Meetings have become a source of dread for many of us, and virtual team meetings add another layer of complexity to an already challenging business practice. But the main reason we whine about meetings is that they’re often both long and unproductive!
A well-run meeting is interesting and (dare I say it?) fun to attend.
Since meetings are a non-negotiable aspect of running a business, it’s worthwhile to learn to make them engaging, efficient, and enjoyable. Doing so is not as hard as you’d think, even if your team members are all chatting from their laptop screens!
Here are my 5 tips for making virtual team meetings productive and worthwhile.
Come prepared to your virtual team meeting
A meeting without an agenda is like a ship without a rudder: You can’t expect things to go smoothly if there’s no guidance and no one steering. This is true for all meetings, but in many ways, it’s EXTRA true for virtual meetings.
Since folks aren’t in the same room together it can be tough to read the vibe, know when to interject, see when the group is ready to move on … so an agenda helps everyone know where to focus and for how long.
Speaking of which, a true agenda includes time estimates detailing how long each topic will be addressed.
If you only want to talk about software updates for 5 minutes but expect to discuss a new campaign for 20 minutes, say so! And come prepared to course-correct when team members start going on tangents!
Keep your virtual team meeting on schedule
This may seem a little harsh, but believe me, it’s a housekeeping practice that your team will come to appreciate: Announce that the meeting has a timeline and a hard stop.
Do this at the beginning of every. Single. Meeting. Everyone hates meetings that run over time, but everyone also loves to voice their opinions at great length … and few of us remember that those two things are connected!
Too much talking means everyone is stranded in the meeting for longer than they’d planned. Train your team to expect an agenda, to stick to that agenda, and to end on time every time.
Efficient meetings are the best meetings.
Launch every virtual team meeting with a fun activity
Once you’ve reminded your virtual team to stay on-task, soften things with a little “water cooler” conversation at the beginning of the meeting.
You can use an ice breaker question to get the conversation rolling, or just ask each team member to share one interesting thing that’s happened to them since you last touched base.
Yes, you’re here to communicate and collaborate, but if you don’t like each other your communication and collaboration will be downright unpleasant.
Take a few minutes to build team morale and have fun!
Encourage participation at virtual team meetings
Guess who loves sitting through hour-long meetings without saying a single word? NO ONE, that’s who. And depending on team dynamics, you may have a few super opinionated or chatty people and others who are just as valuable but naturally quiet.
Try to encourage everyone to participate when your virtual team meets, and if that doesn’t happen organically consider assigning roles to each member during each meeting.
Look beyond “note taker” if you go the roles route. Think “devil’s advocate,” “budget watchdog,” “cheerleader/hype person,” roles that will encourage creativity, engagement, and collaboration.
Assigning roles may feel awkward at first, but it will ensure that everyone feels involved and important, which is essential to making meetings worthwhile.
Use virtual team meetings to celebrate
Just as you should open with a few minutes of social chat, consider closing each virtual meeting by celebrating team wins and successes.
Recognition of team members goes a long way toward making your contributors feel valued, and helps everyone leave the meeting on a high note.
If there are no obvious wins to discuss, consider the practice of “appreciative comments.” Ask each participant to voice something that they value or appreciate about their peers.
Something as simple as, “I love your upbeat attitude” can brighten someone’s day and help forge intra-team bonds.
You may not be able to suck ALL of the dread out of virtual team meetings, but as the business owner and team leader you definitely can try!
Focus on making sure there’s some fun injected into the gathering, and that all non-fun bits are organized and focused, and your entire virtual team will love you for it.
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