Tips for hosting effective virtual meetings

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Steven RogelbergIn light of the COVID-19 situation, many businesses are encouraging social distancing and asking employees to work remotely. While many tasks can be done seamlessly from home, the lack of daily face-to-face interaction, specifically in meetings, can clog workflow and stunt productivity. Conference calls can be clunky and ineffective, but they don’t have to be.

Steven Rogelberg, UNC Charlotte professor of organizational science, management and psychology, shares 10 tips from his book ‘The Surprising Science of Meetings’ for hosting efficient and effective remote meetings:

Don't over invite.  Remote meetings plummet in quality as size increases; they can be recorded and heard at twice the speed. Let non-essential members off the hook, and share the recording. BUT... avoid making them feel excluded; give them the option to attend future meetings.

Sharpen the agenda. Organize the agenda as a set of questions. It creates focus, provides a better sense of who really needs to be there as well as the meeting’s success.

Active facilitation is key. Meeting leaders must draw virtual attendees in and keep a tally to be sure all are contributing. Avoid asking, “Any comments?” Instead, call on people individually.

Silence does not equal understanding or agreement. There are some great apps available that allow participants to vote in real time to help facilitators gauge consensus. While it may seem unorthodox, don’t encourage participants to mute their phones. Have all users minimize distractions in their physical space and become active participants to increase engagement. 

If possible, use video. Video helps create a feeling of “presence” so attendees are actively engaged. 

Have everyone identify themselves prior to speaking. Again, this creates presence.

Establish some norms about what makes a good remote meeting. Get expectations out there, such as, keep contributions to no more than 60 seconds so everyone has a chance to speak.

Have instant messenger or chat room technology in place. This way folks can notify you during the meeting if they need to speak or ask for something to be repeated.

End meetings well. Leave a few minutes to spare to clarify takeaways. Identify the directly responsible person for each action item, so no one leaves wondering what was accomplished.

Ask people how the meetings are going. Send a quick survey periodically; ask what is going well, not so well and ideas for improvement. Take the challenge to make your remote meetings different and worth the time invested.