the end of the meeting and email them around…it’s already digital!​ If you do use a physical white board, be sure that your camera can be panned and zoomed so that everyone can see what is being done. If you don’t have a virtual or white board at the ready, a quick work-around is relatively easy: just open up a document on central share like OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online or Google Docs, share the document with participants, and have them edit the document directly. Everyone will see each other’s content pop right up on the screen – voila, a virtual whiteboard with tools you already have!