Virtual meetings are now an everyday thing for organisations who rely on them for communications, routine meetings, brainstorming sessions, stakeholder/client engagement etc. These events are key determinant of success for organisations and as such, virtual meetings are now more important than ever.
As with a physical meeting, virtual meetings come with its own unique challenges. Top on the list is the high probability of participants being distracted.
The challenge of keeping everyone participating during a meeting isn’t unique to virtual meetings but can be more of a challenge during virtual meetings simply because of the dynamics of such meetings. Unlike a physical meeting, participants usually connect from different geographical locations, sometimes different time zones, and from different environments. These dynamics is what makes virtual meetings unique and relevant with current situations but provide so much flexibility and independence to participants that when not appropriately managed, can lead to participants who are only present but not participating.
At Rhizome, a good number of our business engagements have been happening virtually. We now share with you some of the tips we have learnt on how to keep participants in a virtual meeting alive.
Don’t just dive in
Going straight into the business for the day may be a good thing for physical meetings especially when time isn’t a friend. This can be bad for virtual meetings. Diving straight into the main focus for the meeting may set the ground for inactive participants to flourish.
A good way is to always start by catching up or participants introduction. For virtual meetings with participants who are just meeting themselves for the first time, a formal introduction is a good way to ensure everyone is present and carried along. For meetings among familiar teams, catching up with everyone is always a good start. Participants can share a moment from their weekend.
Get participants to turn on their camera
When a participant’s camera is turned off, trust me, anything can be happening behind the scenes. To ensure full participation, get everyone to turn on their camera. This may not be feasible for large meetings. However, for smaller meetings it is advised to get participants to turn on their camera to encourage full participation.
Set ground rules
As earlier stated, the flexibility offered by virtual meetings can become our undoing if not properly managed. A good way is to set ground rules to help participants fully participate. Some examples are:
- All phones on silent or no phone pressing
Asking questions is a good way to ensure people in a virtual meeting are truly participating. On some occasions, you only get the same set of people responding to your questions. This may be a strong indication others are not following. You may want to direct your questions to specific participants to ensure they are following.
Beyond just asking a question, you may want to be more direct instead. “Hey James. What do you think about the strategy just discussed?”