How to Run a Virtual Meeting That Gets Results

We can hear each other's voices from different continents but that doesn't mean real communications is easy.

learn more about Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jacqueline Whitmore

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With the proliferation of online resources, social media and cellular phones, the landscape of the "workplace" has changed forever. No longer do we need to show up at a brick-and-mortar building, or gather in the oak-paneled conference room for our weekly meeting. Nowadays, most everything can be done virtually.

Although this gives us abundant freedom, it also creates challenges in coordinating both people and information flow. Here are some guidelines for becoming better at virtual communications.

Set an agenda.

If your meeting includes a number of people, it is wise to create and disseminate an agenda that includes the timing and objectives for each item. This will help focus on the goals for the meeting and keep everyone on the same page.

Practice.

Don't use a new technology for the first time; instead, go through a "dress rehearsal" and practice its navigation and features beforehand. It's always a good idea to have a contingency plan in case technology fails you at a critical moment.

Related: Secrets to Yawn-Free Board Meetings

Stay focused.

Put your cell phone aside, and concentrate on running the meeting. You'll have enough to do with coordinating speakers, running the agenda and facilitating the technology without checking messages every few minutes.

Be the first on the call.

As the host, be the first to log into the call. Arrive at least five minutes early to make sure there are no glitches before the meeting begins. Introduce yourself and greet each person as they "arrive" and ask who has joined the call.

Introduce everyone.

Once everyone is present, make introductions including names, titles and roles. Start your meeting when everyone knows who's on the call.

Include an introduction.

Before the meeting begins, take a couple of minutes to make some small talk to get everyone warmed up. Tell a brief story, relate an experience, or ask everyone about his or her week. Their comfort level will rise and it will be easier to transition into the agenda.

Related: This App Will Make Your Next Virtual Meeting Awesome

Keep up the pace.

Don't let the meeting lag, or let any one person dominate or drag down the conversation. Remain in charge and set limits on speakers, or table conversations for later discussion. Ask everyone to be mindful of any ambient noise or activity in the background that others might hear. Also, ask everyone to disengage their music-on-hold feature just in case they have to tend to an urgent matter and leave the conference momentarily.

Create a Flow

Your advance preparation will aid in creating a cohesive flow to your online presentation. Don't jump around from file to file, or open new programs, if possible, or flip from page to page or move your cursor quickly around, making it difficult to follow.

Encourage participation.

Be sure to include all attendees in the conversation. Go "around the room" and ask everyone for input. This will keep everyone engaged, so they don't get bored or lose focus. Everyone should feel like their presence is important.

Do a recap.

At the end of the meeting, recap what has been covered, what has been assigned, and to whom it has been entrusted. It's best to set the time and date for the next meeting while you have everyone together.

Follow up.

If possible, send out a copy of the meeting notes and action items to all in attendance. Thank them for their participation and encourage them with words of praise.

Running any meeting is a skill, and more so when it is virtual. Incorporate these tips, and some of your own, to create a productive and interesting presentation each and every time.

Related: 6 Ways to Manage a Virtual Work Force

Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

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).

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