If you’re a small business owner with employees working from home across the country or the world, you can significantly reduce your operating expenses by scheduling virtual meetings. Putting that concept into practice, however, can present a challenge. Virtual meetings have their benefits, but only if you know how to pull them off effectively.
If you’ve struggled in the past, or you’re braving it and putting one together for the very first time, the following six tips are sure to help:
1. Create and Distribute an Agenda Early
Create a clear and comprehensive agenda and distribute it to your team well in advance. If you expect intelligent commentary and input from your staff, give them the courtesy of advance notice, so they can devote time to thinking about the topic at hand. Along with your own agenda, be sure to include the kind of feedback you’re expecting from your employees.
2. Include Complete and Specific Log-In Instructions
In order to get your meeting started on-time, make sure you distribute specific and detailed log-in instructions for whichever platform you choose. Encourage your staff members to do a test run of the interface before the day of the meeting so there aren’t any preventable delays.
3. Include Breaks
If the meeting you’re planning promises to be lengthy, make sure you include some breaks. These give your employees time to get a drink of water, use the bathroom, or just get up and stretch and refresh their minds. You can’t expect your staff members to be glued to a PC or mobile device for an extended period and stay focused. Including breaks can keep your team more attentive and communicative. Shoot for a breather every thirty minutes or so.
4. Stay Focused
If you want your staff to be focused, you have to lead by example. Turn off your smartphone, get yourself in an area where you won’t be interrupted, and inform any team members around you that you don’t want to be disturbed for the duration of the meeting. Make sure you have a clear plan of what you want to say and how you want to say it, and rehearse a few times before the day of the meeting. If you’re not spending time trying to get your bearings, you can keep your participants much more easily engaged.
5. Don’t Rush
Holding a virtual meeting isn’t the same as a face-to-face get together. In person, it’s much easier for a team member to get your attention and interject with a question or comment. Speak at an easy pace, pause often, and occasionally ask if there are any questions. If you move along too fast, your attendees may lose track and they won’t be able to follow along.
6. Involve All Team Members
Another tip for a successful virtual meeting is to involve each and every one of your team members. If the meeting has been going along at a nice clip but you haven’t heard from a few individuals, call them out and ask for their input. This can improve the overall quality of the meeting, ensure that the voices of all your team members and departments are heard, and improve communication skills in the workplace.
Once your virtual meeting has concluded, consider forwarding all the minutes and notes from the meeting, along with any agreed-upon goals and next steps, to the attendees. Your team members may not have taken their own notes, so the best way to ensure your message sinks in is to provide them with a recap of your own that they can use for future reference.
What are your thoughts on virtual meetings?
David Bakke works out of his home office in Atlanta. He is a member of the Money Crashers Personal Finance team, contributing articles related to smart spending, business, and technology.