With many businesses — including big ones like Google — working remotely well into next year, we need to accept virtual meetings as “the new normal” for the moment.
Video meeting tools like Zoom have their ups and downs. The biggest upside is their recreation of a face-to-face meeting at a virtual conference room table. Of course, the downside is that you’re actually at home, surrounded by distractions: children playing, dogs barking, spouses having their own meetings. We also have trouble being present in the moment due to multitasking — checking and responding to emails or text messages or even taking a call on your cellphone. All in all, you may not be as focused during a Zoom call as you are within the four walls of your office’s conference room.
In meetings outside of cyberspace, it’s much easier to read body language, call people to attention and collaborate on hashing out issues. It’s difficult to do that with people muted and screens blacked out. If you’re a business owner, you may find yourself bombarded with emails after a Zoom meeting — colleagues commenting on what was said during the call, asking you to catch them up on certain issues, critiquing different sides of the discussion. You then ask yourself, “Why didn’t they bring this up during the call?”
Here are some tips for making the best use of virtual meetings:
- Encourage everyone to stay focused; discourage multitasking.
- Make sure all attendees understand how to use the technology.
- Make sure all participants are on video in a place where they can concentrate — don’t drive and Zoom!
- Start the meeting with an amusing anecdote to ease everyone into the meeting.
- Make time for questions and comments at the end of the call; give each participant a turn to speak.
- If it is a lengthy meeting, allow for breaks.
- If you have control over the timing of the meetings, avoid lengthy back-to-back virtual meetings.
With the world in upheaval due to COVID-19, we’re all on edge and preoccupied these days. We may be faster to fire off knee-jerk responses or steer toward the negative. During Zoom calls, it’s important to provide a sense of comfort, hope and business as usual. If you bring a positive attitude to each meeting, it will rub off on others and make for a more productive call.
As a leader, it is your primary responsibility to keep the group focused and maintain composure. Patience is mandatory, as is taking decisive action if required. Establishing a “code of conduct” for virtual meetings may be necessary to keep them productive and effective.