After the COVID-19 pandemic brought us social distancing regulations and company travel restrictions, virtual meetings and calls became the norm. When it’s your turn to host the meeting, you want to be prepared, just as you would be if the meeting were face to face. Consider these tips for effectively leading virtual meetings, so they run smoothly and are productive.

1. Create a Plan

One of the first things you should do when scheduling a meeting is collaborate with your team regarding the meeting content. Create a plan indicating who is responsible for putting together necessary materials including slides and reports. Discuss any deadlines and give yourself some extra time to practice with the finalized meeting materials. Your team may also want to consider what the meeting follow-up will look like and what will be provided to attendees. Thinking of all these aspects ahead of time will help your team be prepared and will ensure that you are all on the same page.

2. Test Your Technology

Before the meeting, make sure that you are familiar with the video platform and its features. Not only will this help with your execution during the real meeting, it’ll also help you quickly troubleshoot any issues that your meeting attendees may have during the meeting. You may want to consider items like dial-in options, screen sharing abilities  and hand-raising features. This information should be provided to meeting attendees ahead of time so that they are prepared when it’s time for the event.

3. Assign a Facilitator

One of the challenges of virtual meetings is the difficulty for collaborative discussions to take place. Attendees are often muted during presentations to prevent background noise and may not feel comfortable speaking up while someone else is talking. Assigning a facilitator to help spark discussions and move the meeting along will help your meeting be more effective overall. The facilitator can also help introduce the presenters, share their screen to feature important documents and field questions as needed.

4. Stick to Meeting Basics

Despite that there are distinct differences between online and in-person meetings, you’ll want to follow conventional meeting practices throughout your virtual meeting. Utilize an agenda, provide meeting materials to attendees and take breaks if necessary. Consider a meeting ice breaker to start off the virtual meeting and get people comfortable using the software. You’ll also want to be mindful of the other attendees time by minimizing the presentation portion of the meeting and maximizing times for collaboration and discussion.

5. Establish a Structure

Establishing the meeting structure can also help with increased participation and engagement. Consider how people can interject and ask questions. Will they use a hand-raising feature on the video software or enter their questions into the chat? By setting the expectations of participants, it makes it clear how they can offer their opinions and contribute to the meeting.

6. Get Others Involved

As previously mentioned, it’s easy for individuals to remain quiet during a virtual meeting. To increase collaboration and keep everyone engaged, it is a good idea to ask questions to the group or to specific individuals throughout the video call. You may also want to start the meeting by addressing everyone individually who is on the call, giving time for small talk before getting into the meeting topics. Again, this is a good item for the facilitator to monitor throughout the meeting. The more interactive you make the virtual meeting, the more attendees will feel engaged and connected to each other. 

7. Capture Feedback From Everyone

Following the meeting, it’s a good idea to capture feedback from everyone involved, including attendees and individuals on your team. You may want to consider sending out a brief survey or open ended questions about the virtual meeting to gather insights into what went well and what could’ve been better. A retrospective meeting with your team can also provide valuable information and discussions. Capturing all of this information now can help you run your next virtual meeting more effectively in the future.

8. Follow-Up

Depending on the intention of your meeting, you may want to follow up with meeting attendees. This could include meeting notes, next step information, and/or meeting materials such as a recording or presentation slides. Creating and executing a follow up plan can make your meeting effective beyond just the meeting content.

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