How to Manage a Virtual Meeting

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1 How to Manage a Virtual Meeting I recommend you watch this short video Conference call out of control 1. Before the Meeting Send an agenda in advance. If it s a lengthy meeting with many people attending, your agenda should also list the timing and outcomes (or objectives) for each agenda item. If you don t know why you are holding this meeting don t hold it. It s your job to make sure people don t waste their time. Practice with the technology. Make sure you can navigate confidently and use the features you need for your meeting. And prepare some contingency plans, because invariably the technology will fail you at a key moment. Ideally appoint a backup facilitator and review the agenda with them. Make sure they know the host code to your conference call or virtual meeting software, so they can run the meeting if you are absent. 2. At the Beginning Be there early (in the room, on the phone, and online) so you can boot up and test there s nothing worse than watching and listening as someone fumbles with the technology; you can feel the energy dissipate before the meeting even starts. Greet each arrival as they beep in to a phone meeting by asking, Hi, who just joined the call? When everyone is assembled, introduce the attendees and their roles. Make sure everyone knows why they are at this meeting. 3. During the Meeting Begin the meeting on time, and don t start over for late-comers. It is unfair to the people who make an effort to arrive on time, and it stops the meeting dead in its tracks. Add a note to the agenda that late-comers should wait for the facilitator to check for new attendees (perhaps at the 15-minute mark). Do not multi-task. You will quickly lose focus and lose control of the meeting. You already have a big job: watch the clock, take brief notes, and make sure the discussion is moving. Your goal is to help the group reach a specific objective or outcome they need to move forward, so keep your eye on the ball.

2 Keep the pace lively. You don t have the luxury of visual cues the way you might with an in-person meeting (cues like sighing, eye-rolling, doodling, dozing, etc.), so be sensitive to pacing and don t let the air leak out of the meeting. If you are sharing your desktop as a presenter, avoid excessive scrolling, sudden rapid cursor movements or jumping too quickly between pages; it can be disorienting for participants. Make sure everyone gets their say. Keep track of who is not participating and call on them periodically in a gentle way. You can ask: How might this apply to your area? or What factors would contribute to making this work? Virtual meetings can devolve into a conversation between the host and one participant. Try to get all participants to engage with each other, not you. If there are some attendees in the room and others on the phone or online, the remote attendees will invariably feel left out. Keep down the private jokes, side conversations, or facial expressions. Be sensitive to their isolation and explain any activity they can hear but can t see. Don t let the discussion drag on; gauge when you can move to the next topic by asking, Do you have enough information to move the process forward, or do you need more time? Enlist the attendees to help keep the meeting on track it gets them to take ownership of meeting success. Ask, Are we in the weeds? Can we take that offline (especially if it doesn t involve the whole team)? Recap at the end of the meeting. Make clear the next steps or due dates, and ensure people know what tasks they are responsible for. 4. After the Meeting Send out brief meeting notes and ask for corrections. Post the webinar online and send everyone the link. Follow up on the items people are responsible for.

3 Online Meeting Etiquette Here are some best practices and guidelines which will help you to conduct effective meetings. Presenter Etiquette As the presenter of the meeting you take responsibility for leading by example and for ensuring the effectiveness of the online meeting. Here are some useful tips to help you to make your meetings more effective. Upload documents, papers and presentations before the meeting starts. This will save time and the meeting which will be appreciated by the participants and it will demonstrate that you expect participants to be organised as well. Make sure you take time to encourage everyone to participate in the meeting. It is a good idea to pause from time to time to ask for questions or comments or to invite people who have not yet contributed much to the meeting to the meeting Use the muting facilities on your video conference system. Often meetings can be disrupted when participants create unnecessary background noise thereby impacting upon everyone else. Ensure that you use the mute facility or ask the participants to mute their microphones. Ensure you only have windows and documents open that you need for the meeting. If you intend to present using your screen or to screen share, you may not want everyone to see documents that you have open. Participant Etiquette Here are some useful tips and guidelines for your participants. Use a wired network rather than a wireless network. A wireless network will impact on the audio and video quality. Find a quiet space. If possible, join the meeting from a place which is free of loud background noise (other people speaking and other background noise) otherwise each time you speak, the other participants will find it difficult to hear you. Mute your audio unless you re speaking as this will avoid introducing unnecessary background noise and sounds. This is particularly important if you are using the keyboard to make notes during the meeting. You should be aware that many laptop microphones, speakers or WebCam microphones can result in echo causing distractions, unwanted noise and detracting from other people s experience. Be respectful of other people s time. Log onto the meeting a few minutes early and that you check your audio/video set up to ensure that your devices are working correctly.

