Been inundated with virtual meetings lately?

Have they run super long and you feel like you might not get anything done?

Has the tech bogged people down?

Does everyone just talk over one another?

Yea, we know the drill.

With everyone connecting on Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms lately, you might wonder ‘how do I get the most out of this virtual meeting?’

Today, we’re going to talk about a few things you can do to prepare and run better meetings online, from home or a remote workspace.

Phase #1: The preparation

Here we need to be thinking about a few things: tech, schedule, personnel.

Let’s make sure to ask your team a few questions first…

Do they have a reliable internet connection? 

This is huge. There is nothing worse than getting spotty remarks from someone on your team because their internet is going in and out. With the $$ you may be saving from going virtual, kicking a few extra bucks their way to upgrade their internet may be a good idea.

Do they have the platform downloaded already?

No excuses being 10 minutes late because you had to ‘download zoom’. Challenge your team to have radical ownership and get prepped in advance.

Do we have an agenda?

For the most productive meetings, this is probably the highest priority tip. Taking a few minutes to jot down even just a preliminary meeting schedule may save you from running way over on time or getting side tracked by someone’s cat popping into the screen. Take a quick glance at what the meeting is about and send your team the agenda to review beforehand. Let them send their thoughts or improvements ahead of time so that you don’t spend a portion of the meeting going over those items.

Bonus pro tip: include break times in your schedule, please. People need to pee and let the dog out.

Do we have everyone we need?

Or, more importantly, eliminated the people we don’t need…

By creating an agenda ahead of time, we can easily ask ourselves who needs to be on this meeting and who can sit this one out. Passengers in meetings are distracting and could be using their time more efficiently in another activity.

Finally, very important, assign a lead for your meeting.

Who is running the meeting?

If we have everyone jumping in at the same time right in the beginning and no one taking ownership of the schedule, it’ll be very easy to get off task.

Phase #2: The meeting

When we all get into the meeting it’s likely going to be a free-for-all.

Folks will be jumping in, turning their cameras on, likely un-muted and you’ll be hearing all the background noise first and foremost.

Give the meeting leader the ability to mute and un-mute team members in the meeting.

If we have someone hanging out at Starbucks (what a dream, right?) un-muted, it’ll be super distracting to the flow of the rest of the meeting. Give someone the power to be able to control the conversation if there is too much background noise.

Next, we’ll surely do introductions especially if we are looping new people into the team.

Keep introductions short to less than 30 seconds per person.

Mention that we’re going to popcorn introduce ourselves and maybe a quick fun fact.

OR, better yet, have the meeting leader introduce everyone on the call and why they are a part of the meeting. 

Overview the schedule.

Because, frankly, people won’t prepare. Even with best intentions, folks will not prep as well as we expect when we send out a schedule. It’s also best practice to keep it up during the meeting to keep everyone on pace.

Have someone taking notes and action items.

Ideally, this is someone who is not leading the meeting. If the person sharing their screen, leading the conversation and presenting the agenda questions is also taking notes, it can slow the meeting way down. If you use a project management tool or even a simple google doc, have someone in the meeting take notes and action items so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle and we have a chance to review things at the end of the meeting.

Another fun alternative is to record the meeting and have someone on the team go back and review the recording for action items and to-do’s if their schedule doesn’t allow them to be there live.

Keep time front and center.

Timers are our friends. Keep a timer up on the screen at all times and set it for the amount of time allotted for each section. For example if you have a 3 hour meeting scheduled to go over several topics, set a timer for each topic and then (because you’re a pro now) take your scheduled break when the timer goes off.

Phase 3: The wrap-up

It’s super important to make sure that we have next steps from a meeting.

Otherwise, why did we spend the time getting on the same page.

If we have good notes and action items being taken, the most effective way to bridge the ‘ah-ha’s’ from the meeting into tangible action is to wrap up your meeting like a pro.

What additional meetings need to happen?

If we made good headway in strategy, but need to go to the implementation team to have a follow-up, try to schedule and decide what needs to be tackled on the next meeting right there on the call. 

Go over the to-do’s.

Seriously. Perception is relative. Everyone in the meeting is having similar, yet different experiences and have retained certain information and rejected other information. Having the important to-do’s gone over at the end helps everyone get on the same page with the marching orders and if for any reason someone was checked out during a critical to-do, they can ask any questions right there on the meeting to clarify instead of dragging it out to be unpacked again over slack or email. 

Set any dates.

If we have a big project coming up or have lots of to-do’s from our meeting, it’s critical that we set the stage for when we expect things to be finished. For example, if we have a planning meeting for a 90-day project, talk through the dates for when to expect the to-do’s to be finished and if (and how often) we are going to be meeting about the progress we’re making. Do we include weekly or monthly meetings about this project specifically? If so, let’s make sure the team understands and knows when exactly to expect to have their project updates ready.

Another great reason to look at dates is to know which department or team member tasks are reliant on others getting completed before them. For example, we need to pour the foundation of our home before we paint the walls. Let’s make sure that’s super clear and we all have an understanding of what we need to be doing. 

If we follow these items for all our meetings, not only will they be more productive, but our projects will go much more smoothly. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming to great conclusions with team members and deciding on next steps only to have those tasks get lost in the ethers of a complicated work-from-home day.

In summary, make sure we prep thoroughly, stay present at the meeting and wrap up so that things actually get done. 

Happy meeting,