Making Virtual Meetings More than Mediocre

Our world has drastically shifted.

We all know this, and are no longer surprised by the new normal.

But what is surprising, at least to me, is how some professionals do not seem to be pivoting quickly enough to our new online reality. It's here to stay. For the foreseeable future. We might as well embrace it and nimbly make the transition wherever possible.

First appointments, discussions with perspective clients, quarterly meetings, important presentations, networking events, industry conferences - many, if not all, events and meetings will be virtual for the foreseeable future.

Instead of leaving the experience to chance - take the bull by the horns and learn how to plan incredible virtual meetings. You deserve better than mediocre meetings. And so do your attendees!

Mute/Unmute All

I cannot believe I even need to put this in writing; however, it's a huge problem. If you are coordinating or facilitating a virtual meeting, make sure you have the right permissions and know how to mute and unmute all lines, and those of individual participants. It doesn't matter if it's 5 people or 500 people - being able to do this quickly is a must.

Turn Video Cameras On for Presenters

No matter if it's a small meeting or a big one, insist that your presenters have their video cameras on whenever possible. And even offer to test this with them ahead of time - in a rehearsal or before the meeting begins - to make sure the lighting, background and camera angle are all flattering and appropriate. This should hold true for internal and external meetings.

Attendees should be clearly told if there are expectations to have their cameras on, so they can be prepared to do so if needed. Including a note on this in the body of the calendar invitation should be more than sufficient.

A recent Harvard Business Review study suggests one's background on video calls might be more important than how one dresses. However, if you are in a prominent role, including being the face of your company for your clients, dressing well (from at least the waist up) is a must, even on days you don't feel like it.

Learn How to Drive Up Attendee Interaction

Right after shelter-in-place orders became the norm, I was invited to attend a 3-hour workshop on how to use Zoom more effectively. At the time, I will admit I was a bit frustrated with such a long training on my calendar. The days were beyond busy...and oh, so long. But it was so worth it.

For smaller groups

  • Consider having some meetings without slides, and just enjoy seeing everyone's faces on the screen

  • Use the Chat feature to keep interaction going, even 1:1 between participants

  • Ask questions directly of the attendees, instead of asking "any questions" like you might if you were in person

  • Challenge yourself to determine if you really need everyone at their desks and/or on camera for the meeting - could you instead encourage attendees to call in while sitting outside, or taking the dog on a walk (Zoom-fatigue is real, acknowledge it and plan for it)

For larger groups

  • Decide if you want attendees to register beforehand

  • Create a communication plan for those who have registered - maybe send out a reminder a week before, or a day before

  • Determine if you want or need cameras on for attendees (depending on what platform you use, attendees might not be able to see each other in large presentations)

  • Launch an occasional poll to keep up attendee engagement

  • Encourage attendees to submit questions to the facilitator, presenters or panelists, and then choose a point person to lead the Q&A, instead of awkwardly waiting for every person with a question to unmute properly (see above) and then say "can you hear me" before asking a question

  • Does your company have access to different platforms? Which one(s) might work best for each of your virtual experiences?

  • Do not ask any questions that could be met with silence (this has been a game-changer for me), and instead ask a question and then ask attendees to put their answers in chat, or create a poll instead

  • Make sure you have at least two of you "running" the meeting - a meeting coordinator and a meeting facilitator at a minimum (wifi outages and interruptions are real, you will be glad you have built-in redundancy)

  • Send out a survey after the meeting if appropriate (especially if virtual presentations were in lieu of an in-person conference, workshop or training)

Together, we could probably come up with a much longer list of ideas and suggestions for running smooth virtual meetings. But this should be enough of a start for those of you trying to elevate the virtual meeting experience.

Make your meetings so much more than mediocre.

You've got this.