New ways of working are being forced on many of us, but they can lead to a more motivated and inspired team and a better business.

No matter what industry you’re in, or the size of your business, leading effective meetings is often a difficult tasks in the best of times.  Survey after survey report that most people think meetings are a waste of time.  The challenge is even more significant for virtual meetings, and people know it.  So much that it often leads to the all-too-common question: “Do we really need to meet?”

Organisations that benefit from on line meetings say that they can inspire spontaneous creativity and bring the best ideas to life.  Many global companies do this amazingly well across different countries, diverse cultures and with language differences.  It should be a piece of cake for most of us managing smaller businesses and teams.

Remote working might have been forced on your business and it might be a new way of working, but there are millions around the world who have worked this way for many years.  The advice for managers new to running meeting remotely is:

Proper advance planning
Whether you’re meeting virtually or in person, take the opportunity to set expectations for the meeting in advance and lay out details and logistics.  Who will lead it?  What is the end goal?  Share ‘broadcast’ information and general updates in advance so that you can get straight to the crux of what the meeting is about.

Build ritual and ice breakers into meetings.
One of my best managers always started her weekly team meeting with everyone sharing a personal or professional failure or success story and what they learned.  It helped to build comfort with what is working, openness and taking risks.  When you have the team in the right frame of mind, they are more likely to come up with innovative ideas.

A video conferencing first approach.
Voice only conference calls limit the level of collaboration and team dynamics.  Not being able to read people’s body language makes it more likely for misunderstandings to arise, which can throw an entire meeting off and impact the success of the meeting.  With video, attendees can interpret the facial expressions and social cues, which allows everyone to “read the room” and react accordingly.  By bringing these other interpersonal interactions to a virtual meeting, you can inspire the type of productivity that should happen with everyone in the same room.

Video may seem awkward at first, but as with any new process, you soon adapt and then wonder how you ever got anything done without it.  You’ll also discover that video can be a great way to bring your team together, such as an impromptu online get together for coffee and a chat or to celebrate a success story.

Making meetings interactive and keeping everyone engaged.
It’s easy to let distractions take attention away from what’s happening on a video conference call.   You have to avoid team members doing other work that interferes with their full participation.  A great way to avoid distractions is to make the meeting more interactive.  For instance, working with a live shared document allows everyone to contribute in real time.  You can also have participants take turns presenting to the group with screen sharing to maintain engagement. By introducing interactive components to a meeting, you encourage a more fruitful conversation while keeping attendees’ attention.

Actively encourage every team ember to participate.
My personal experience is that people enjoy meetings when they have a role in the discussion and can participate. When meeting virtually, it can be more difficult for everyone to speak up, leading to people feeling left out and increasing the temptation to check out, mentally if not physically.  One way to make a meeting more effective is to ask participants directly for input.  This practice helps everyone feel engaged in the discussion and avoids any one person sucking the energy out of the (virtual) room, which is especially important if the goal of the meeting is to generate ideas.

Share success.
Because virtual meetings don’t have the same level of visibility as face-to-face meetings, be sure to share back the productive conversations and ideas that occurred during the meeting.  This can come in the form of a meeting recap, next steps, or even giving a shout out to a team member where you recognise outstanding contributions to the meeting.

It takes some time and effort, but when you revamp your practices, you can create an environment where great idea come to life, collaboration and creativity is increased and your team actually look forward to their virtual meetings.

The First Base team are here with support, help and advice – call us, email us, tweet us!