Running effective virtual meetings may be challenging, but it is a skill that will only increase in importance as focus continues to shift in many businesses from in-house talent to a hybrid or remote-only workforce. Research shows that inefficient meetings cost the US 399 billion in 2019, and that estimate is conservative. This article takes you through what you need to know to revitalize your meeting strategy and make the most productive use of every virtual meetup you have scheduled.
How To Run Effective Virtual Meetings
Sometimes, running a virtual meeting feels like pulling teeth. You have a virtual room full of people who aren't sure what they are supposed to be doing and how they're supposed to be doing it, and half of them feel awkward and uncomfortable and the other half feel bored. There's Jim who is playing with visual effects for google meet, and Tom who has a dog howling in the background and can't find his mute button. Somehow, you're supposed to guide the meeting into an effective brainstorming session and leave them all feeling empowered and fully informed on everything they need to know as they go into their remote work week.
Sound familiar? Running effective meetings isn't easy, and making team meetings more effective is a topic we all wish we had at least a bachelor's degree in. While that's not happening, here are some effective meeting guidelines that just might have the potential to transform your virtual meetups from the low point of the day to a productive time that your team members will even begin to look forward to. We'll go over everything you need to know, from planning to implementation-including methods for measuring meeting effectiveness and tips on how to take effective minutes during a meeting. After all, that virtual meeting is just a means to an end, and you want to ensure what you've painfully hashed out is not forgotten as everyone turns off the mics and cameras and retreats back into their kitchens, cafes, or little offices.
Drafting An Effective Meeting Agenda
Conducting effective virtual meetings begins on the planning board: putting together an effective meeting agenda that helps you stay on track. Here are three tips to keep in mind as you put together your virtual meeting agenda.
1. Keep it short. Holding everyone's attention during a business meeting is possible only if it is two things: super focused and super short. Unless you're working on some complex collaboration, 30 minutes is a good max. 20 is even better.
2. Share the mic. While everyone might love to hear you talk when you're meeting up with them in person, during virtual meetings a monologue can get boring quickly. Arrange your meeting agenda with as many active contributors as possible-- and let everyone in the know have a part in announcing new initiatives.
3. Be specific about what you're going to talk about it, what order it will be attacked, and how long you can spend discussing each topic.
For best results, make sure everyone has your agenda before the meeting starts so they don't come in blind. Anyone who will be sharing new information or talking points should have a copy of what they need to say a full 24 hours ahead of time.
Best Communication Practices For Effective Meetings
Once you have your agenda planned, the next challenge to overcome is staying on topic and communicating effectively during the meeting itself. Communicating effectively during a virtual meeting can be summed up in a short five word sentence: Keep listening and stay engaged.
Start your meeting by giving everyone a chance to work out the kinks in their audio-visual setup and make sure they have their mics on, or off, as appropriate. Then introduce the agenda, and ensure that everyone has received a copy and is on the same page starting off. A meeting facilitator can also share a few ground rules. Decide whether or not you want to allow the use of visual effects for Google meet or your platform of choice, and ask your group members to use the mute button if they aren’t able to keep background noise to a minimum.
A virtual meeting where everyone is sitting up close to their webcam with well-lighted faces has the potential to be almost as good as an in-person meeting: no one has a temptation to multi-task, and you get the same 'in this together' vibe. That said, this is behavior you want to encourage, not mandate: some team members may have valid reasons for keeping the camera off or the room dark, and you want to respect that too! Effective meeting management involves helping every group member work through any personal constraints or technological challenges to participate in the discussion as fully as possible.
Interactive polls during the meeting can be helpful in keeping everyone engaged as well as providing you with a running pulse on team sentiment throughout the meeting. Don't be afraid to use them frequently-multiple polls/feedback surveys per meeting is reasonable, depending on total meeting length. Zoom allows a maximum of 25, with ten questions each. Poll results can be shared with participants in real-time as well as being included in the meeting minutes.
Judicious use of visuals and charts can also be key to effective communication in business meetings. If you plan on doing a screen share, take a few minutes before the meeting to close up distracting windows and arrange your desktop so that the focus remains where you want it to be. Turn off chat programs; there's nothing like getting a message reminding you to pick up spaghetti sauce on the way home when you're right in the middle of an important discussion. Show leadership by respecting the meeting space and eliminating any possible distractions, whether they are on your screen or in your background.
Using AI Assistants For More Effective Meetings
A meeting without notes is like a vacation to Italy without pictures-it's wonderful while you’re there, but difficult to recall later in any detail. That said, focusing on taking detailed minutes during the course can be a recipe for disaster. While you might be able to type as fast as they talk, there's no way you can stay engaged when you are focused on creating an informative, well-organized and thorough record of what went on during the meeting.
You can either have someone delegated to the job of keeping good meeting notes, or you can use an AI meeting assistant for meeting capture and meeting transcription. Both methods have their ups and downsides. When using a human as a designated note-taker, they should be able to produce a good record of the meeting, but their focus on this task will inhibit their overall participation in the discussion. While the presence of a non-involved 'third wheel' can dampen enthusiasm and lead to a court-room vibe where team members find themselves second-guessing everything they say.
For many virtual meetings, using an AI assistant may be the better option. Gone are the days when an AI note taker produced nothing but reams of garbled, unreadable session transcripts. Modern AI assistants can not only take down an accurate description of what is going on but actually analyze the data as well, providing you with a summary of key points and action items as well as a searchable index that can be referred to in future meetings. They can also help you stay on track by providing a running comparison with what you've discussed and the meeting's objective.
Capabilities of AI note takers include:
Searchable meeting transcript serves as verbatim ai meeting notes
AI meeting minutes for a quick recap of the facts
Clip creation and sharing promoting team collaboration
Integrations with your preferred video-conferencing platforms
Natural language processing and conversational intelligence
AI-driven insights into meeting progression and action points
The Aftermath Of Your Effective Meeting
After the meeting is over, you'll want to email all attendees a summary of what was discussed, conclusions reached, and any action points that have come out of the discussion. A good summary should note the meeting objective, as well as:
Who was at the meeting
What the focus of the meeting was
What key questions were raised
What conclusions were reached
What needs to be done by who in response to those conclusions.
While you're at it, remember to thank participants for their contributions, and give a shout-out or two to individuals who were especially helpful. Let your team know that you appreciate their contributions to a focused, productive meeting.
The AI meeting minutes produced by an AI notetaker can be made accessible to everyone after the meeting, along with an online space for comments and discussion if appropriate.
When evaluating the results of your meeting, consider both the results of in-meeting polls as well as the results of discussion and whether you met the meeting's purpose. A successful meeting with effective facilitation will be one in which the meeting participants were engaged through the entire discussion, and where each agenda item was fully addressed. A productive meeting will generally also generate at least one action item, and participants should leave with a good idea of what to do next.
While virtual meetings come with a special set of challenges to be conquered, when done right they have the potential to be the most efficient way to get all your remote team members on the same page. With appropriate tools and an effective meeting strategy, regular meetings can help your team stay connected, informed, and able to conquer all challenges from their remote locations. AI notetakers can ensure your entire team is focused on participating in the discussion versus taking notes, and can greatly increase meeting efficiency and knowledge sharing.