10 tips for better virtual meetings

If attendees are goofing off during conference calls, the facilitator may need to up their game.

Make the most of your remote conference calls.

Surveys have long shown that between 25 and 50 per cent of managers consider the time they spend in meetings a waste and net drain on productivity.

Little wonder then that in virtual meetings – teleconferences and video conferencing – so many tune out and turn to something else, especially when no one’s around to make eye contact or note body language.

Yet, regardless of the conferencing channel used, if employees become distracted it will often be down to lack of facilitation skills.
In a 2012 survey by US-based training company RW3, 71 per cent of participants cited lack of input from others as a key problem with virtual meetings – something that is clearly up to the facilitator.

Professional Development: Leading teams: managing virtual teams – this course offers a framework for successfully leading virtual teams through highlighting processes and guidelines that make use of technologies for ease of collaboration.

Fortunately, even if there’s no choice other than to stare at a speakerphone, there are steps all meeting leaders can take to avoid talking to an unseen audience that is far more interested in texting, checking email or going to the beach than paying attention to what is – or isn’t – being said.

  1. Allow employees the right to decline attendance without having to justify themselves. During a call, empower people to drop out if they feel it’s not a good use of their time.
  2. As the facilitator, think hard about who needs to be present and who doesn’t – productivity goes down when the number of participants goes up.
  3. Always start the meeting on time, even if people are late, and do not review content for the part they missed.
  4. Set a clear agenda and reiterate it at the beginning of the call.
  5. Always end by the agreed time, and preferably earlier – attendees will be more positive about participating as a result.
  6. For the first five minutes or so, allow each person the opportunity to give a brief update on what they’ve been doing, either personally or professionally – this will break the ice and get people in the mood to listen.
  7. A meeting leader should “own” the meeting – don’t allow someone in the group to hijack it through frequent and endless conversation.
  8. Assign tasks to different participants – like minutes and a Q&A manager – to keep everyone tuned in. During the call, invite each person by name to offer his or her thoughts.
  9. Always ensure that information is presented in a way that is focused on attendees’ needs and is directly relevant to their work.
  10. Above all, don’t assume conversation will just flow – as the leader, remind people you’re there by asking questions and making comments.

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