Like most of us, we’re doing our best to be productive and behave like “business as usual” when possible, while protecting our employees and ourselves. Some companies already had a remote model in place; however, most companies are scrambling to make it work with minimal disruption. Regardless of your physical location, meetings still need to happen and can be accomplished virtually.

Being prepared is critical to producing the best outcome and experience for all attendees. To follow are some suggestions to have a successful meeting, even if it’s impromptu:

Video Meetings Make a Big Difference
While connections can sometimes be sporadic, having a visual keeps people more connected. It also helps eliminate some of those overlapping conversations that occur because people cannot recognize when someone starts/stops speaking. This method also keeps the participants more engaged.

Provide a Dial-in Option
Video is preferred; however, some may have a weak internet connection, which can be very distracting if they are continually disconnected. Some prefer using the phone for sound because of their less-than-private location and use their device for the visual portion. The goal is to have the majority use video, so make that clear from the beginning that video is your preferred method for the meeting.

Encourage Upfront Technology Testing
Many meetings start 10-15 minutes later than the predetermined start time because the software isn’t working, not installed, etc. Ask all of your guests to test the settings on their preferred device ahead of time. If they need help with the system you’re using, offer your assistance in advance, not at the beginning of the meeting, when everyone is ready to begin.

Follow the Guidelines of an In-Person Meeting
Before the meeting, set the meeting objectives and, if possible, send an agenda, so the attendees know what to expect. If applicable, ask in advance if anyone has something they would like to include so that you may add to the list. This is important as nothing throws off a productive meeting, like additional discussions that dilute the meeting’s real purpose. If the meeting takes place over a longer timeframe, include mini-breaks in the schedule.

Less is More
Right now, one of the terms being used is “I am Zoomed Out.” It’s a necessary tool, but the goal is to reduce screen time by remaining on schedule and delegating action steps. If you are including multiple speakers, make sure you clearly outline the time allotted for their portion of the conversation, including any Q & A time.

Start on a Lighter Note
Create a fun and interactive icebreaker at the beginning of each meeting, such as, “Tell us something you’ve done differently during this unique time.”. If you make it fun and do it before the start of each meeting, this is a great way to encourage others to be on time.

Be Interactive
Include tools such as polls that include questions relevant to the conversation. This is especially helpful when there are a considerable amount of attendees as it allows everyone to feel included. Based on the agenda, this can also help steer the meeting in the correct direction as many times; you may need to shift slightly to reach the desired result.

Take Advantage of the Chat Section
When you have multiple participants, it can be challenging to keep things organized. Set the rule ahead of time that if someone wishes to speak, it must be relevant to the topic, and they need to raise their hand. This practice allows the person facilitating the meeting to call on him/her, and keep things running smoothly. The person who would like to talk can raise their hand physically or, if available, use the tool included in the software. Set those guidelines in advance, so everyone is on the same page.

Tackle the Difficult Conversations
We’re not sure if things will go back the way they were or if this will be the new normal. Either way, don’t prolong the discussions that may not be easy simply because you’re not together in person. Life continues to move forward, and if something is crucial, it shouldn’t be “kicked down the road” as many times a simple challenge can escalate if not addressed quickly.

Practice Makes Almost Perfect
Following the meeting, you may want to consider sending a very brief survey asking the attendees if there were something they would suggest to do differently. This best practice is especially critical if it’s your team that is meeting as you’ll be doing this frequently, and if there are ways to make it more productive and smooth, it’s best to adjust quickly for the next meeting.

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