Virtual meetings: Tips for keeping remote workers in the loop

As telecommuting becomes an essential part of modern business, planning and conducting online gatherings is proving essential for collaboration. Try these tactics for peak efficiency.

How to have better virtual meetings

As telecommuting gains favor, managers struggle with keeping everyone on the same page.

That means running effective and efficient virtual meetings.

According to the State of the Remote Job Marketplace report from FlexJobs, 3.9 million U.S. employees—about 3% of the U.S. workforce—work from home at least half the time. Moreover, within the next decade 38 percent of full-time staff will be working remotely.

Here’s how you can overcome geographic boundaries to optimize meetings and achieve team and organization goals:

Plan every aspect.

Beyond informal check-ins, these online gatherings require forethought. In a previous article, Choncé Maddox suggested key steps, including tailoring your format to your audience, focusing on timing and other logistics, and doing a test run to correct any glitches:

In addition, assign key roles, such as a note-taker and timekeeper, rotating these functions among meeting participants.

Most important: Send out the agenda, required materials, and information about the meeting technology at least three days in advance so everyone can plan for it.

Review your agenda.

Determine what will be discussed, as well as the time allotted for each topic. Assign a facilitator to adhere to the agenda; this keeps your meeting on track. Make sure everyone attending has a copy so they won’t get lost.

Start strong, and keep things moving.

  • Allow everyone to make introductions. This helps build cohesion and gives everyone a chance to learn and recognize one another’s voices.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Long periods of silence can be awkward, but brief pauses allow ideas to sink in and keep people from talking over one another.
  • Keep everyone engaged. Let everyone share their ideas and opinions so that they won’t get bored or feel left out. Invite guest speakers, encourage spontaneous discussions, or use techniques such as gamification and polling to energize the meeting.
  • Stay positive. Be enthusiastic, respectful and even humorous in dealing with attendees. You’re the leader, but that doesn’t mean you have to be imposing.

Set the tone on etiquette and engagement.

  • Mute your phone. That way others won’t hear any background noise.
  • Be presentby not multitasking. Continually asking people to repeat themselves is disrespectful and drags out the meeting.
  • Come prepared. Read all pre-work, and have all relevant materials readily available so you can actively engage in conversations. Take notes so you can summarize the meeting for others.

Do a quick wrap-up.

Allocate five to 10 minutes after the meeting to ask attendees what they found valuable and what should change or be continued. Ask how well the meeting aligned with your agenda.

Both steps allow you to determine whether every participant was essential, how to better use time, and what could have been handled differently.

Also, follow up on action items. As Maddox says, “It will be embarrassing to discover, during the next meeting, that half of the members never did what they said they would do.”

A version of this post first appeared on the Calendar blog.

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