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How to handle virtual meetings

By now we are all getting used to doing more of our work remotely, and it looks like we’ll be doing virtual meetings for quite some time to come. As these types of meetings become an integral and essential part of how you run your business and communicate with customers, suppliers and staff alike, it makes good business sense to learn how to run them really well. This will ensure you continue to come across as a professional business leader and ensure business meetings are productive, rather than just waffly, disorganised talking-shops!

There are lots of good articles freely available online to help you with running effective remote meetings but here’s a quick summary of key points:

  1. A virtual meeting is still a meeting, so prepare for it just the same way you would any other meeting. Prepare an agenda and information, send it to attendees with plenty time for them to review (not five minutes beforehand), check your technology works and everyone has access codes and passwords.
  2. Use recurring logins for regular meetings.
  3. Make sure you turn up early (five to ten minutes) for the meeting, especially if you are running it – this gives you ample time to get organised. Everyone’s time is valuable, even more so right now, and it’s disrespectful to others to be late. And if you can’t join a meeting on time, let people know. Start on time and finish on time.
  4. Video is best as it helps people feel more engaged (and they are less likely to get distracted by other activities), but always provide an audio dial-in option.
  5. If you or your team need training to run meetings better and get used to the new technology, make sure everyone gets it. Again, there are lots of free tutorials available online for Zoom, Skype, etc. and it will help you come across much more professionally if you know what you are doing technically, even if it’s just the basics.
  6. Stick to your agenda and normal meeting guidelines such as clear objectives, meeting ground rules/housekeeping, short breaks for longer meetings and summarising and allocating actions and next meeting date.
  7. Make sure you start (or end) with a quick personal discussion. It’s CRUCIAL right now to check in make sure everyone is ok and you need to show that you care for their physical and mental wellbeing – staff, customers and suppliers alike.
  8. Keep the business meeting as short as you can. If long face to face meetings are tedious, think how tedious long virtual meetings could be! People will get distracted and lose focus as they try – and fail – to multi-task. Less is more virtually.
  9. Take time to dress appropriately as well, it is a business meeting. Yes, there will always be times we are on conference calls in our PJs, but trust us, you will feel more professional and productive if you are at least scrubbed up a wee bit! Don’t wear jangly jewellery or have noisy background music or TVs blaring, it can be very distracting for others…and tidy up your workspace and background too – it will be on camera for all to see!
  10. Observe general meeting etiquette – speak clearly, be courteous and don’t speak over others or interrupt them (put your hand up if you want to speak or put a comment in chat boxes).
  11. It’s important to involve everyone in the discussion. Just as in normal meetings, some people can dominate the discussion and others just sit back. If you are chairing the meeting will need to take a much more active facilitation role to maximise everyone’s contributions. You might like to write down the names of everyone attending and tick off when they have spoken – that way you can easily see who hasn’t contributed and bring them in.

Video calls and conference or group meetings online can raise some further challenges for women. Read more about this here.

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