Over the past 18 months, most of us have become very familiar with virtual meetings. Some love it, some not so much. But the reality is, they’re an effective way to keep in touch while the world adjusts to a new ‘normal’. So, since virtual meetings are here to stay, here are a few tips to make sure you communicate effectively every time.
Always have an agenda
Nobody likes a chaotic meeting that goes around in circles. Not only is it confusing and unproductive, but it usually makes meetings go much longer than they should. With that in mind, always have an agenda for virtual meetings. You can send the agenda out well before the meeting and ask for submissions, that way everybody has a chance to raise topics that are important to them.
This pre-planning also lets you allocate a time limit for each agenda item, assuring that meetings start and finish on time.
When you’re not physically in the same room as people, it can be tempting to drift off and just passively pay attention while doing something else. But remember, communication goes both ways. If you want people to listen to you, show them the same courtesy. You’ll get a lot more out of the meeting if you actively listen and participate fully in each agenda item, even if it doesn’t directly concern you.
Distractions are probably the biggest issue for virtual meetings. Your fellow attendees can only see a snapshot of your face, so again it can be tempting to let other things take your attention away. Whether it’s kids at home, your mobile phone, other work, or even a television! All types of things can distract you from what’s important, so give yourself the best chance to stay focused. Find a quiet place, especially if working from home, turn off the mobile phone and focus solely on the meeting.
Make points succinctly
In the interest of ensuring a meeting flows well and doesn’t drag on, be clear with what you want to say. If you choose your words wisely, you can communicate your points succinctly. You’ll have more of an impact that way, plus, you’ll finish the meeting much faster.
It’s also important to stay on topic. Meetings have a tendency to go off the rails if people start veering away from the key topic. Hopefully you have a meeting chair or moderator to keep things on track, but if not, be mindful that you don’t stray too far from what’s important.
Be aware of body language
If you use video for your virtual meetings, you need to be aware of your body language. While we often joke that you only need your top half dressed appropriately, you need to remember that people can still see you, just like a face-to-face meeting. So, slouching in your chair or looking off in other directions is never a good look, and makes you appear disinterested.
Even if there’s no video, be aware of your tone of voice, and your volume. Make sure people can hear you clearly, and you speak just as you would in a normal meeting. In addition, be aware of non-verbal cues, because you want to make sure everybody gets a chance to have their say.
Overall, virtual meetings don’t need to be any different to in-person meetings. Keep them moving smoothly, stick to the agenda, and be sure to communicate effectively. In the new world of hybrid workplaces, remote work and offices scattered around the country, it’s important to still come together as a team in any way you can.