by Brian Zeng, owner of Ponbee.com
“We spend as much as half our days in meetings.” – ‘State of Modern Meeting’ by Blue Jeans Network
It is therefore essential for business owners to think of ways to make meetings more productive and reduce the time spent in the conference rooms. This will not only ensure higher productivity and better efficiency within the organization, but the employees will be better engaged.
Moreover, the business landscape has evolved rapidly. Today more and more employees are willing to work from the comfort of their home so that they can balance their work and life better. In fact, a survey by Lifesize reveals, 89 percent remote employees agree that video helps them feel more connected to their peers.
The same survey also found that 87 percent employees not present for a meeting feel better engaged with their colleagues through video.
Virtual meetings, therefore, have become a reality today. It is no more limited to large enterprises that can invest in fancy technologies; even small businesses and startups with limited budgets are embracing virtual meetings, thanks to its global approach. If you too dream to become a successful business leader one day, having such a global approach and willingness to encourage such dynamic innovations are a few qualities you need to adapt right away. And in order to ensure that your virtual meetings are more productive here are a few tips:
1. Have a Clear Agenda before the Meeting Starts.
No one wants to get stuck in never-ending meetings. The more the meetings get stretched, the more the employees will tend to lose interest and focus. According to a report by the Irish Times, ‘Focus and attention drop off rapidly after half an hour. From its start to 30 minutes into a meeting, roughly 84 per cent of people will still be engaged. By minute 45 this is down to 64 per cent.’ So in order to make a meeting fruitful, it should not last more than 45 minutes.
Therefore deciding on the agenda is necessary before the meeting starts. Decide what level of interaction is needed to meet the objectives. This will also help you determine what kind of tools and technology will be required to conduct the meeting.
By planning a meeting beforehand, you can make sure each participant walks away with an idea of ‘what needs to be done next’ to take the business to the next level. However, it is best to limit the agenda to a maximum of three objectives that matter the most at the given point of time. If you try to address too many issues at a time, you tend to lose focus.
2. Choose Video over Audio-Only.
According to a report by Polycom, 96 percent business decision-makers prefer video conferencing as it improves productivity and 76 percent of them are already using video conferencing at work.
Video makes employees feel more engaged and the team leaders can gauge the participants’ body language, reactions and emotions. It is similar to conducting face-to-face meetings. By choosing video conference over audio-only calls, you encourage participants to actively partake in the discussion and resist replying to emails, check their messages, or otherwise multitask. The leading organizations are already leveraging on video conferencing, so you must also start considering it if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
Moreover, since most participants are separated by distance, you can make them feel like they’re all in the same place by leveraging the various video conferencing tools such as Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, ScreenHero, Skype and so on.
3. Add a Touch of Personalization.
Virtual meeting often lacks the personal feel of face-to-face meetings. By adding a touch of personalization, you can make virtual meetings even more productive. Employees perform better when they are made comfortable. It is the job of the leaders to introduce employees to each other, since they may not know each other due to the geographical boundaries. A report by Gallup indicates that more American employees are working remotely and they are doing so for extended periods of time. So there are high chances the employees have never met and do not know each other that well. However, knowing each other can make them feel connected and help them communicate better.
4. Maintaining Meeting Etiquette is a Must.
Following etiquettes is very important to ensure the success of virtual meetings. Just as you are not allowed to leave the meeting room and walk around during a face-to-face meeting, you should never go on a mute and leave the room when you are participating in a virtual meeting. Muting the line is only applicable if you are joining the meeting from a local cafe or any other venue with ambient noise.
The only difference – the pace of virtual meetings should be slower than traditional meetings since there is a two to three second delay in signal transmission for most systems. Therefore, there should be sufficient pauses after asking a question or participants must raise their hands before asking questions or contributing to a specific point.
Looking at the camera is also necessary since it ensures eye contact and makes the conversations more natural. A few more things to keep in mind when participating in a virtual meeting are minimal body movement, speaking clearly and loudly, being courteous and making gestures slowly and naturally.
The times have changed and virtual meetings have become a norm. Organizations, both big and small have benefited immensely by leveraging the various virtual meeting technologies. Small businesses and start-ups with a limited budget can especially benefit a lot. However, since it is comparatively a new concept, you must prepare well. Keep the above points in mind and make the virtual meetings are successful and more productive.