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Virtual teams working dispersed together

In the Covid-19 era, we’ve all become accustomed to working remotely and having virtual meetings. Gone are the days of large conference rooms where face-to-face communication was the standard.

Instead, online tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams have replaced the boardroom table, and have skyrocketed in popularity.

It’s undeniable. Virtual communication has become a necessity in the modern business world. As of 2021, Microsoft Teams is hosting 145 million concurrent daily users, highlighting just how many people from around the world are meeting virtually.

But video conferencing is tricky, and promoting engagement, especially with a global workforce, isn’t always easy. Language barriers, a lack of ability to pick up on body language and visual cues, and a general disconnect can all affect the engagement of staff in global virtual meetings.

Herein lies a difficult challenge: making sure that team members stay engaged and productive while working from home.

Conducting business without the ability to physically interact with one another is not an easy task. So much so that Zoom fatigue is now commonly used to describe this type of burnout.

However, it’s possible to stop burnout in its tracks and host meetings that engage and motivate staff in all the right ways. These tips will help to ensure that virtual meetings are engaging and cultivate remote workplace productivity.

Plan Your Agenda In Advance

The first step in conducting any meeting, whether face-to-face or virtual, is to draw up an agenda that outlines all the topics that need covering. Think of the agenda as your meeting roadmap. It provides a clear overview of where you’re going and offers directions everyone can follow.

This agenda should get shared with all other members, taking part in the meeting so that they may all plan out their contributions beforehand.

Pre-planning and distributing this agenda not only saves time in the actual meeting. It also ensures that each member is fully prepared when the virtual meeting commences.

Michael Sueoka, the Vice President of product management at the Mobile Majority, considers this tip essential to conducting effective virtual meetings. He believes that it allows members to come to the meeting with ideas, instead of spending actual meeting time coming up with ideas. 

Warm Up With Small Talk

Getting to know people on a personal level is far more difficult in the virtual space than it is connecting and conversing in person.

It’s the job of the team leader/meeting convener to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in the virtual space. And that connections can still be made without letting anyone feel unappreciated and left out.

Starting meetings off with small talk and general conversation is a good way to grease the wheels of conversation before getting into the agenda. If you have several team members who don’t know each other, you can try a few ice-breaker activities to get everyone talking and to foster a sense of unity.

Doing this also allows all the team members to identify themselves and ensures that everyone knows who they are talking to. It also highlights why specific people are part of the meeting and how they contribute.

Involve All The Participants

Every participant should have a role assigned when joining a team meeting. Whether that’s chairing the meeting, timekeeping to ensure the meeting doesn’t go on for too long, or making sure the agenda gets followed, assigning different roles to different people makes sure that all members are constantly engaged.

Giving people something to do is a great way to make sure that no one loses focus. It also ensures that different people are responsible for driving the meeting, and it won’t be as easy to go off track.

Furthermore, rotating responsibilities between members means that everyone will feel as though they are a valued part of the team. They’ll also feel as though other members and leaders rely on them.

Invite Key People Only

There’s no benefit to overcrowding in the virtual space. Some argue that having more people involved increases the frequency of idea creation. But, in reality, more people just leads to conversational clutter and virtual insecurity.

Only inviting people who are necessary to carry out agenda items will maximize efficiency and cut down on unnecessary meeting time. This ties in with setting out team members’ roles to find out who necessarily must be part of the meeting.

If you keep meeting numbers low and time periods short, people are far more likely to stay engaged. Smaller meetings also reduce the chance of miscommunication as fewer stakeholders are speaking, and it’s easier to follow the flow of conversation.

Let The Meeting Flow: Don’t Follow A Tick-Box Approach

Although setting out an agenda is important, following a simple tick-box approach is never an engaging way to host a conversation.

Instead, everyone must be allowed to contribute until items on the agenda feel resolved. The process should be dynamic and not robotic, even though it occurs in the virtual space.

You want to motivate attendees, promote creative thinking and problem solving, rather than quickly moving through items without any real buy-in from those attending.

Allow meetings to be an enjoyable experience for all members. Try not to make it feel as though everyone is there to simply tick items off a corporate to-do list.

Utilize Breakout Rooms

Zoom and Microsoft Teams and many other virtual meeting spaces incorporate breakout rooms. This feature allows members of a large meeting to break out into smaller sub-meetings where they can chat and brainstorm in smaller groups.

This allows members to make close connections with people in their smaller breakout rooms and stops people from becoming bored or distracted.

Final Thoughts

Virtual meetings seem as though they’re here to stay. Even as the pandemic restrictions lift, many companies are weighing up the pros and cons of remote work and finding it favorable.

In the long term, this style of working benefits employers and employees as it opens up the opportunity for a truly global workplace. But it does mean that a new approach to collaboration is required. 

These tips and tricks promote engagement, efficiency, and productivity when utilizing the online meeting space. Using them can change the way a business communicates for the better.