Working remotely has been both a challenge and an opportunity for workers around the globe. For some leaders the ability to connect with their colleagues right from the comfort of their home offices appears to be a dream come true. While other leaders are missing the in-person camaraderie and spontaneous connections. Whichever side you fall, there is definitely one thing in common for all leaders- not all virtual calls are equal. For organizations and teams to stay afloat, much depends on the way they meet and work together. That leads to understanding how to conduct a productive virtual call or meeting.
What are the sights and sounds of a well-run virtual call?
1. Create A Clear Agenda
As with any meeting and especially with a virtual meeting, it is critical to have a prepared agenda. Team members and colleagues who will be part of the call should be consulted ahead of time for input into the agenda. All areas that the meeting will focus on should be carefully weighed as to whether they need to be part of that particular meeting.
An agenda serves as the compass for the virtual call and needs to include:
- Purpose for meeting.
- Items to be shared including who will present.
- Timeframes for discussion of each item.
- Next steps to be taken and by whom.
2. Invite Only Necessary Participants
Probably the most important question a leader should ask before conducting a virtual call is: “Who needs to attend this meeting and who doesn’t?” The latter part of “who doesn’t” is just as essential to consider in order to keep the participant level manageable and relevant. With so many remote calls today, it is important for leaders to be aware and respectful of everyone’s time. If a colleague’s attendance isn’t essential, then do the right thing and leave them out of the invite.
3. Identify Skilled Facilitator
A key ingredient for a well-run virtual call is a strong facilitator who can keep the meeting moving with everyone engaged. Easier said than done if the team or organization doesn’t have a skilled facilitator. There also needs to be a fair recognition of participants so that no one person monopolizes the call. So here are some strategies a facilitator can use to be impactful:
- Set up ground rules at the beginning of the call so everyone knows what to expect.
- Begin with warm introductions and ask a fun question for people to answer. Of course this is not as doable with larger groups, so maybe use the chat box.
- Begin and end on time.
- Stick with the agenda and timeframes. If the discussion goes in a different direction put the information on a parking lot to discuss later.
- Thank everyone for coming and contributing.
4. Practice Respectful Communication
Each participant needs to remember that the only way to share ideas and be heard is to use open, direct and respectful communication. I have been on virtual calls where the discussion has gotten so heated that the purpose of the call was totally lost. Before offering an opinion, think about the word choice. Ask yourself if you are being clear and non-judgmental in the way you are sharing. Stick with the facts and never attack your colleagues. Own your suggestions by using “I” messages.
5. Summarize and Follow-Up
The final step in assuring a successful well-run virtual call is making sure that the participants leave with a clear understanding of the follow-up. Often this piece is omitted which results in frustrated attendees. What I like to do before ending a virtual meeting I am leading is:
- Summarize the main accomplishments of the call.
- Make sure each person knows what they need to do for follow-up with timeframes.
- Ask for any final questions.
- Express gratitude for being in the virtual call and participating.
What additional sights and sounds have you experienced on a well-run virtual call?