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How to run virtual meetings that don’t suck: 5 simple tips

When the pandemic hit, we went Zoom-crazy. Then we burned out. And now we’re realizing that virtual meetings are here for the long haul.

So if you haven’t already invested some time and energy into running better meetings, here are a few simple tips. Following these tips will boost participant engagement and also help to reduce Zoom-fatigue for everyone involved.

1. Make time in the beginning for everyone to say hello and be acknowledged.

Have you ever been to a meeting where you sign in and then sit there, silent and unacknowledged? It leaves you wondering why you bothered to show up at all. Since virtual meetings are absent of the social norms of in-person events, it’s important to make everyone feel seen and appreciated.

As a rule of thumb, kick off your virtual meetings greeting everybody by name. Ask a simple warm up question: What are your weekend plans? Who watched the football game yesterday? For large meetings, folks can type their responses into the chat. For smaller groups, plan a few minutes in your agenda for casual conversation.

2. Set ground rules.

It’s not productive for anybody when half of the meeting attendees have their video turned off while they check email. Try setting some simple ground rules prior to your meeting. You may consider making it a “cameras on” meeting to keep people more engaged. You can also ask people to put their cellphones out of reach and close out all browser windows (including email)!

While it’s true that you can’t control what people are doing in their own homes, you can set the stage by making your expectations clear. To thank people for their undivided attention, be sure to stay on topic and finish on time.

3. Make sure everybody gets a chance to speak.

For many introverts, speaking up in a virtual setting is even more challenging than doing it in person. Additionally, mute buttons and time delays can create awkward pauses and people speaking over one another. If you are running the meeting, you may need to take on a more active facilitator role to create speaking opportunities.

When a topic requires feedback from everyone, try calling people by name and giving everybody the same amount of time to speak. If someone remains quiet during an open discussion, call on them specifically for their opinion. If you’re afraid of putting somebody on the spot, trust me– we introverts always appreciate an invitation.

4. Have a clear objective and stay on time.

It goes without saying that every meeting should have a clear objective, and this is even more important in a virtual setting. Know that your people are burned out on screens, and make sure they understand exactly why you are asking them for their time and energy.

Distribute an agenda beforehand and keep track of time during your meeting. If you are hosting a webinar, let participants know exactly what they will learn and then deliver on the topic as promised. Do not let your meeting run over just because you’re all at home with nowhere to go! It is best to keep most virtual meetings and webinars to no more than an hour.

5. Get your tech figured out.

Make sure you have good lighting, audio, and a solid internet connection. A hard-wired ethernet cable is best. If you don’t have a proper space with good lighting at home, consider renting a room at Groundwork for the day. Our hourly rentals are quiet, private, and enabled for hard-wired ethernet. We also have a lighting kit and USB microphone available for use.

I’ll leave you with this video tutorial from Groundwork member Matt Medeiros on the importance of using headphones and a decent microphone:

Now get out there and run a non-sucky meeting! Your colleagues will thank you.

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