5 Rules for Holding Effective Virtual Meetings
Sometimes it is difficult (if not impossible) for us to meet with our clients and colleagues in real life. Fortunately, technology has introduced a workable solution to this issue that is quite convenient for everyone involved.
Several months ago, I had a virtual meeting with a couple of my international colleagues via Skype. We talked extensively about my business etiquette topics and shared ideas on how I could contribute to their conference. I’m certain that because we “met” each other in advance, we established a rapport and friendship. As a result, I was invited me to speak at their conference in Hong Kong a few weeks ago.
Virtual meetings used to be the “wave of the future.” Now they are practically an essential part of a business’s operations. Here is a list of some simple do’s and don’ts to help you get the most out of your next virtual meeting.
1. Make introductions.
Introduce the people at the meeting to each other, especially if new people join the group and if time permits, give a brief background on each person. This helps create team cohesion. If your group meets regularly, ask for updates since the last meeting. Remember to conduct all meetings with civility and respect. Be respectful of others’ time, and be present. That means no multi-tasking.
2. Engage everyone.
Because you are not in a room together, it is far easier for someone to slip through the radar. Some people may not contribute and you may not notice. If you are leading the meeting, maintain control at all times, but try not to be too dominating. Encourage each participant to share their ideas and contribute to the group. It’s important to make participants feel important by soliciting their feedback. Otherwise, they might get bored and zone out.
3. Choose video over audio.
To get the most from your virtual meetings, use video conferencing where participants can see each other and you can see them. You will be more likely to get the undivided attention of your attendees and can pick up on nonverbal cues and facial expressions as well as what is being said. Video makes people feel more engaged because it allows team members to see each other’s emotions and reactions, which immediately humanizes the room.
4. Use high-quality technology.
In the middle of an important conversation, you surely don’t want your meeting to be disrupted due to a poor-quality connection or equipment failures. Some of the more popular technologies used for virtual conferences are offered through Skype for Business, WebEx and GoToMeeting platforms that also permit all participants to share documents while they actively participate in the meeting. Choose a medium that is easy for everyone to access.
5. Plan your work and work your plan.
Send a meeting reminder with the agenda, needed materials and information about the technology to be used at least three days before the meeting. Ask key people to prepare items for the meeting ahead of time. Tackle critical topics at the start of the meeting while the participants are fresh. Before you conclude the meeting, document decisions and next steps.
Although virtual meetings are not always as effective as face-to-face meetings, they are convenient and cost effective. And when it comes to customer and client relationships, that ability to build trust across borders and countries is critical. If you want to succeed, you need to be able to meet “in person” no matter where you are in the world.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).