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Virtual Meeting Best Practices

Virtual meetings are a critical part of how work gets accomplished in our current context. While convenient and efficient, virtual meetings can create some challenges that can be mitigated by intentionally adopting a few best practices. 

Before booking the meeting

First consider if a virtual meeting is necessary. Can your outcome be achieved differently (e.g., through a shared file with comments, a phone call, a google chat thread, etc.)?

When possible, use video. To make people feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting, use video conferencing. This can help to personalize the conversation and to keep participants engaged (Harvard Business Review, 2020, external link).

That said, always provide an audio dial-in option. For many reasons, it may not be conducive to the meeting for a person to be on video (e.g., distracting visuals in home environment, lack of a strong internet connection). People need the ability to participate via audio (Harvard Business Review, 2020, external link).

Prepare for the meeting

Send out an agenda in advance. This is important for virtual (any) meeting engagement. Ask your attendees to think ahead about the content, formulate ideas and prepare content as assigned. Alternatively, ensure that an agenda is established at the start of the meeting.

Keep meetings short. Scheduling and sticking to 50 minute meetings or less allow participants to have breaks between meetings to stretch, use the washroom, and reset before their next commitment.

For longer meetings or standing team meetings make checking in and wellbeing a part of the agenda. For quick calls or brief meetings, this may not make sense. For longer or standing team meetings, however, building a bit of time for checking in and/or a wellbeing component can help attendees feel connected. Virtual meetings can be highly transactional and this helps replicate the casual touch-bases that often happen at in-person meetings.

Create multiple channels to contribute. Everyone’s comfort level for participating in virtual meetings is different. The chat function or a shared Google doc may help participants share their thoughts when it is difficult to jump in.

Assign meeting roles. Assigning participants to take notes and monitor the chat, etc. can help make meetings more effective, equitable and organized. If you are the host, be prepared to watch the time and move efficiently through agenda items.  Ask someone to be “co-host” so they can monitor any technical issues and pick up the meeting if you become disconnected. (Medium, 2020, external link).

During the meeting

Keep the mute button handy. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing that alien echo noise or high pitch screech from conflicting microphones. (The New Rules of Virtual Meeting Etiquette, 2020, external link)

Be patient. If someone doesn’t respond immediately, give them a few moments. The slow response may be an audio delay or people may be trying to unmute themselves. (The New Rules of Virtual Meeting Etiquette, 2020, external link)

Be intentionally interactive. A great way to avoid distractions is to make the meeting more interactive. For example:

  • Work out of a shared google doc, which allows everyone to contribute in real time.
  • Have participants take turns presenting to the group with screen sharing to maintain engagement.
  • If you're the host, you can simply call on participants to contribute. (Fast Company, 2020, external link)

Set a pace that allows everyone to contribute. This is also helpful for participants using remote captioning, live subtitling or sign language interpreters. Speaking slowly and clearly is important for meetings to go smoothly. (Medium, 2020, external link)

After the meeting

Send out action items. To confirm next steps with attendees, provide a list of action items and people responsible for each after a meeting ends. This also helps those who may have been disconnected or had to leave the meeting early to catch up and be prepared for the next meeting. (Medium, 2020, external link).