Long before the pandemic, virtual meetings were changing the way that the business world operated. The preference for virtual events and meetings over in-person events picked up momentum around the Great Recession of 2007 when companies couldn’t afford travel costs for their dispersed employees.
Since then virtual events have become increasingly popular. The pandemic and the growth of the remote workforce saw the number of virtual events swell. The statistics are staggering. In 2020, Zoom counted over 300 million virtual meeting participants per day while Google Meet reported 100 million daily meeting participants. In 2021, Microsoft Teams had 250 million active daily users.
Virtual meetings are here to stay. But just because they are now commonplace doesn’t guarantee that they are effective virtual team meetings. Below we discuss the steps to planning your virtual meeting, helpful tips, and fun activities to make your virtual meeting the best it can be!
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Are Virtual Meetings Effective?
We know how established virtual meetings are, but are they accomplishing essential meeting goals? Just how effective are virtual meetings?
It appears that virtual meetings are effective in several ways.
- A widely-cited survey from 2013 of nearly 5,000 professionals from around the globe found that 94% of respondents said using video-conferencing boosts productivity and efficiency.
- That same survey revealed that 87% of remote employees feel more connected to their team during virtual meetings.
- According to another survey, 98% of respondents said that video-conferencing helps them forge relationships both in and outside the company and that 90% of employees feel that using video helps them get their point across.
Below we present the top effective virtual meeting tips to assist you in planning and running a productive, engaging, and enjoyable virtual meeting.
How To Make A Virtual Meeting More Effective?
Conducting effective virtual meetings is similar to running in-person meetings. However, some elements of an in-person meeting need to be adapted for a virtual environment. Here are some effective meeting strategies and virtual meetings best practices to ensure that you get the most out of your time.
9 Steps To Set Up Your Virtual Meeting
It’s crucial to take time to properly plan for your virtual meeting. Showing up unprepared sends a signal to the participants that you don’t value their time.
1. Schedule Your Meeting
Aim for a time that most people can attend. If your team is spread out around the country or even the globe, be sensitive to time zones. Asking a colleague to jump on Zoom in the middle of the night shows a lack of consideration.
2. Know Your Objectives
A meeting that lacks definition will be an ineffective meeting and a waste of everyone’s time. Define your objectives by asking yourself “What is the reason for the meeting? Is it a problem-solving meeting or brainstorming session? Is the meeting a status update or a check-in with the team?” When you have a specific objective for your virtual meeting, it is more likely that you will meet that objective.
3. Create An Agenda
Once you know why you are holding your meeting, create a formal agenda. This provides structure to your meeting and gives your participants a roadmap to follow. An agenda that clearly states the goals of the meeting increases the likelihood that you will reach these goals. Your agenda should include the duration of the meeting and its objective.
Send the agenda at least one day in advance with any relevant materials. This allows people to review the materials, prepare questions, or suggest additions before the meeting.
4. Choose A Video-Conferencing Platform
A couple of factors go into selecting a video-conferencing platform for your virtual meeting. How many people will attend? Skype or Google Chats are a good fit for small groups, while Zoom is a better choice for large meetings.
Are there any special features you want to utilize in the meeting? If you need screen sharing or breakout rooms for a collaborative brainstorming session, opt for a platform, like Google Workspaces, that lets several people contribute simultaneously. Also, you might want to choose a platform that can record your virtual meeting. That way, people who were unable to attend can catch up later.
If your company uses a particular platform already, it’s often best to go with that one. Meeting participants are already comfortable using the platform and you can skip any on-the-spot tech training and dive straight into the meeting.
5. Send Invitations
Attach the agenda, any materials, and the link to connect to the meeting. You can email the meeting invitation or send creative, custom-made digital invitations to build enthusiasm around the meeting. You can create your own or use a template. Check out Evite and Punchbowl for ideas.
Send a reminder 24 hours before the meeting to boost attendance along with a request for everyone to test out the video-conferencing platform you are using before the meeting.
6. Establish Virtual Meeting Etiquette
There are some simple ground rules for running effective virtual meetings. These rules are essentially virtual meeting etiquette and expectations of participants. Make sure that they are aware of these rules of conduct before your meeting. You can do this by including a few sentences in the meeting invite. If your company holds virtual meetings frequently, include virtual meeting guidelines in your company handbook.
Ask the following of meeting participants:
- Log in to the meeting early to make sure the equipment is working as expected. Check web camera, microphone, and any other meeting tools.
- Do not engage in disruptive activities like eating during the meeting or smartphone browsing.
- Use video, chat, and “raise hand” features appropriately.
- Always mute audio when not speaking. This prevents background noise interruptions
- Attend the meeting from a computer or laptop, rather than a cell phone, to ensure a stable image.
- Either put cell phones on silent or, at a minimum, turn off cell phone notifications.
- Treat the meeting the same as an in-person gathering and refrain from working on other tasks during meeting time.
