Remote meetings are a great way to stay connected when not in the same city or office. And while video conferencing has been increasing in popularity over the past few years, it’s now a vital form of communication in our new work-from-home economy. Businesses, schools, nonprofits, and organizations of all stripes now use it to stay connected and on track.
How do you do it? All you need to get started is a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam or a smartphone or tablet with a built-in camera. Then follow these tips for simple ways to structure and optimize your virtual meeting.
As you begin the meeting, consider whether it would be helpful to record the meeting for later. Will you want to review what happened or share it with people who were unable to attend? If so, click the record button first. (Be sure to announce this intention or ask for permission.) When the meeting ends, the recorded file will go to the meeting’s host to archive or share.
Once your virtual meeting gets going, begin with a role call and check-in. Who’s on the line? How’s everyone doing? Make introductions if needed, and perhaps you’ll want to do some kind of remote ice breaker to get everyone in the right frame of mind. Encourage attendees to keep their cameras on to facilitate human connection.
All meetings — virtual and in-person — benefit from organization and clarity. So be sure to spell out the reason for your gathering: What are you looking to accomplish? It’s also important to point out roles and responsibilities in the meeting. Who’s leading the charge? Who are the supporting players? Who’s taking notes? Keeping everyone on the same page creates clarity and efficiency.
It's helpful to introduce an agenda early on so participants know what to expect. Even if it’s a simple list of three bullets, the agenda helps keep everyone focused and on track. After all, if the conversation veers off-topic, the host can simply bring it back by referring to the meeting’s agenda and goals.
Every video conferencing tool has a button to mute your mic when you're not speaking. Otherwise, as the speaker talks, he or she might be overwhelmed by the sounds of typing, barking dogs, lawnmowers, kids, and any number of outside elements. Simply click the mute button when you’re not speaking, and click it again to “unmute” when it’s your turn to talk. Be sure to ask other participants to mute also.
It’s difficult to keep everyone engaged and participating when they’re not meeting in the same room. Set an expectation that everyone in the meeting should stay focused on the agenda at hand, not on other activities. Some video conferencing tools have a feature that lets the host know when attendees are using other apps, or you can simply ask everyone to keep their cameras turned on.
Any meeting participant can share their computer screen with the group for easy collaboration. Then everyone has the same view of documents, spreadsheets, decks, and more. Just click on the “share screen” button (and don’t forget to hit “stop sharing” when your portion is done).
Video conferencing tools have a chat window for you to share comments, feedback, and links during a meeting. This is handy so you can share thoughts and praise without having to interrupt the flow of the meeting. Be sure to let participants know the chat feature is there and encourage them to use it.
As the meeting comes to a close, don’t forget to reiterate what you’ve accomplished and outline any next steps -- like who’s going to tackle the issues discussed, who’ll distribute the notes, and whether or not you’ll meet again. This keeps everyone aligned and in the know.
If you need to follow-up with someone, whether it’s on the meeting topic or not, ask that person to stay on the line at the end. That way you can take care of your pressing matter while it’s top of mind and don’t have to worry about finding another meeting time.
This may sound obvious, but when the virtual meeting concludes, be sure to actually leave the meeting. To do this, simply close out of the app or shut down the correct tab in your window. You wouldn’t want to forget and accidentally do something embarrassing without realizing your camera and mic are still on.
Virtual meetings may seem awkward at first with everyone trying to be heard or if side conversations take place, but with practice and experience, you’ll figure out what works best for you. We’d love to hear your personal tips. Gives us a shout on Twitter at @essentials.