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Leading Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings are a fact of life for remote teams. For remote teams, virtual meetings are vital to communication, decision-making, problem-solving and more. If you can run them well and participate more effectively in them, you’ll get better results and you’ll stand out from other team members.

Virtual meetings come with their challenges. The most common pain points can be misused technology, mishandled distractions and poor facilitation. Knowing which problems to focus on is the first step to improving your virtual meetings.

Choosing a meeting platform can make or break a meeting. Think about what you want to do in your meeting and find a tool that gives you capabilities for that to be accomplished. Then, learn the tool you chose so you can meet your needs easily, comfortably and confidently. 

Once you’ve chosen a platform, set up virtual meeting behavioral expectations. Agree that everyone will participate and give feedback, and have clear expectations that the team understands and follows. As the group abides by your set expectations, your meetings will continue to improve.

Before you start the meeting, determine the desired outcome—a short, clear statement of what success looks like for this meeting. Share it with all meeting participants before the meeting begins—this helps people be better prepared to participate and engage, maintain focus, and be productive during the meeting.

Decide if you can accomplish your desired outcome without a meeting. Do you need the team to get together to best accomplish your desired outcome? What are some alternatives you could use if you don’t need a meeting? You could start an email chain, instant message your team or share a document with live editing capabilities to achieve your outcome. 

Make an agenda to keep your meeting on-track. Share it early and include the desired outcome and the time spent on each item. This will manage the flow and success of the meeting. As a participant, minimize the potential for distractions by putting your phone to the side and read the agenda beforehand to think about how you can best contribute and have the necessary information handy.

When there’s a mixed group of meeting participants—some virtual and some not—there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure virtual workers can hear everyone in all parts of the room, speak up and remind office workers to speak louder and slower than they may normally. Ask the in-office workers to speak one at a time, so the virtual workers can hear all relevant points. Engage the virtual workers first, it’s easy to forget there are people in the meeting who aren’t in the room, so start with  the comments and input of virtual workers. If these hybrid meetings are too challenging, make the meeting virtual for everyone—including those in-office.

If your meeting is impromptu, establish and communicate the desired outcome to your team and spend the first two minutes clarifying and confirming the purpose and outcome of the meeting. Get everyone’s input. In any meeting, have everyone be accountable and able to ask if the conversation is relevant to the agenda. If not, use a parking lot bin. Write things that aren’t on task for the agenda but are still important on a separate slide deck or whiteboard. Revisit the parking lot bin at the end of the meeting to see when and how these issues will be discussed.

End the meeting with an action plan—what is going to be done by whom and when? Don’t end the meeting until there is a who and when for every what. Start the next meeting with that action plan and share updates.

Virtual meetings are essential for remote teams, and they can be successful and productive if we know how to conduct them and participate in them effectively.

Copyright 2020 American Chemical Society (All Rights Reserved)

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