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The way I do business has changed in the last couple of weeks, and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Where I previously might have had a virtual meeting once or twice a month, they are now a daily occurrence.

What I have learned (in a very short time) is that you should not assume everyone knows how to get the best from a virtual meeting. Holding a good virtual meeting is a skill unto itself, and you don’t improve if you don’t practice.

To some extent you could say that these things apply to all meetings, and to some extent I would agree. However, there are some nuances that apply to virtual meetings that make them a bit more challenging for all involved.

Here are my top tips for holding productive virtual meetings.

  • Prepare

Many people are now working from home for the first time; they are set up at their kitchen table, their kids’ desk, or the lounge room. It doesn’t matter where you are, but you need to be somewhere where you can devote your full attention to the meeting!

Put the dog outside, lock the kids in their rooms, and generally do what you can to remove distractions.

It’s also a good idea to test your tech to make sure everything is working before the meeting. Nothing is worse than answering a video call only to realise that the other person(s) can’t hear you, especially if you are talking to a potential client or employee.

Be punctual. This should go without saying, but the combination of virtual meetings’ relaxed aura and the fact that we’re all working from home can often let you lower your shoulders and get too comfortable. Be ready 5 minutes before the scheduled start time and make sure that you have everything you’ll need.

Also, if you have called the meeting and need to do more work to prepare, please postpone it until you are ready. Don’t waste people’s time.

  • Chair, timekeeper and minute taker

Like any meeting you need a chair, timekeeper and minute taker. The chair and timekeeper need to be hard arses and keep the meeting on track. The minute taker needs to be on the ball to pick up the nuances of discussions and clarify outcomes where required. These roles are a little bit more challenging in the virtual world, but the productiveness of a meeting can often rely on these roles being present!

  • Rules of the meeting

The rules of the meeting should be laid out, understood and agreed upon before starting. Clarity is only going to help virtual meetings, as ambiguity and uncertainty will make it much more difficult to collaborate.

Communication is always at the bedrock of successful business relationships, both internally and externally. Communicating in a clear, concise and complete manner is extra important when holding virtual meetings, as body language can be harder to read (at best).

Keep things short and sharp, listen actively and speak only when required. Mute your microphone if there is any background noise on your end.

Let one person speak at a time, and create a parking lot for issues that cannot be resolved during the meeting.

If you start the meeting, you finish the meeting; no jumping off part way through. It’s important to respect the other attendees’ time, and understand that leaving part way through a meeting can be a big distraction.

  • Stay above the line

Virtual meetings need to be short, sharp and productive. They are a place for above the line behaviour. Any poor or negative behaviour needs to be called out.

Don’t tell us any stories.Get to the point already. We don’t need to go over ground that attendees already know, and we don’t need to hear long winded stories on any topic. Raise an issue, pose a question, offer a solution, or be quiet.

  • Clear outcomes

Have the minute taker run through the outcomes before everyone jumps off so that you can make sure everyone is clear on the outcome of the meeting – and therefore can be held accountable at a later date. Amend the minutes as required and distribute them promptly after the meeting. Only schedule a follow up meeting if absolutely essential.

I hope you found this helpful.

Stay safe, stay connected, stay positive.