More Effective Virtual Meetings

Zoom is the new normal isn’t it? But it’s still tough, even if we’re getting more accustomed to it. How do you have effective virtual meetings that really engage everyone involved?

If you find your meetings are filled with a lot of silence, your work/lab/project meetings may just need more guidance. Some kind of structure can help immensely with getting people engaged on a call, especially people with less public speaking experience. If this is a “status update” meeting, you can try having everyone (one at a time) discuss what they did the previous day/week/month and what they plan to work on the next day/week/month. You can also have a round-robin schedule of individuals giving longer updates with slides (for which I recommend employing the screen sharing tools).

The chat feature in many video conferencing apps like Zoom is useful, but I’ve found it can be hit or miss – some people are willing to use it, others are not. And the chat window can distract many folks from what the speaker is saying. Thus sometimes it’s better to ask folks to use the “raise your hand” feature, or something else like that. Another option: send out slides in advance, and ask (or require if you’re in a position to do so) people to submit questions in advance.

Finally, unless your meeting is a daily/weekly status update meeting, you (or someone) should always send out an agenda of some kind. A formal meeting without a plan is disrespectful of the time of all parties involved, and can lead to significant wasted time and many decisions made without proper consideration and planning. And if the meeting is a status update meeting, focus on keeping the meeting as short as practical – you may get a lack of participation because people just want to get on with their day.

There is a great phrase that is highly applicable to the topic of meetings: “begin with the end in mind”. Consider what you feel is needed for the meeting to be considered a success – a certain decision made, the team getting to know each other a bit better, etc. Which leads to another classic phrase: “do first things first”. Always make sure you kick off the meeting going after that most important goal of the meeting.

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