Virtual meetings have a reputation for being boring, hard to participate in, easy to fade into the background and less personal than in person meetings.
But those problems are really about how virtual meetings are often run. If you’re reading this guide, it means virtual meetings are a big part of your life, but don’t worry though- we’ve got your back. Here are a few ways to make your virtual meetings the envy of everyone around you.
Treat it like a meeting, not a lecture
It’s really easy to fall into the habit of talking at people instead of with them during a meeting. And a lot of us don’t even realize we’re doing it. This is a meeting - people are supposed to talk to each other, not sit in silence.
Avoiding the lecture
Don’t dictate. Crowdsource.
- Take advantage of the fact that Workplace’s poll posts let people add their own poll options. Two days before a team meeting, put the agenda in a poll post, ask the group to add their own agenda items and encourage them to vote for items they want to cover. Giving people a say in the agenda will make your meetings far more useful and give your team a say in what is covered.
Small groups talk more
As the number of people in a meeting gets larger, the number of people who are willing to speak up gets much smaller. So if you have a choice between one larger meeting covering a lot of topics or two meetings covering specific topics with fewer people, try to go with option 2. It gives more people a chance to speak up.
Chat is the best tool you’re not using
- If you want people to speak up in large meetings, have them use chat instead of unmuting. Train speakers to watch that chat and respond to the questions and comments in it and make sure they ask the attendees a few questions to answer in there too. In chat no one has to take turns to speak, and you’re not giving preference to just those who speak more. We also recommend Workchat to keep the conversation going after the meeting is over.
Don’t ignore the quiet ones
- If you notice someone has been silent for a while, be sure to ask them directly to share their opinion. It can give people the confidence to speak up and lets them know that they should. This is particularly true for newer people on the team. Newer people usually need a lot of encouragement to speak up and ask questions before they’ll do it in front of the group.
Maybe they're not shy, they're uncomfortable
If people aren’t talking, don’t assume it means they have nothing to say. Odds are they just don’t feel comfortable saying it. That’s not their problem - it’s yours. Use the tips below, and you’ll suddenly find a lot more people are speaking up.
Making people comfortable
Be proactive with names, pronouns, and pronunciations
- If you’re not sure what someone’s preferred name, pronounciation or pronouns are, check their Workplace profile, send them a private message before the meeting if possible or ask them at the beginning of the meeting. Make it a point to say their name out loud early in the meeting and to refer to them by their preferred pronouns early as well. It helps that person and the people around them avoid uncomfortable moments.
Let people know the rules
- Let people know how you prefer to run your meetings and share any rules you have around them - like using the raise hand feature or preferring people communicate via chat. And take time to plan how you’ll deal with some common situations like keeping people from dominating the conversation, getting quiet people to speak up, and handling suggestions you don’t agree with. Don’t try to figure it out in the moment.
Make them raise their hands
- People stop talking quickly if they’re being interrupted or if other people are dominating the conversation. Stop it before it starts by having people raise their (virtual) hand and wait to be called on before speaking. Everyone gets their turn to talk, there are no interruptions, and you’ll hear from more people.
Give people time to process
- If you’re going to ask your team for their opinions on big news or to make an important decision during a meeting, make sure they know about it beforehand. There are a lot of people who won’t share an opinion or who will immediately push back on suggestions if they haven’t had time to think things over first. Post the question in your team group a day or two before the meeting and ask everyone to think it over. You’ll find people have more to say when they’ve had more time to take in news.
Give yourself time to process
- If someone shares an opinion you don’t agree with, the worst thing you can do is immediately shoot it down. After people see you do that a few times, they’ll stop saying anything they think you might disagree with. Train yourself to follow up with a neutral question that gives them a chance to keep explaining to send the message that it’s okay to disagree. If you still have a strong reaction to it, ask for some time to think it over and get back to them in a day or two. It’s easy to regret responding immediately, but you’ll never regret giving yourself more time.
Let people hide their faces
- Comfortable people have more to offer in a meeting, and there are a lot of reasons why someone may be uncomfortable being on camera during a meeting. Make it a point to tell people it’s okay to be off camera and never ask them for explanations if they are. Forcing people to be uncomfortable in your meetings doesn’t help anyone.
Make your meetings about them
It’s easy to do things that make people feel excluded in your meetings without realizing it. The good news is that it’s also pretty easy to avoid making people feel excluded. You just have to make it a priority.
Making meetings about them
Schedule with people, not for them
- Before you schedule a meeting with someone in a different timezone, ask them for their preferred meeting times. If your team is spread out over different time zones, rotate the meeting times so everyone has at least some meetings that are at a reasonable hour for them.
- Don’t put surprise meetings on the calendar outside of someone's regular work hours (and ask for them if you don't know them). If you absolutely have to meet during those times, let them know in advance so they have time to move their schedule around.
Don’t forget people who can’t attend
- Record the meeting and share it as a post in your team group afterwards, tagging anyone who missed it. During the meeting have someone take notes in a post with the general information at the top and the follow up items listed below. Tag the people responsible for each item and have them comment on the post when they’re done so you can all keep track.
Be an accessibility rockstar
- If you’re leading a larger meeting, try to turn on live captioning for people with auditory issues and those who aren’t able to turn their volume up while they attend. Workplace Live has this feature built in. Workplace can also create captions for any video you upload and then translate the captions into several languages for you. #magic