4 Even More Tips A Dozen Tips for Facilitating an Online Meeting 1. Preparation for online meetings Pay attention to logistics (1) Structure an agenda to keep things on track it s hard to get away with being illprepared. Make sure everyone knows the schedule, start and end times for each agenda item, when they have flexibility and when deadlines are tight. Make sure that people have enough focused time at the time in the agenda when you need them. 2. Preparation for online meetings Pay attention to logistics (2) You no longer need to worry about wall space and seating arrangements. You do need to: Send out a detailed agenda and background documents to review. Check that pre-work is completed - don t assume that people will follow instructions. Pick up the phone and send regular updates. Ask for confirmation. 3. Preparation for online meetings Pay attention to logistics (3) You no longer need to worry about traffic getting to the meeting and the lunch menu. You do need to: Pre-arrange how participants will check in on changing meeting arrangements or instructions. Make sure you know where the meeting owner or client is going to be and schedule times to discuss the progress and outcomes of the meeting. 4. During an online meeting: Pay attention to group process (1) As facilitators we need to monitor the flow of the conversation and keep things moving. Check on participation: who has shown up and for how long? Instigate an electronic sign-in sheet. Adjust your time schedule if contributions progress quicker or slower than expected. Declare an end to each step of the process as you move through the agenda. 5. During an online meeting: Pay attention to group process (2) Body language and verbal cues are not available so look for other ways to monitor the group process. Let participants know where you are in the process. Ask participants how they think the meeting is progressing. Use phone, or a checkin topic. Provide a means for participants to ask you questions and broadcast the responses. 6. During an online meeting: Pay attention emerging results (1) Being clear about meeting objectives and outcomes enables you to adjust if things go off track. Work with the owner or client to monitor contributions and determine if things are on track. Check the output of the discussion topics; do they have the breadth and depth expected? Participate in the meeting yourself.

5 7. During an online meeting: Pay attention to emerging results (2) Being clear about meeting objectives and outcomes enables you to know if you are getting results. Be prepared to stop and change course if the meeting is not achieving your objectives. Bring closure to the whole meeting. Work with the owner or client to summarize results, confirm decisions and assign next steps. Ask the owner to provide feedback to participants. 8. Establish trust within the virtual team Set out a clear purpose for the team and ask each member why this is important to them. Have the team develop some ground rules what will make this virtual interplay work? Establish regular check points to discuss how things are going. Build personal connections and get to know each other. 9. How many people can participate in an online electronic meeting? As with any meeting determining who should participate depends on the meeting objectives, the unique contributions different people provide and the extent of participation desired for purposes of buy-in and communication. Typical web conference size is 6 to 25 people. For smaller groups, may be sufficient. For larger groups, survey or asynchronous discussion topics may be appropriate. 10. Develop ground rules for your online meeting Ask the group to agree to their own ground rules. Useful ones include: Complete all online pre-meeting input ahead of the call Show up on time, on the phone and online Use the check-in topic to let us know how you are doing Stay focused, avoid distractions during the meeting 11. Develop ground rules for your online meeting Ask the group to agree to their own ground rules. Useful ones include: Pay attention to the schedule and complete all assignments on time Use the check-in topic to let us know how you are doing Schedule times on your calendar to attend our asynchronous meetings Communicate early and often 12. Use online meeting tools to include participants who can t get to your in-person meeting Sometimes it is just not practical to get everyone together in the same place at the same time. However, you may know that certain people have critical input to contribute or needs to buy-in to the process. Set up an online discussion topic ahead of the face-to-face meeting as a way of getting input to missing participants.

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