Top Fundamentals for Successful Virtual Meetings

If you’re a project manager or business analyst and have ever facilitated or participated in a virtual meeting, you know they can be highly productive. And, highly frustrating if not run well. Here is a list of 5 things I think all virtual meetings should have to be successful:Picture1

1)      Test your technology. If you have never used the software or hardware for your virtual meetings, make sure you practice with a small group first. If you are doing a formal presentation, I suggest you reboot your PC right before you make it. We recently did a product demo where the presenter’s PC froze up right at the start. It took some fancy “tap dancing” to recover and keep the meeting going. Better to reboot first than to recover later.

2)      Presenters: clear your desktop. There is nothing worse than seeing an incoming email notice popping up on the moderator’s screen, or seeing his or her calendar reminder saying “Pick up Amie from soccer practice.” If you are a participant and there’s a chance your screen will be displayed during the session, this applies to you, too.

3)      Participants: minimize your distractions. Don’t text or read emails when you should be participating. Pretend it’s a live meeting. How would you behave? (I know, some of you out there would be on your Blackberries during a meeting. Ha ha.) One method to deal with this issue is to call on participants to ask for their input or thoughts. Some virtual meeting tools provide an “attention” meter. Ours does. It’s very useful to see who has other non-meeting screens in the foreground. It’s also good feedback for the facilitator on how engaging the meeting is going. That can be a bit deflating, I’ll admit, but an impetus to try harder!

4)      Larger meetings: use your name. I was recently in a virtual meeting with people I just met and every one of them sounded the same! I could not distinguish them and I kept asking “Jennifer is that you?” or “Was that Tom who said that?” In retrospect, I should have asked at the beginning for people to announce their name as they commented. Better yet, I think it should be a standard ground rule for virtual meetings.

5)      Take notes as you normally would. Unlike an in-person meeting, though, announce you are pausing to write down your notes. If people can’t see you, the audio pause is disconcerting and vocal people will fill it and try and move the discussion along. If you want to successfully capture an action item or decision, tell people you are writing and ask them to wait a moment. Make sure you write fast, though…virtual participants are more impatient it seems to me than in-person participants.

What other “musts” can you think of? I’d like to compile a top ten list and post it to our site.

4 thoughts on “Top Fundamentals for Successful Virtual Meetings

  1. As facilitator of virtual meetings, you should control your invitee list and understand why each person is there. Then you can help them understand what is expected from them and help them understand what they should expect to get from participating. In that way, you are able to better involve them, relating, translating and directing the conversation to them about what is being said which should improve them paying attention in spite of distractions and multi-tasking. As PM, you get what you need from them and impart to them what you have assessed is important as a takeaway. It is a quality check for you, as PM, to be sure your agenda matches the attendees’ participation and confirm that you are structuring the meeting for its intended purpose. Then everyone benefits appropriately from the interaction.

  2. I would only add a few things to the previous comments:
    – publish the agenda ahead of time and if there are sensitive topics position attendees before hand
    – made sure the objective of the meeting is clear
    – take time to do introductions so everyone knows who is participating
    – if there are assignments or follow-up activities, review them at the end and clarify when they are due and by who
    – publish the minutes of the meeting shortly after the meeting including all agreements on next steps
    – make sure to stick to your time commitment

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