Running Efficient Virtual Meetings
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
We’ve been navigating virtual meetings for months now, raising the question of how to make them more effective and efficient. Consider these five tips for maximizing virtual meetings.
Less is more on timing. Today’s employees will talk about being in all day Zoom meetings. While online technology has come a long way to create personal engagement, these meetings still drain people and leave interpersonal communications gaps. This makes it more difficult to participants to maintain attention and focus as compared to in-person meetings. When planning agendas for online meetings, the recommendation is to put 20% fewer items on the agenda and to send ready materials in advance so the focus of the live engagement can be on discussion and action items. Any presentations should be short and background information provided ahead of the meeting.
Require video. We all know the challenge of school age kids photo bombing work video calls or cats suddenly walking across a desktop but requiring “videos on” for virtual meetings to prevent participants from multi-tasking or taking calls from their car. The other advantage of video is that it allows for non-verbal communication like eye contact, nodding and gestures to be visible to all.
Make time for small talk. We all miss the five minutes of connection before a meeting starts or the opportunity to clarify a point of discussion while walking with coworkers back to desks after a meeting. These are missed opportunities in a virtual world. Engagements like these are important for building trust and strengthening relationships, and it’s important to provide this opportunity in virtual meetings. Consider ice breakers to kick off the meeting or breaking a larger project team into subgroups that meet separately and report back to the larger team.
Respect personality types and styles. Talking over each other is hard to avoid in a virtual setting, but this tendency makes it even more complicated for more introverted team members to find a way to break into the conversation. During virtual meetings and to ensure everyone is heard, meeting facilitators must continually encourage people to share their ideas and thoughts. It can also be helpful to use offline methods to capture input, such as “chat” threads or providing an option to send input following the meeting.
Minimize distractions. With so many employees now experienced with working from home for months, it’s hopeful that HR departments have provided guidance on minimizing distractions in online meetings. But it doesn’t hurt to send reminders and to periodically discuss with your team. Reiterate the importance of taking virtual meetings from a quiet place, away from barking dogs and television sets. Try to avoid scheduling meetings during lunch hours, as food during a meeting can be extremely distracting. Computer filers and background settings, while sometimes fun, can often be distracting to others participating in the meeting.