5 Best Practices for Productive Virtual Meetings in 2021
Love them or hate them, virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
A recent Gartner survey of HR leaders found that 90% planned to allow employees to work remotely at least part-time post-pandemic. And with many organizations saving big on travel expenses and finding it easier to schedule virtual meetings with external partners and vendors, videoconferencing is slated to be a fact of life even for teams working primarily in the office.
Among those who are more ambivalent about this new reality, the problem isn’t necessarily virtual meetings per se. Instead, it’s that many organizations still haven’t quite cracked the formula for making video conferencing as effective as possible.
But by following these best practices, you can make your team’s virtual meetings more productive and engaging – paving the path for success in a world where remote work will remain front-and-center.
Be warm and sociable.
Don’t treat a virtual meeting as just a box to check off your to-do list. Make sure that it feels like, well, a meeting.
As with an in-person meeting, you’ll want virtual meeting participants to be awake, alert, and engaged, ready to absorb others’ ideas and share their own. But if you dive right into the nitty-gritty without a bit of small talk and personal connection, it’s harder to build and sustain the natural rapport that’s essential to any good meeting, whether it’s internal or external.
With an energetic, friendly approach, you won’t just get participants interested and motivated and help head off Zoom fatigue, you could also see real bottom-line benefits: According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, enhanced communication and collaboration can boost organizations’ productivity by 20-25%.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Each meeting should have a clear agenda to focus the conversation and ensure that all participants know what to expect and come prepared with the right questions, proposals, and feedback.
Reiterating the meeting’s core objectives at the beginning can help keep the meeting on-point. Laying out the purpose and goals of the meeting isn’t just good for participants; it’s also a great way of helping the leaders of a meeting to organize their thoughts, fine-tune their main points, and prevent an aimless, meandering call that will bore participants to tears.
Pay attention to behavioral cues.
Maintaining eye contact and observing body language isn’t as easy in a virtual format as it is in-person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up on important signals through the camera.
Exaggerated expressions and nodding can help you gauge how key messages are landing with meeting participants, while telltale signs of disengagement – like eye movements that indicate someone is checking their emails or surfing the Internet – also provide critical feedback about how well you’re maintaining your audience’s focus and interest.
Putting your video platform on full screen – without obviously observing participants – is an excellent way of picking up on behavioral cues you might otherwise miss.
Use visuals whenever possible.
Visual elements prevent presentations from becoming monotonous, and done right, they can add just the verve you need to convey your point in more than mere words. There’s a reason relatable Internet memes and pitch-perfect GIFsgo viral, after all.
Amusing, surprising, or just downright memorable images can keep audiences tuned in and help your message resonate in a way it wouldn’t if you were relying exclusively on bulleted lists on a PowerPoint presentation. That’s not just common sense, it’s science: We humans remember pictures more accurately than we remember words.
Make it interactive by asking questions.
A surefire way to make participants’ eyes glaze over in a virtual meeting?
Make it a monologue.
By contrast, if you intersperse your key points with questions for participants – and the more you do this, the more they’ll know to expect them – you’ll keep your audience on its toes and foster a fruitful give-and-take.
If you’re a salesperson, for instance, don’t just provide a laundry list of your product’s features; ask about the prospect’s specific pain points so you can tailor your pitch and make it as relevant as possible to their unique concerns.
Virtual need not mean remote. With the right approach, your virtual meetings can deliver personal connection, powerful engagement, and productive discussions – helping your business overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by its new normal.
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