It’s safe to say that remote, virtual meetings are here to stay. But remote meetings come with added challenges. Not being in the same room means that participants are left with only a few cues to know if their point was heard and understood by everyone else.
Getting a remote meeting started can go easier when you toss in some virtual ice breakers, just like breaking the ice at an office get-together loosens people up before embarking on a new project.
It’s estimated that 25% of people in America will be working from remote in 2021, according to research by Upwork. The “Future of Workforce Pulse Report” also indicates 36.2 million individuals will be working from home by 2025, representing an uptick of 87%.
Not only are you holding regular meetings with staff that used to be conducted in person, you may be relying on new freelancers, consultants, or vendors who have never set foot in your physical offices. That’s an approach that allows many enterprises to remain nimble and build efficient teams. This is especially the case when the local talent pool doesn’t meet their hiring needs.
This is leading managers to adopt new approaches to make virtual meetings more interactive. Anyone who sits in a remote meeting should add three topics to their remote meeting agenda for added clarity:
- Initiate Personal Check-ins
- Take Longer Pauses for Questions or Clarification
- Verify Everyone’s on the Same Page for Action Items and Follow-up
Initiate Personal Check-ins
Establishing norms for virtual meetings is essential for getting them off to a great start. This is why personal check-ins are so valuable. Often, remote meetings take place with people who don’t live in the same geographic area.
But even if they are in the same region, remote and hybrid teams aren’t typically given the same opportunities to make personal connections and friendships with others. To offset this, take a brief moment at the start of each virtual meeting and ask how others are doing.
Find out if anyone got up to anything fun over the weekend, or look around to see who got a haircut. These personal moments can go a long way to engaging team members and developing strong working relationships. The idle chitchat that we engage in after bumping into people in the hallways at work, for example, is part of the social glue that holds us all together.
Cohesion is lost when people no longer encounter each other randomly on the way to picking up a snack or heading over to the printer. But we can build in some more personal touches by regularly checking in with one another, thanks to virtual meeting tools, like those developed by Docket.
However, just as when you’re holding meetings in-person, don’t let personal anecdotes dominate the meeting. Whoever’s leading the team building activities for conference calls will soon shift the discussion to the first agenda item.
Take Longer Pauses for Questions or Clarification
It’s not natural to have lags and wait times when participating in a normal, face-to-face discussion. When we use desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones to hold meetings, conversations can become awkward, with some inevitable interruptions due to technical difficulties. What’s more, the odd feeling of not being present with others can be a little off-putting and discourages participation.
When you’re first learning how to engage participants in virtual meetings, you’ll discover how important it is to allow for pauses and some silence. Take extra time at the end of important points or topics to ask if anyone has questions, and wait longer than is comfortable. This may seem counter-intuitive when the goal is to figure out how to make virtual meetings more interactive. But it actually works in your favor.
Consider that someone may have a question but needs another second or two to find the wording. Moving too quickly in a remote environment invites mistaken assumptions that can set your team off course. Pausing for questions can also increase engagement. As part of your virtual meeting etiquette, allow for plenty of pauses and make sure to encourage calls for clarity. When the look on someone’s face indicates confusion, it’s time to pause and go over the last details to see where the problem lies.
Verify Everyone’s on the Same Page for Action Items and Follow-up
Take it for granted that we’re not quite as synced up during virtual meetings as we are in person. It’s good to double-check at the end of these encounters that everyone shares the same understanding of what happened and what’s next. At this point, asking people to participate in virtual meetings is solved by asking them to verify their marching orders.
So, before you end the remote meeting, be sure each participant knows what next steps they are responsible for. A quick round-robin recap can help to maintain alignment for remote and hybrid teams.
Better Remote Meetings for Improved Work Flow and Collaboration
Establishing norms for virtual meetings and planning on virtual ice breakers to facilitate these meetings should be a top priority for your organization.
Addressing these three topics in all of your remote meetings should put you in a better position going forward. It’s easy to see the value of beginning remote meetings with personal check-ins to see how everyone is doing, making sure to allow for pauses in case clarification is needed or for accommodating new questions.
Finishing these virtual meetings by reinforcing that everyone knows what’s expected of them next is your best way to ensure successful collaboration remotely.