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Keeping It Real: How to Make a Virtual Meeting as Effective as a Face-to-Face



So. Apart from anything else, who’s over all the urgent upskilling?


This Covid-19 crisis has certainly coerced many of us into a crash course in all things tech. Combined as this is with fraught supermarket excursions and feral children, it hasn’t escaped our notice that there is a lot. To. Process. Right now. So we thought we’d run through a few handy how-to’s as we all navigate this often frustrating – but thankfully temporary – new world.


First up: how to run a successful virtual meeting. And yes, we know virtual meetings are nothing new. But it’s always a good idea to go over best practice guidelines – and now that every meeting is a remote one, a review of virtual meeting must-do’s seems more essential than ever. Read on for our recommendations:


1. Reassess priorities.


First things first, advises PEPworldwide managing director Mike Burke. “Take another look at the frequency, duration and agendas of your meetings, starting with the work and people involved. Priorities are changing constantly.” What seemed urgent a month ago might not be relevant at all right now. Which segues nicely to:


2. Change it up.


Your weekly one-hour meeting might not work just now. Roll with it. Consider switching to a daily 15-20-minute stand-up instead. “We’re finding that a transition to virtual stand-ups is actually providing a big lift in productivity, engagement and employee wellbeing,” observes Burke. “And when priorities are changing quickly, a regular check-in helps your team to stay on top of things in real time.”


3. Keep it simple.


Yes, we’re all craving any form of social interaction. But a meeting is not – and never should be – planned around the saying “the more, the merrier”. Keep the number of attendees and the meeting length to an absolute minimum.


4. Check the tech.


This isn’t simply about ensuring your camera, microphone and audio are all in working order – although that’s a must, too. This is also about ensuring that everyone’s comfortable with the communication method of choice. Don’t assume that everyone’s a video-conferencing virtuoso. There’s a lot to process, remember? Make sure anyone feeling uncertain knows where to find support.


5. Don’t neglect the niceties.


Introductions and other icebreaker techniques – for example, asking participants to give a quick tour of their surroundings – are just as important, if not more so. These practices encourage engagement and inclusivity – which are of course essential in a remote environment. So if you’re tempted to let social standards slide, don’t.


6. Stick to the basics.


The usual rules for meetings apply to virtual meetings too. Send out an agenda. Ensure everyone comes prepared. Clarify the objectives. Establish ground rules. And agree on the next steps (including timing and accountabilities) at the end of the meeting. Setting the usual systems in place will both encourage efficiency and also provide a reassuring sense of routine amongst all the other upheaval.


7. Maintain engagement.


Easier said than done, right? After all, your attendees are in a variety of different locations presenting any number of distractions. The 5-minute rule is a great way to counter this: never go longer than five minutes without giving the group another “problem” to solve. A collaborative problem-solving session increases involvement. The added bonus? It encourages people to see their colleagues as good sources of information, viewpoints and advice, and generates fresh ideas.


8. Accentuate the positive.


Remember, virtual meetings have a number of obvious advantages over face-to-face ones. These include enabling you to automatically share screens, work on documents together or record a session so that you can refer to it later. Reminding less-than-enthusiastic employees of these benefits will bolster buy-in.



Are virtual meetings, at least, now feeling a bit more manageable? We may not be able to help with the fraught food shopping or the feral kids, but when it comes to work issues, we’ve got you covered. And in actual fact, we may be able to help with the feral kids after all. Because next week’s post has all the hacks you need to handle working from home with house-bound offspring hanging about. Watch this space.