- Knowledge Centre
How Leaders Can Increase The Effectiveness Of Virtual Meetings
Spending a year away from the office to stop the spread of a deadly virus has meant that for many, working from home and attending meetings virtually has become the new normal. Senior leadership teams are among those working remotely and spending little time in the offices that previously dominated their working lives, and while this new arrangement has its upsides – spending more time with family and less on the commute among them – the loss of direct human contact can be seriously damaging to the ease of collaboration between leaders. So while the future of remote vs office working is still uncertain, here are 10 tips to help improve the quality of collaboration in your team’s virtual meetings.
1. Clarify in advance the value to be achieved.
Focusing on value to be achieved rather than ideas to explore or tasks to be completed means there is a clear goal to the meeting that everyone is working towards. All attendees are made aware of their individual responsibilities for creating this value, and tasks are not set unless it is clear what value completing them will create, potentially freeing up time and resources for work more beneficial to the organisation.
2. Ask on-site colleagues to call in separately.
When one section of the team is sat together in the conference room, able to engage in side-conversations remote colleagues are automatically cut off from, it can lead to those not in the room feeling left out, and less willing to contribute due to a feeling that their ideas are valued less. If some colleagues are in the same building while others are alone, ask them to call in from their individual offices.
3. Arrive 5 minutes before the scheduled start time.
The internet cuts out, someone’s webcam isn’t working, one person can’t find the Zoom link… there are many issues virtual meetings have that in-person gatherings do not, so give yourself time to sort out any technical issues before the meeting proper is set to begin.
4. Have an appointed chairperson to keep attendees focused and on time.
Leaders have busy schedules and meetings have to fit a lot into a fixed amount of time, so it’s important that one person takes responsibility for ensuring the discussion stays on track and that everyone with something to say is able to have input.
5. Create a more interactive environment.
Get everyone engaged by ensuring everyone in the meeting is actively involved, whether it be by presenting an idea, recommendation, or new project. Ask searching questions that clarify ideas and help create a shared understanding between team members about organisational priorities and the value they are to deliver.
6. Be in the (virtual) room.
Having your phone by your side and leaving your email notifications on while in a meeting is a sure way to ensure you become distracted and disengage from what is being said. Creating an environment with this possibility of distraction does your team a disservice, and you will get more value from any discussion if you give it your full attention. Turn off those notifications and put your phone somewhere you can’t see (or hear) it – it’s only respectful.
7. Invite disagreement.
Discussion, debate, and disagreement are not just healthy but vital to develop diverse ways of looking at a problem, situation, or initiative in order to make higher-quality decisions. This isn’t unique to virtual or remote meetings, but inviting other leaders to voice alternative perspectives and ideas is an excellent way to create a more interactive environment that engages team members whilst creating value.
8. Be clear on who is accountable for what outcomes.
Clarity is important in all areas. Being clear on who is responsible for which outcomes and by when makes it much more likely that outcome will be achieved than if no one person was identified as being accountable for it.
9. Use technology wisely.
Choose your form of communication to fit the occasion – does this message really need a video call, or would it better to simply send an email? Familiarize yourself with the functions of the technology you use (such as screen-sharing and hand-raise options) and see how they could be used to enhance your team’s communication – just be careful not to over-use the technology. If it doesn’t add value to your team’s collaboration, leave it out.
10. Clarify understanding and next steps.
Never assume everyone has the same understanding of what was agreed in a meeting or what the next steps are to be. Strange though it may seem, people often come out of the same meeting with completely different understandings of what was said, and this lack of shared understanding can lead to agreed actions not taking place and outputs being delayed. Before the team leaves to go about their other business, take a moment to clarify precisely what has been agreed, what the next steps are, and who is responsible for them.
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