Tips For Better Virtual Meetings

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Video conferencing and virtual meetings have been around for years. But, only in 2020: the year of the coronavirus, have they come to dominate the business landscape. With many of the users of virtual meetings being new to the whole setup, there remains a persistent confusion about how to run a successful meeting. Too often do people rely on the techniques of the real- world meeting. However, a new medium calls for new strategies. Out with the old and in with new. 

Therefore, to assist people as they adapt to this new normal and new medium, we’ve compiled some of the best tips when preparing for your next virtual meeting. 

Be Prepared 

Be prepared – the old Scouts motto – is a good suggestion for any aspect of life. However, with virtual meetings going the extra mile with your prep can make or break a session. Here are some tips on how to prepare. 

The Tech 

The most significant difference between real-world and virtual meetings is the tech. Therefore, this should be your first item on the list. 

Test Your Connection 

Before the meeting begins, ensure your connection is steady and stable. Find where the strongest internet connection is in your home and do the meeting from there. Additionally, run a speed test. Consider, the more members of the meeting, the more demanding it will be on your internet. Therefore, if anyone is using the Wi-Fi, ask them to hold off for the duration of the meeting. 

Lights, Camera, Action

When positioning the camera, don’t put it below your face. You will look drawn out and be cast in shadows. Instead, the camera should be at eye-level. You want to be in a place with lots of natural light but ensure you don’t look washed out. Additionally, consider your backdrop. Shelves of books or kids running around can be distracting to your audience. Therefore, invest in a virtual backdrop. At Hello Backgrounds, they have hundreds of web based zoom backgrounds for you to use. These include natural scenes and professional meeting rooms. You choose. 

Sound Test

Once you've checked your camera is working, test your microphone. One quick method is to record a short video of yourself; that way, you can hear and see from the perspective of others. You'll quickly identify any errors. Or you can run a short test call with a colleague. 

The Agenda 

You might now realise it, but in the real world, there is social pressure to keep talking. Entire conversations are propelled forward by the social awkwardness of silence. For meetings, this has proven a useful tool for arriving at conclusions. 

However, in the virtual meeting, without normal social contact, everyone assumes someone else will speak. The lone presenter is left talking into the void. 

Therefore, it is vital to have an agenda. Plan the topics you need to discuss, the meeting's goals, and even who is going to present which topic. Try to allocate ten minutes to each topic; any longer and people become bored. If the meeting runs over an hour, consider breaking it into two sessions, or, schedule a break. 

Forward the agenda to all attendees before the meeting and assign any prior work that needs to be completed. Ask for feedback. If everyone is prepared, people are likely to contribute. 

Lay Down the Ground Rules 

Did you know the word "hello" only found its modern usage with the advent of the telephone? Before then, it was used to express surprise – sort of like a sarcastic teenager – "Hello! What's going on?". However, with the telephone, people needed a method of greeting each other: hello was reborn. 

New methods of communication, thus, require new rules and social norms. The same is true for virtual meetings. Therefore, before the session begins, create ground rules for everyone to follow. How to answer questions, what to do if you need to leave a meeting, video, or no video, should people be muted? 

Consider all these various aspects before starting the meeting. It will help things go much smoother. 

Use the Tools 

One of the benefits of virtual meetings, as compared to the real-world, is the sheer variety of tools available. When planning your next virtual meeting, here are some tools for you integrate into your meetings: 

- Virtual Whiteboards:  These functions just like an ordinary whiteboard, but with more colours and options. They’re perfect for a brainstorming session. Or if you’re explaining a complicated topic, sketch out your ideas or draw out a flow diagram. You can even use them for a quick game of Pictionary or hangman to break the ice. 

- Record The Meeting:  Back in reality, if you missed a meeting, you missed a meeting. You can’t rewind time. Yet, with a virtual meeting, you can record the entire session with the click of a button. Use it for future reference or as training material. 

- Screen Sharing:  If you need to show off your latest work, or showcase a spreadsheet, screen sharing will allow you to show your screen with the whole meeting. It also allows people to distribute the presenting burden.

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