When the COVID-19 lockdowns first began, virtual meetings were a bit of a novelty for many people.
Now that video conferencing is becoming the norm, though, remote business meetings could become as unpopular as physical meetings used to be. One of the biggest challenges that people who are arranging virtual meetings face is how to keep attendees engaged. After all, it is easy to become distracted or uninterested when you are not in the same room as the people to whom you are talking.
So, if you want to avoid watching the attendees at your remote meetings zone out, read on. Here are ten ways to make sure that your virtual meetings stay on-track and productive.
1. Allow for Some Socializing
People feel isolated working from home, so do allow some time in your virtual meetings for people to catch up and share their news. Your remote session could be the first time that co-workers have spoken to each other for some time, so it would be unreasonable to expect no social chat at all.
2. Be Sure to Set the Mood for the Meeting
Once the initial socializing is out of the way, it will be time to get down to business. So, if you are the host of the meeting, it will be up to you to draw the social chat to a close and then set a professional, business-like tone for the remainder of the session.
3. Distribute an Agenda Ahead of the Meeting
Create a structured agenda for each virtual meeting that you arrange and distribute it in advance of the meeting. It is also a good idea to read through the list of topics before the session starts to get everyone focussed on the matters to be discussed. If you have a well-defined schedule for your virtual meetings, you will find that people stay more engaged, and it will help you keep control of the proceedings.
4. Plan the Meeting Strategically
When you are formulating your meeting schedule, try to structure the sequence of events in a way that will be the most productive. If there are tricky topics that people know need to be discussed, for example, it would be best to get those topics out of the way early in the meeting. If you know that some subjects may create a lengthy debate, you might want to consider leaving those topics until later in the running order to avoid running out of time. And, if you want the session to end on a high note, make any exciting announcements the last item on the list.
5. Introduce All the Participants
Introducing all the attendees at a virtual meeting is an excellent way to get everyone’s attention and make people feel involved, making introductions, of course, also good video conferencing etiquette. If some people attending the meeting are not known to the other people, it can also be helpful if the newcomers say a few words about themselves. The more you can make people feel a part of the meeting, the more attention they will pay to what is being discussed.
6. Ensure that Attendees Have the Right Equipment
When you send out your plan for a virtual meeting, include some guidelines on the equipment that attendees will need and details of the software they will be using. Ask attendees to test their equipment before the meeting is scheduled to start. If one attendee holds up the meeting because they cannot get their microphone working, for example, the rest of the attendees will get bored waiting for the meeting to start.
7. Try Not to Be Too Formal
You will want to keep a business video conference on-topic. Even so, being overly formal can be counterproductive. Video conferencing can be quite intimidating for some people, so those people may sit back and not interact with the other participants if the meeting is too formal. The occasional jokey aside will help put people at ease, and it will break the monotony of a formal meeting and help to hold people’s attention.
8. Do Not Hold Unnecessary Virtual Meetings
Before you schedule a video conferencing session, you should ask yourself if a virtual meeting is necessary at all. If all you intend to do at the meeting is to make some announcements or distribute information, then emails might be a better solution. However, when you have a team that is working remotely, virtual meetings may be the only way to bring the team together. So, while unnecessary meetings can be a waste of time, they can sometimes also be the best way to build team spirit and boost morale.
9. Make Virtual Meetings Interactive
Keep your virtual sessions interesting by using visuals and by encouraging participation. It is hard enough for people to sit through a boring physical meeting. It’s even tougher to pay attention during an uninspiring virtual meeting. So, avoid long monologues and boring static PowerPoint slides. Instead, spice things up a little bit with some animated slides and encourage participation in the proceedings.
10. Sharpen Up Your Presentation and Hosting Skills
How well a virtual meeting that you are hosting goes will depend in no small extent on you. If you organize the session well, have a good plan, and you control the meeting with flair, then you will be able to keep all the attendees engaged. And, if you set a high standard with your presentations, the other attendees will follow your example in the next remote meeting that you host.
The crucial thing to take away from the above points is that it does take some effort on the part of the host to keep people engaged in a virtual meeting. But, if you take on board some of the above ideas, you may be able to avoid seeing that glazed look in the eyes of the attendees at your next remote meeting.