September 9, 2020

Virtual Meeting Best Practices

With so many employees still working from home, many businesses have turned to virtual video platforms, like Zoom or GoToMeeting, to conduct meetings and hold discussions over a video conference. This practice has worked well for many businesses; however, it is important to understand some of the basic professional practices that will help your next call be just as effective as an in-person meeting.

Before the Meeting

Planning ahead is essential to a successful video meeting. Just like a regular meeting you would conduct in your office conference room, you need to schedule your Zoom call for your team with plenty of time for them to prepare. They will need to make adjustments to their own schedule to ensure they can attend the meeting, and they may also need to prepare materials or information to share. If you have a weekly or monthly team call, go ahead and schedule as many as you can for the next few weeks or months, and take care to factor in things like employee vacations, holidays, and client meetings that are already on the books.

Planning ahead also means prepping for the call itself before you start the meeting. Take time to find a place at home or in your office that has as few distractions as possible. You don’t need to rearrange your entire living room, but look for an area with fewer decorations, more muted colors, and that is located away from the high-traffic areas of your house or office. Be sure to communicate these tips with your team, too, as many of them are still working from home offices or other locations.

Now that you have a good place to conduct your call, go ahead and set up your lighting to make sure everyone can see you. Light that is close to your face will work best, and you should avoid sitting in front of a window or other light source unless you only want your team to see your silhouette. You should also consider potential noise distractions, like a phone ringing or a pet running around and knocking over items on your desk. Find a place that allows you to communicate well, be seen clearly, and conduct your meeting in a professional manner.

During the Meeting

Treat this call just as you would treat a typical weekly meeting with your team or client. That means dressing professionally (or however you would normally dress for the office) and conducting business as usual. You don’t have to ignore the elephant in the room – after all, circumstances are unusual, and acknowledging that is important for both you and your team. But don’t spend the entire call discussing these unusual circumstances unless it’s related to the agenda for your meeting.

As the host of the video conference, you have the ability to control who can be heard during the call. Before you begin the call, send a message to your team to let them know they will all be muted when they enter the meeting. (For clients, consider asking them to mute themselves so everyone can hear.) This will help you cut down on extra noise and distractions, as well as allow your team to focus on what you are saying. If someone has a question or it’s their turn to present during the meeting, ask them to make sure that as many extraneous noises are eliminated as possible. Some things can’t be helped, like a doorbell ringing or the neighbor’s dog barking during the call. But taking the extra steps to manage the noise level will keep these little issues from taking over the call.

If you have an agenda for the video call (and it’s a good idea to make one if you don’t), stick to it as much as possible. As useful as these meetings are, many employees and clients are probably starting to burn out on these calls after doing them for six months. Don’t skip any important information, but make a plan and follow it to keep everyone on track for the most efficient use of your meeting time. Ask any other team members who are presenting to submit their agenda to you ahead of time so you can work with them to stay on track in a timely fashion.

After the Meeting

Just like your meetings in the office, some people won’t be able to attend every time. Using video conference platforms also adds a new layer of complications, like the Internet dropping out halfway through, the sound being distorted, or any number of technical complications that tend to come up without warning or obvious solutions. With all this in mind, you can do one of two things (or both) – first, record your meeting. Let your other team members and clients know that this is the plan, and when the meeting is over, you can send the recording to anyone who missed it or wants to hear it again.

The second thing on your To Do list is to summarize the meeting in a document or email that can be sent to your entire team or client. This will not only help people stay caught up with important information, but it will allow those who may not have consistent video conference access to review the discussion, especially as it informs their role at work. You can send it to those who were in the meeting first to make sure you didn’t skip any important points in your summary.

Finally, take the time to ask your employees and clients for feedback. Did the video conferencing option work well for them? If so, what worked well? If not, how can you change things for next time? You may need to look into different platforms, change your meeting schedule, or use another innovative solution to meet as many needs as you can for your team. Remember, you may be conducting business this way for a while, even with clients, and this feedback will help you maintain a professional persona.

Everyone hopes to be back in the office soon, but until then, you can make your Zoom calls work for your team and clients by doing a little prep, sticking to a plan, and asking for feedback. Make the most of these video conferences and encourage your team by reminding them that, even over a video call, your business is still committed to doing its best.

September 9, 2020 Laura Stewart