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Being prepared for the virtual environment is becoming increasingly important every day. Fast-changing technology has upped the game for virtual meetings. Innovative apps and video chat services are available to connect remote teams from all over the world. However, remote meetings pose challenges if you’re not prepared, and because a large part of our future success is based on virtual collaboration, we’re providing you with a few quick tips to make your virtual meetings more effective.

According to Harvard Business Review, one study found that despite the prevalence of meetings today, 75% of those surveyed had received no formal training on how to conduct or participate in them. We know at Birkman that the most effective meetings consider all four functions of planning, communicating, thinking, and taking action. Each of these aspects become even more important when bringing meetings into the virtual world. Explore each one below to set a solid foundation for your remote success.

Planning: Lay the groundwork.

Being prepared for virtual meetings not only allows you to feel more confident when running the meeting, it also shows respect for everyone else’s time. Therefore, if you are leading the meeting, make sure to create and share an agenda in advance, and include the topic of discussion, talking points and the goal of the meeting. Provide the team with the background information, relevant documents, or necessary research beforehand as well. By providing the agenda, everyone will know who the leader is, who is involved in the meeting, and the topics of discussion.

A few other things to consider prior to the meeting are:

    • Test the technology and have a back-up plan if the technology does not work properly.
    • Mute your sound if you’re not speaking—this will eliminate background noise to be respectful of other participants.
    • Stay focused. If the discussion goes off-topic, step in and make a note to discuss at a later time. It’s one thing to go off-topic when people are all sitting around a table, it’s another when everyone is sitting at different corners of the globe.
    • Use video or webcams to better monitor that your team is staying focused. According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of survey respondents admit they use meeting time to do other work!
    • Ensure that everyone attending should be attending.

Communicating: Personalize the conversation.

With voice-only meetings, you miss a lot of important messaging from body language, facial expressions, and emotions. Since these are very good indicators of alignment, agreement, or disagreement, be sure to enable the video-feature to fully communicate with one another. Although it can be awkward in the beginning, it’s crucial to be able to see and read each other’s expressions and reactions. The more remote meetings you have, the more comfortable it will become. It’s also important for participants to feel connected, even from afar. Therefore, consider setting aside 2-5 minutes at the start your meetings to let everyone share what is going on in their lives either professionally and personally, allowing them to better relate with one another before getting into business.

Thinking: Spark creative collaboration.

In today’s world, a lot of our meetings evolve around solving complex challenges and coming up with creative solutions to problems. Because of the ideas that need to be generated by coming together, it’s imperative that virtual meetings are conducive to creative collaboration. Leveraging platforms that allow for idea sharing and brainstorming can be very helpful, such as Mural, Invision, ConceptBoard, SharePoint, and Confluence. When everyone is engaged and fully involved, the team can maximize brainstorming sessions, solve complex challenges, and identify solutions. And keep in mind that virtual meetings can sometimes make it hard for others to speak up or be heard. It can also be challenging for the facilitator if others are talking over each other. To make sure everyone is heard, the facilitator can include speaking time for each participant in the agenda or ask for input directly from each member.

Taking Action: Ensure results post-meeting

And finally, all meetings need to drive actionable next steps! During the meeting, create a list of action items and deliverables. Share your screen, the action items, and the person responsible to get the task done. It’s important to end the meeting with clarity around who is accountable for what needs to get done. If you don’t know what the next steps are, speak up and ask! Just because the meeting is virtual, doesn’t mean there should be less impact or fewer results afterwards. In addition, the end result of the meeting should be shared with the group via email post-meeting to increase clarity and accountability. This will ultimately increase productivity after the meeting has ended.

Keep in mind that meetings are powerful ways to bring ideas and people together. Like anything that incorporates interacting with other people though, much of what makes meetings successful or not is knowing what communication styles and preferences make up the group. Insights from The Birkman Method can help make your meetings—both in-person and virtually—be more effective, by understanding how to help each person communicate and contribute best.

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