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Run a Great Virtual Meeting With These 5 Best Practices

Run a Great Virtual Meeting With These 5 Best Practices

By now, Philippine workplaces have adapted to virtual meetings. Once a novelty, they’re now a workplace staple. Well-run virtual meetings are now essential to your teams’ productivity.

Fortunately, by now we’ve found some virtual meeting facilitation best practices. Share them with your team, to make your virtual meetings more professional, fruitful and efficient for all.

How do you hold an effective virtual meeting?

Before we can learn how to facilitate effective virtual meetings, we also need to understand its common challenges. Hybrid work has given rise to the concept of “proximity bias.” This is when remote employees worry that colleagues who regularly work onsite have an advantage in promotions, high-profile assignments, etc. 

In a 2022 survey of more than 1,100 enterprise workers in the US, the makers of presentation tool Prezi found that 66% of respondents believed that proximity bias existed in their company. Under those circumstances, the sight of a cohesive onsite group during a hybrid meeting can make remote employees feel isolated or forgotten.

We’re all too familiar with the pitfalls of virtual meetings. Tech glitches, employees multitasking then asking repetitive questions, so-called “zoom fatigue.” But since we’re aware of these, we can anticipate and eliminate them with a little pre-meeting strategy.

1. Pre-meeting: how to join, virtual meeting etiquette and pre-reading

There may be those in your audience less familiar with your platform (ie Zoom, Teams, Google Meet). Send ahead instructions for how to join, and FAQs. Make all materials simple, visual and easy to understand.

Start with the basics of virtual etiquette. People engage with faces. Ask everyone to stay on-cam, with mics on mute. Inform your attendees of any time limits or “taking turns” for speakers, and remind them that multitasking is not routine. 

Do the same for digital whiteboards, brainstorming tools or other new input your attendees may need in order to participate in the meeting.

New tools can be intimidating. Give attendees time to practice them at their own pace. If needed, assign a colleague to reach out privately a few days before to help individuals get up to speed.

If applicable, send a pre-read document as well, with all relevant background information. They can also refer to this during the meeting itself.

2. Prioritize content and meeting goals. Focus on what the group must do, learn or decide together, and unload everything else.

Despite their limited time, virtual meetings can easily go off track. To prevent that, identify the key points that require input from the whole group. Structure your meeting around that, and set a goal to be achieved so everyone is aligned.  

For example, a long, complex presentation does not have to be given – and absorbed – during the meeting. It can be pre-recorded and viewed ahead, so that the meeting is reserved for comments, group collaboration or direct interactions with the speaker. Small groups can complete exercises or brainstorm, and present their ideas to the meeting.

Whatever pre-work you can arrange, send it far ahead for people to give it the thought it deserves. Be clear what assignments are expected to be completed before meeting day, and that it is not optional. (There will always be people who don’t do the work, but at least you’ll have a clear basis to call them out.) You can send a reminder email a few days before.

People multitask during meetings – virtual or not – because the meeting feels repetitive, irrelevant or like a waste of their time. Make your meeting worth their full attention. 

3. Rehearse and test.

Check all of your tech. Do a full run-through of breakout rooms, screen sharing, video playing etc., especially if either you or a key speaker are dialing in from a new location. If you’re introducing a new tool or interactive component, try it ahead of time with a smaller group.

In a hybrid meeting, set up large screens – not just laptop monitors – in the meeting room, so that onsite and remote groups feel equal in the discussion. The onsite group should be able to see if remote attendees are raising their hands or trying to speak.

Have two co-facilitators – one each for the onsite group and for the remote attendees. They should watch the chat box to provide tech support and answer side chatter.

Virtual Meeting Proper

4. Use your tools: ice breakers, activities, mini-breaks and visuals

If the group is new to one another, it’s part of your work as facilitator to put them at ease. 

Icebreakers have gotten a bad rap, but they quickly help people to connect with one another. Include a quick ice breaker in the schedule. If games don’t suit the occasion, start with a lighthearted “what if” related to the subject of your meeting, for example “If you could make any employee benefit in the world, what would it be?” 

Once the meeting is underway, our virtual attention spans are even shorter than our face-to-face ones. Use visuals whenever possible. Create a quiz, have them write down and share their responses, ask them to comment in the chat or vote in an instant online poll. 

If your meeting is long, remember to build in five-minute stretching and exercise breaks.

5. Prevent “proximity bias” and make sure everyone gets to speak

Filipinos can be reluctant to speak up in meetings, especially in an unfamiliar group. This makes it easy for talkative attendees to turn your meeting into a one-man show.. Be ready to politely but firmly wrap up their questions, and to draw out shy participants by asking them directly if needed. 

This is all the more true in a hybrid meeting set-up. The onsite groups are physically together, with their own dynamics and non-verbal cues, and they can forget the remote attendees are there too.  

How can you level the playing field, and draw remote attendees into the meeting? 

  • Make sure each breakout room group is a mix of both.

  • In large discussions, let remote attendees answer first, or alternate between on- and offsite just as you would around a table.

  • You can also assign each remote attendee an onsite “buddy”, whose task is to make sure their remote counterpart’s voice is literally heard.

Here’s another important factor: wherever the leader is, that will be the center of your meeting. Encourage your decision makers to attend alternately onsite and off. By doing this, they send a clear signal that remote and onsite are equal, and that everyone can make valuable contributions from anywhere.

When facilitated strategically, virtual meetings need not be a chore. They can be important tools to keep employees engaged, morale high, and offsite and onsite teams well integrated and working as one. Now, all you have to do is learn to run one on your own!

If you found this helpful, explore Jobstreet.ph for more actionable knowledge and real-life insights for the Filipino workplace. Register now on Jobstreet and find your next MVPs with Talent Search.

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