The incredible thing about technology is that we are just as likely to be working with someone in a different office or even a different country as we are to be working with someone who sits at the desk next to us. This is why it is vital that everyone has a very good understanding of how to hold virtual project meetings and why they are a great idea and how to really make them work well for you. This is something that should be covered in good training courses for project managers.
Whilst the humble online meeting may already be a part of the everyday workflow of your team, you may not be using this time as efficiently as you could. Online meetings are a little bit tricker than in-person ones. After all, if someone thinks the meeting is done, then they will simply hang up and are gone. Our ultimate guide should give you some tips to help you hold better, more productive virtual project meetings.
Select the best online meeting tool
It seems obvious, but if you are not using the best meeting tool for your needs, then you may not be getting the best from your meetings. You want something that ensures that your online meetings run smoothly and efficiently. So ask yourself a few questions:
- What key functionality are you looking for from the virtual meeting tool? – do you need to see people’s reactions? Do you need to be able to work on something together? Do you need to show a presentation to everyone, or do you just need everyone to be present and take part?
- How many people will be in the meeting? Some tools are more effective for smaller numbers of people, whilst others work better for larger numbers
How does technology make virtual meetings more efficient
Technology can often be used to streamline processes and make the information that you want to share more accessible to the members of a team. It can also make people more focused. Good software will allow for things like screen-sharing and recording, things that can even make it unnecessary for team members to take notes, something which is often distracting.
The foundation for a successful virtual meeting
Working with people in person means that there are often chances for idle chit-chat, the sort of thing that allows you to connect with the person rather than just the team member. These are the things that make it easier for your team to interact during meetings. When a team work remotely, they do not have these opportunities.
A “digital watercooler” is the next best thing to being able to get to know team members so create a space where your team can chat outside of meetings. A study found that when workers share funny stories about themselves with their team, they have more ideas in meetings.
When you are working with people in other countries, it is understandable that you could find it harder to create meeting times that work for everyone. So make a note of all the time zones that you are looking at and try to schedule meetings at a time that works for everyone. This may mean that your meetings are at the very beginning or end of the day in order to accommodate everyone.
Create an agenda
The experts at Parallel Project Management Training remind project managers that an agenda for a meeting is just as important for virtual meetings as it is for face-to-face ones. They suggest taking some time before your meeting to set up an agenda, and check if anyone within the team has anything that needs to be added. You will also want to make sure you know who will be attending and that you have any relevant documents ready to share.
Whilst you may be holding your meeting in a different way, it should still follow a similar format. Virtually might seem like a more casual way of holding a meeting, but it shouldn’t be treated as such.
Online meeting etiquette
Where virtual meetings can differ is in the way in which they take place. However, there are still some important etiquette practises to consider:
- Do introduce everyone and offer them a chance to contribute
- Do not stare at your phone whilst others are talking
- Don’t interrupt
- Check all technology beforehand
- Be prepared
- Do not do other work whilst taking part in a meeting
- Turn off notifications to avoid distractions
- Ensure everyone is in a quiet area, so there are no external distractions
The rules are quite simple, its basic common courtesy. Everyone attending a meeting virtually wants to feel that they are respected, seen and heard in much the same way as face-to-face.
Keep everyone engaged
Virtual meetings are harder, so make sure that you keep everyone engaged from the beginning of the meeting to the end.
Start with a bit of friendly interaction to ensure that everyone is engaged. Then you can jump into your meeting agenda. If your team are new, have them introduce themselves. It’s always nice to put a face to a name, and this can really help to break the tensions. You could also assign each person attending the meeting a job. This will give them a clear purpose during the meeting; these fall into three categories: interactive, straightforward and frequent.
Make sure that you include any introverts in your team into the remote meeting, it is the role of the project manager to ensure that every member of the team feels able to contribute to a virtual meeting.
Follow up on the meeting
Finally, if you want your meeting to be the most effective, it can be then make sure that you follow up on the things that you cover. There might be things that you need to chase up, delegate or even work out the solutions for in order to have your next meeting.
Check in with your team as well and see if they have any feedback on the meeting, perhaps there are things that were not covered that they feel need to be addressed at the next meeting.