Virtual meetings have become a reality for many of us. As the programs coordinator at the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, I’m responsible for arranging and coordinating many of our meetings with external partners. The abrupt shift to online collaboration has inspired me to uncover what it takes to make a virtual convening as interactive and successful as in-person convenings.
Here are some best practices our team has implemented to help these virtual meetings run smoothly (we use Zoom, but these tips can be used on just about any virtual meeting platform):
Send out a Zoom ‘how-to’ guide to all attendees prior to the meeting. Zoom is experiencing higher usage than ever, many of which are new users. Providing a quick guide to Zoom may alleviate potential tech issues during the meeting.
Along with the basics, the guide encourages webcam participation to help achieve some level of face-to-face interaction.
Open by acknowledging the conditions in which we find ourselves doing a virtual meeting. This could be a brief sentence or quote such as this one from author and research professor Brene Brown:
- “This pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s choose each other.”
Set expectations at the beginning of the meeting.
- Join via webcam when possible
- Use mute except to talk
- If someone freezes, move on and come back to them once their connection is reestablished
- Plug laptops or phones into a power source for longer meetings
- Use gallery view (for collaborations) or speaker view (for presentations)
To maximize participation:
- Call on people by name
- Utilize the chat box for larger groups
- Enable nonverbal feedback feature on Zoom (raise hand, speed up, slow down, go back, thumbs up, thumbs down, etc.)
- This five-finger exercise (5 fingers = totally agree, 0 fingers = totally disagree) is useful
- Use Zoom polls, whiteboard or annotation features
- Create breakout rooms for small-group discussions
Keep It short and sweet
Shorter is often better for virtual meetings. Consider sending out pre-work (a survey, pre-reading, shared document, etc.) for attendees to complete ahead of time to keep the meeting duration to a minimum.
Assign a cohost
Cohosts are helpful for managing groups over 10 people.
Always have a backup plan
Provide a direct-call number if participants experience technical difficulties.
I hope these tips help make your virtual meetings more productive and enjoyable. I’d love your feedback. Please email me with your thoughts and any virtual meeting tips you suggest.