7. Run The Meeting
If you have conducted in-person meetings, then you know that there can be challenges. Running effective virtual meetings comes with unique obstacles. The most significant one is overcoming the barrier between attendees caused by computer screens. The host of a virtual meeting must keep attendees engaged and focused from the get-go. Employ the following techniques:
- Greet each person individually as they join the meeting. They will feel ‘seen’ and more likely to remain ‘visible’ and involved in the meeting.
- If all or some of the attendees are meeting each other for the first time, ask them to introduce themselves.
- Start the engagement process early by playing an ice breaker game. This will put everyone at ease and remove any tension.
- Keep attendees involved and present by encouraging them to share their ideas or suggestions. This allows for effective communication in virtual meetings.
- Don’t stray from the agenda. This will prevent the meeting from running over.
- Play a short and fun activity before you end the meeting. This will leave meeting participants feeling reinvigorated as they turn back to their individual work.
8. Close The Meeting
Put a bookend on your meeting with a formal closing. Summarize the discussion and go over the next steps and clarify who, if anyone specifically, is responsible for completing those tasks.
Highlight an aspect of the meeting that was especially successful like excellent collaboration, strong problem-solving, or clear communications. This makes participants know that their time is appreciated and they will be less wary of future virtual meetings. Be sure to thank everyone for their great work during the meeting!
9. Send A Follow-Up Email
Put in writing what you said at the end of your meeting. Include a meeting summary and a list of what was done and what remains to be done. You can also use a follow-up email to ask for feedback about the way the virtual meeting was conducted and if there are needed improvements or adjustments. Your team will appreciate knowing that their input matters.
If you want to hold better virtual meetings it’s critical to know what’s working and what’s not. Ask questions like:
- Did you have any technical issues?
- What features, such as breakout rooms or chats, did you like?
- Was the length of the meeting too short, too long, or just right?
- Are any changes in the format needed?
7 Tips on Leading Effective Virtual Meetings
You now know the steps to conduct a virtual meeting, but here are some additional tips for effective virtual meetings.
1. Determine If The Meeting Is Necessary
This may sound counterintuitive, but you may not need to call for a meeting at all! Virtual meetings might not be the best choice in every scenario to communicate with your team. One study found more than 55% of remote workers felt that the purpose of most meetings could have been accomplished with an email.
If you anticipate that the group discussion can take place with a short chat via another means, like Slack or Google Chats, skip the meeting. This decreases the amount of screen time your team members must spend. Too many virtual meetings can take a toll on remote employees.
2. Watch Out For Zoom Fatigue
If your remote team is heavily reliant on Zoom meetings, they may have experienced “Zoom fatigue” at some point. Zoom fatigue is a top reason why virtual meetings are not effective. This phenomenon can lead to irritability and an inability to concentrate. Worse still, extreme Zoom fatigue can lead to high stress levels and exhaustion that may eventually lower your employee retention rate!
Among the best effective virtual meeting tips is to eliminate the likelihood of Zoom fatigue. Holding fewer virtual meetings is one way to counter Zoom fatigue, but that may not always be possible. If a virtual meeting is necessary, allow participants to take short breaks of a minute or two to stretch and rest their eyes.
Also, before you send out invitations, decide if everyone is essential to the meeting. If someone’s presence isn’t truly needed, don’t invite them simply because they are part of a team or department. This decreases the amount of Zoom fatigue amongst team members. Moreover, smaller meetings result in streamlined communication and fewer questions. You can get through your agenda in the time allotted, perhaps even earlier.
3. Keep It Short
Schedule your meeting for no more than 45 minutes, unless it’s absolutely necessary to go longer. In that case, incorporate short breaks into your agenda. Conversely, if your team doesn’t hold virtual meetings frequently, take advantage of the time you have together. Pencil in some group virtual team building games or activities to reap the many benefits of team building!
4. Designate A Moderator
A moderator assists with a number of things. First, a moderator manages the order of who is speaking and stops people from talking over each other. A moderator should keep a list of raised hands and give everyone a chance to speak. Next, a moderator can prevent a lack of engagement by calling on members randomly to see if they are paying attention. If they have ‘checked out’, a moderator can draw that person back into the conversation.
Similarly, if one meeting member is too quiet, the moderator can encourage them to add to the discussion. Rotate moderators for each meeting. This allows everyone to practice their leadership skills.
5. Dedicate Time For Casual Catch-Ups
Many remote employees suffer from feelings of isolation. Dedicating time for team members to catch up at the end of the meeting can alleviate that loneliness. Using breakout rooms as a virtual water cooler allows for post-meeting conversations that would normally take place at the office water cooler.
Whether after a meeting or at any time during the day, small group informal catch-ups provide team members with the opportunity to connect. Try integrating virtual water-cooler and virtual coffee breaks at any time throughout the week to reduce feelings of isolation and elevate team camaraderie.
6. Take A Course
If you feel you need a bit more guidance with the organizational aspects of running a virtual meeting, consider taking a “How To Lead Effective Meetings” online course like LinkedIn’s “Leading Virtual Meetings”.
