Running a meeting is no small feat, especially given the current work-from-home mandates. Pulling off a productive, collaborative, and enjoyable virtual agenda can be tricky. More than ever, company and customer meetings are being held online, thrusting even the most seasoned conference callers into uncharted territory. Whether you have been hosting meetings for years or are facilitating your first virtual call, below are some tips and tricks for success.
Before the Meeting
1. Always create and share an agenda
Drafting an agenda and sharing it with attendees prior to the meeting is one sure-fire way to set yourself up for success. Having a solid agenda gives you a strong plan for the meeting, and allows everyone to prepare.
2. Know the meeting objective, goals, and expectations
While preparing your agenda, be sure to set the meeting’s objectives and expectations. Understanding these beforehand can help a meeting run more efficiently, and give everyone a clear sense of what the goals and outcomes should be.
3. Mark your calendar
Without the office traffic toward the conference room, it might be difficult to remember that you actually have a meeting scheduled. With no coworkers to come and peel you away from your desk, you’ll need to set reminders to make sure that you are logged in ahead of time.
4. Set the scene
Do your best to set up your home office space with as little distractions as possible. Find a quiet area where you can think and run your meeting like a pro. Don’t forget the background either, which can be distracting to your coworkers/customers on the other end of the call. If necessary, your video software might allow you to set a virtual background to hide your clutter. Remember, lighting is very important while on a virtual call! Bright light in the background makes it difficult for those on the other end to see you. Soft, natural light facing toward you or bouncing off a wall in front of you is the best scenario for lighting during your meeting.
During the Meeting
5. Don’t rush intros and small talk
With work life becoming more virtual than ever, it’s critical to take the extra time to form and/or reinforce a genuine connection with your clients and colleagues. You might be tempted to skip the introductions and small talk at the start of your meeting, but please don’t. Use this time to check in with them and break the pre-meeting ice. It shows people you care about them as a person, and aren’t just trying to get through the meeting as quickly as possible.
6. Flexibility and empathy are your friends
Everybody is doing the best they can. It’s important to remember the human factor of your attendees and that they might be dealing with more than you know. Be flexible during the meeting and provide brief breaks and sidebars if needed. As an example, keep in mind that many professionals are also managing childcare/homeschool on top of working from home, so cut ‘em some slack if their child happens to join in unexpectedly.
After the Meeting
7. Next steps
Accountability is key to ensuring project tasks get completed on time. This is especially true now more than ever since--let’s be honest--productivity can vary day-to-day while working from home due to basic life interruptions. End the meeting with a brief review and summary of who is taking on what and how long they have to complete it. Tasks, deadlines, and lead times need to be clearly communicated. Make sure to follow up with your team to check-in on their progress.