Leading effective virtual meetings

by | Nov 20, 2020 | Effective Teams, Leadership

I recently led a webinar about leading effective meetings. At this point in the pandemic, the novelty of virtual meetings has worn off. I hear people talk about missing the “in person” experience that occurs through informal conversations, reading body language, and personal connection. 

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

I offer some thoughts on virtual meetings that I hope are helpful for organizations: 

  1. Is a virtual meeting necessary? We have all sat through in person and virtual meetings that were unnecessary. I find virtual meetings to be most effective for group problem solving, team building, gathering outside input, and collaborative projects. Before you schedule meetings, consider the purpose of the meeting and whether the work and/or communication can take place in another format. There may be other ways to communicate or collaborate, such as video messaging (Loom), team communication (Slack), or project management (Trello).
  2. Thinking like an “event planner”: When event planners prepare for conventions, weddings, or special events, they are very intentional about focusing on the experience of attendees. We could all benefit from reflecting on what experience our virtual meeting attendees will have. 

In my experience leading virtual meetings, I recommend the following best practices:

  1. Provide instructions when people log in: As soon as people log into a virtual meeting, it can be helpful to share expectations on the screen or in the chat. For example, you can welcome attendees and let them know when the meeting will begin. You can also ask them to share information in the chat or mute themselves. 
  2. Build community: With virtual meetings, we often miss out on the community building that occurs naturally during in person meetings. Begin meetings with an icebreaker to help connect people. 
  3. Establish ground rules: For larger meetings, we need to be more formal with ground rules. Be sure to explain the system for responding to questions or participating in the discussion. You can ask people to stay muted when not speaking or explain expectations for staying on camera.
  4. Breakout rooms: Breakout rooms are a great way to foster engagement during larger meetings. They can break up the time and make meetings feel quicker and more productive. 
  5. Frequent breaks: “Zoom fatigue” is real. I recommend including frequent breaks during virtual meetings. For longer meetings, you can meet for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. Giving the group a stretch break every 25 minutes can also help. 
  6. Shorter meetings: With in person meetings, it is not uncommon to meet for several hours. I think we should set a maximum of 2-3 hours for virtual meetings to avoid “Zoom fatigue” and maintain engagement.
  7. Waiting for responses: There is value in giving group members time to respond. For example, after asking a question, count to ten before moving on. Internet speeds, slowness of finding the unmute button, and taking time to think can cause a delay in responding during virtual meetings compared to in person meetings. 
  8. Debrief: Virtual meetings are still relatively new to us. I recommend spending a few minutes at the end of each meeting asking questions like “What went well during this meeting?” or “What could have gone better?” We can take this information into consideration as we plan future virtual meetings. 

We have all learned a lot about virtual meetings in recent months. I welcome your input or suggestions on how we can make virtual meetings more effective. 

How can we help your organization?