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Virtual meetings

When COVID saw the shutdown of many Australian workplaces this year, video meetings became the hottest topic since leftover cake in the tea room. Are they here to stay? And if so, how do we adapt?

Author

Sarah O'Donovan

We’ve all seen the memes about the virtual meetings that became a regular feature of our daily lives in the midst of COVID-19. From wearing track pants with a suit shirt and tie to the dog barking in the background, right through to that one employee who doesn’t seem to realise everyone can see them texting, the virtual meeting was rapidly thrust into the realm of our reality and we’re still getting caught with our mics on mute.

Virtual meetings, such as those held via video calls on apps like Skype and Zoom, are not new as far as business technology goes, but until now we haven’t had such a widespread and immediate need to implement the software. Seeing your co-workers, employees or managers face-to-face can help to humanise meetings and build a sense of camaraderie, while eliminating the technology problems such as audio delay, connection issues and that earache-inducing microphone echo. But here we are, more than half way through the year, with social distancing measures still highly recommended by health officials and many employees still working from home. 

If social distancing were to become the norm it begs the question: will these virtual meetings become a vital part of our future work life? Possibly. While they likely won’t be as essential as they were from March through to May in a few years, they are certainly still being used, and will continue to be used, more than ever before. This is because businesses are realising how easily technology can be adopted to provide the much needed flexibility we, as different people with different lives, need.

But the technology is still new to a lot of people, yourself as a business owner and employees alike. So what can you do to ensure your next virtual meeting goes off without a hitch?

 
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Make sure all of your employees have compatible webcams and headsets

 

Plan ahead of time

Ideally, you should have an agenda which outlines the goals and discussion points for the meeting which you’ve circulated ahead of time. You should also have a designated chair to avoid more than one person trying to lead the meeting – which can become even more problematic with audio delays and other connection issues. 

Set ground rules that apply for every virtual meeting

For example, you might ask everyone to log on five minutes prior to the start time, ask that everyone states their name before speaking, or require that everyone has their microphone on mute unless speaking to help minimise background noise disturbances.

Delegate and collaborate

Meetings will feel useful and engaging if everyone is each assigned a task. Duties for employees include taking notes, chairing the meeting, operating a slideshow, distributing relevant information before or after, and more. You can keep individuals in charge of one task or you can switch duties among staff regularly – which you might notice helps to keep them alert. 

 
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Seeing your co-workers, employees or managers face-to-face can help to humanise meetings and build a sense of camaraderie

 

 

Jump in the deep end

After brief introductions and a run through of the agenda, people’s minds are already starting to wander. Jump straight into the content as quickly as you can. This helps to keep the meeting interesting and engaging from the start while also demonstrating respect for others’ time. Remember, meetings are a collaboration, so make sure everyone (yourself included) is getting to the detail concisely and find ways to nudge them along if you notice attendees staring into space.

Invest in video

Meetings on some free platforms are limited to half an hour. Do some research and trial the ones you like, then spend the money to upgrade for unlimited time and access – there’s nothing more unprofessional than having to cut a client off mid-sentence so you can redial them. Make sure all of your employees (at home or in the office) have compatible and functional webcams and headsets, both of which run fairly cheaply in the year 2020. 

Use one link 

Use the same link for your meetings every time – no, it doesn’t expire and you don’t have to set up a new room each time! Better yet, save it in the recurring calendar alert you send out. This saves everyone time because it appears in their calendar each week or month, rather than in a folder somewhere or below weeks of other emails, and you won’t have to keep resending it. 

Most importantly of all, take the time to check up on your employees and clients individually outside of your virtual meetings. If you aren’t in the office or onsite together as often anymore, they might relish the opportunity to raise a concern or ask a question without an audience, or simply to have a chat. 

 

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