7 best practices for virtual meetings
Author: Dr. Sri Gaddam (Doctor of Management), CEO, ERPA Group
In the age of COVID-19, remote meetings remain the critical medium to communicate with people within or outside the company. After working for decades in a closed environment where people used to have face-face communication, thanks to the pandemic, things changed overnight. Working remotely has become the new norm to ensure the health and safety of the workforce. Virtual communication can be challenging and ineffective for people not used to working remotely. The good news is that we gathered seven best practices that will help you to be effective and efficient with virtual communication.
Almost all companies use some form of tech stack to communicate remotely. When businesses are forced or decide to shift their operations remotely, the important question to ask is how integrated, efficient, collaborative, and effective your current stack is. For example, at ERPA, we decided to switch to Microsoft teams for virtual communication tools such as chat, meet, call, share files and collaborate on a single platform as compared to two separate systems. In my experience, the other best investment to make an employee effective and efficient working remotely is to have an additional monitor. Most importantly, having a dedicated space for working remotely where you will not be disturbed enhances productivity.
It is crucial to outline virtual communication expectations upfront to reduce frustration and confusion, and to ensure a smooth transition to working remotely. When working remotely, email may not be the most effective tool to collaborate with the team members. However, not all team needs, and managers’ expectations are the same; some prefer collaboration tools such as slack or a Microsoft chat, while others prefer video or audio conference tools. For example, our technology team decided that all the team members are required to be available on MS chat in the work hours and need to show their face when on a conference call, both helped us to feel more connected.
Sometimes remote meetings can be long and tedious with no outcomes. Putting time in planning an agenda with more visuals and videos makes meetings interesting for the participants. A meeting agenda should have a goal to be accomplished while incorporating lively interaction topics for others to participate and contribute. Investing some time in advance preparing and planning a meeting agenda not only makes everyone efficient with their time but also achieves desired outcomes effectively.
Compared to traditional long meetings, daily huddles with rhythm can be the most important and powerful of all the other meetings. Once-daily routine is established, the operating decisions can be made quickly and timely to enhance productivity and curtail bottlenecks to ensure the organizations stay on track in achieving their goals. Ideally, daily huddle should be around 10-15 minutes to discuss critical activities for the next 24 hours, bottlenecks, key decisions, etc.,
Online whiteboards can be a great alternative to the traditional whiteboard where people collaborate, take notes, share ideas, or capture meeting minutes. The biggest challenge when people communicate remotely is that different people process and interpret the information differently based on their prior knowledge, experiences, and beliefs. The most efficient way to run key meetings is to open a whiteboard on a separate screen as a collaboration tool to capture notes or ideas to ensure everyone is on the same page with clarity on the goal or desired outcome.
In a remote environment, people working from home may feel isolated and disconnected. The most important thing that makes people feel connected is clear and almost constant communication. Preparing a meeting agenda in advance, followed by distributing meeting minutes with the action items, provides clarity on individual responsibilities and deadlines. Sending reminders on the pending tasks before the next meeting will help individuals to get organized and act.
Nothing can beat company retreats to build a stronger sense of community among employees and relationships outside the work environment. However, working without physical interaction can be draining; it is important to ensure that no team member feels lonely or neglected. Building a remote culture requires proactive measures to encourage people to participate and collaborate. Remote culture can evolve organically through team building activities, collaboration, and shared experiences that can be professional or personal. One healthy way to build trust among team members is to facilitate weekly or monthly recurring virtual happy hours were sharing personal stories and experiences in a casual setting or an online family bingo night with lovely gifts to the winners. For a healthy remote culture to emerge, there needs to be a transparent and welcoming environment with a genuine sense of fun and caring for others.