Online courses are a quick and efficient way to enhance your virtual team management skills. There are online classes on nearly every aspect of the virtual workplace. Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare all offer an array of relevant courses. You can even get a headstart on training new remote employees with a class like “Tools for Working From Home”!
7. Integrate Short Games And Activities Into Your Meeting
Use a quick game at the start of the meeting to grab your team’s attention, lighten up the atmosphere, and energize everyone. Fun games can start the engagement process before the meeting has even started. Your discussion will flow better and brainstorming sessions will yield more creative results.
Get Your Free Game
The 3-Minute Non-Cringey Ice Breaker for Your Next Meeting
Follow the rule of one-sixth. For every hour of virtual meeting time, devote 10 minutes to playing a team building activity or team game. A cohesive team is a more productive team. The team that plays together, stays together! Once you’ve put these tips into practice, leading effective virtual meetings will be a breeze!
11 Activities For Virtual Meetings
It’s best to play quick virtual games so that the meeting does not run over. The great thing is that you can schedule virtual meetings dedicated to non-work matters. You can also use virtual meetings to play longer games, host virtual parties and events, and engage in team building activities!
1. Ice Breakers
One way to get your team, especially remote meeting members, engaged in meetings is to start things off with fun icebreaker questions. Getting everyone engaged at the outset can lead to continued engagement throughout the meeting. If you are onboarding a new employee, ice breakers are a terrific way to integrate them into an existing team Some example questions are:
- If you had one extra hour of free time every day, how would you use it?
- What are your top 3 emojis?
- What would your theme song be?
2. Traffic Light
This quick easy activity lets team members know how they are feeling that day by saying if they are in a green, yellow or red mood. Members in “green” moods are likely to stay focused and participate more in your meeting. Those who feel “yellow” may hang back a bit and will need a nudge to keep them involved. Look out for anyone in a “red” mood. They may be feeling highly irritable and could interrupt the flow of the meeting. Perhaps cut them some slack that day and don’t hone in on them.
3. Mini Dance
Remote workers spend a lot of time sitting down at their desks. Emails have replaced the stroll down to your colleague’s end of the office to ask a question. Energize your virtual meeting attendees with a mini dance!
4. Workplace Trivia
Do a lighting round of trivia questions at the start of the meeting. You can customize the questions with Kahoot! Pick topics related to your company and ask questions like:
- What is the origin of the company name? Where does our company name come from?
- Who is the biggest client?
- What year was the company founded?
5. Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Virtual scavenger hunts get the creative juice flowing for the meeting ahead. There are so many already written virtual scavenger hunts to choose from that you don’t need much time to prepare the activity in advance. Playing these games gets meeting attendees into problem-solving mode which will come in handy when you get down to the task at hand.
How often does someone’s screen freeze during a virtual meeting capturing that person in an awkward pose until they can get their connection up and running? Turn this mishap into an intentional game! At any point in the virtual meeting, members can fake-freeze and try to fool others into thinking their connection has broken.
For example, a colleague can stop mid-sentence and hold their position, preferably a funny one. The first person to notice the fake freeze wins a point. Tally up points at the end of the week and award a silly prize to the person who spotted the most fake freezes!
Let meeting participants get to know each other with QuizBreaker. Each team member answers generated questions about themselves and QuizBreaker turns the answers into “who said what” questions. Coworkers try to figure out which team member said what. The person with the most right answers wins!
8. Use Zoom Virtual Backgrounds
For your Zoom virtual meeting, have participants swap out their actual background with a funny virtual background! Let your meeting members join in from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or Outer Space! Find countless free virtual backgrounds from Pixabay, Zoom, and Canva, to name a few.
9. Pet Introductions
Chances are that teammates have caught glimpses of each other’s pets in past virtual meetings. But they may not have been properly introduced. Start your virtual meeting with pet introductions! Let meeting attendees know in advance that their furry friend can attend the first 10 minutes of the meeting. Give everyone a minute or so for introductions. Virtual meetings with pets are a remote version of “Bring Your Pet To Work Day”!
10. Show and Tell
One benefit of virtual meetings is that they provide coworkers a small window into each others’ home lives. An adult version of the grade school activity of ‘show and tell’ lets team members learn a bit more about each other in a lighthearted way. In your virtual meeting invitation, ask participants to bring an item they would like to show to the group. It could be anything, like a musical instrument they play, a favorite book, even their work slippers!
11. Virtual Happy Hour
If your virtual meeting happens to be at the end of a Friday, host a non-mandatory virtual happy hour. Your team can turn off work mode and turn on relax mode! Have everyone toast to surviving another virtual meeting and producing some excellent results!
When conducted properly, virtual meetings will be just as effective as face-to-face meetings. Just like in-person meetings, virtual meetings can improve productivity, strengthen relationships, increase engagement, and enhance team collaboration. Once you have mastered the steps to running a virtual meeting, you’ll find the results rewarding!