How to Make the Most out of Virtual Meetings
What is the first thing that occurred to you when government declared lockdown?
There must have been a slight pinch of tension, together with some mild happiness, for you could now get to spend time at home and connect to your office mates- only through meetings or rather Virtual meetings.
At the same time, you might have wondered who would finish those tasks and deal with the entire operation from home.
I mean, work from home culture was already prevalent and nothing new.
However, this time, it was imposed on us instead of being a choice. Global lockdown happened, and people had no other option but to resort to remote working.
Even the tiniest bit of work was shifted to home, but as they say, everything comes with its own share of fors and againsts.
So, with the changing circumstances comes a change in working styles. Rahul’s stint as a remote worker 7 years back is no longer seen as outrageous and revolutionary.
Companies and employees have adapted remote working or working from home to a great extent.
Online meetings are famous or rather infamous for creating problems in seamless remote working experience. There is more than one problem, and it becomes difficult for employers to handle all of these problems at once.
So, what’s the way out? How do we solve these problems?
We believe that the key to finding an optimal solution is to understand the problem first.
There are countless examples of how people jump onto solutions without understanding the problem.
So let’s look at a few common problems that hinder virtual meetings and their solutions
1. Technical Difficulties
Isn’t your entire day fully packed up with meetings?
Assumably. When you are stuck at home and have to operate from there, communication is virtually possible.
Virtual meetings are smooth as long as you are well-equipped with their requirements. Even then, certain technical glitches can arise.
However, these problems come with their solutions.
If you are the one hosting the meetings, you have to make sure, every attendee is well-resourced, and the meetings would hold without any trouble.
Virtual meetings call for a good internet connection along with a properly functioning system.
As a result, doing a proper assessment of the systems at every employee’s disposal should be the first step.
Doing so, it would be easy to understand if the system is not workable enough. In that case, the office's systems could come to the aid.
Using the office’s device serves the purpose of efficient machines and saves the employees from distractions from notifications and what-nots they are likely to stumble upon when working from their workstations.
With wifi connection being more affordable than ever, having poor wifi is not a good excuse. However, if the problem still persists, the company could provide its employees with assistance, in the form of reimbursement at the end of every month.
Fortunately, we can do a lot to solve technical problems.
2. Excessive meetings
In the current scenario, where everyone is working remotely, the frequency of meetings has taken a high toll.
Since personal meetings are not possible at present, every bit of communication is taking place over FaceTime applications.
And, to share tasks and discuss the flow of work, meetings became necessary, not to mention the trust issues developed in managers as they are not able to monitor their employees efficiently from a distant place.
All these factors have led to a rapid increase in virtual meetings.
When meetings are virtual, almost everyone tends to agree to participate and these can create certain inconveniences.
Especially, for teams who need to be interactive enough to carry on their work.
Because, connection and bonding are hard to sustain when it is virtually.
The meetings should be conducted in a way that it ends with fulfilling results.
Prior to the meeting, every attendee should be done with their routine activities so that they are ready to attend it with full concentration.
The meeting moments should be straightforward and to the point. One shall not waste time on dull details.
The agendas should be circulated among the attendees one day before the meeting so that they can stick to it and prepare themselves accordingly.
If you are the one presenting something, use document sharing, as made available by these apps, so that people are able to follow along.
If needed, take breaks for 1-2 minutes.
3. Video conferencing etiquette
This is one of those grey areas where people usually don’t like to be too vocal. With the new age companies being uber cool in their approach towards workplace etiquette, it might get tricky to dictate any strict terms for the employees.
Having said that, when the employees are munching on the toast in pajamas during the video conference, it is generally an indication that they are not taking the meeting seriously.
This encourages even the more dedicated employees to slack off from time to time.
Eventually, there is a possibility of employees avoiding the meeting altogether.
This problem has a pretty easy fix, but it requires one to follow certain rules. The approach for a successful virtual meeting should be the same, one would take during face to face meetings.
Dress code plays an important role in this. All the teammates, even if not formal, should be dressed in a presentable manner.
Some more advisable qualities can be-
- Speaking courteously with others
- Keeping body movement minimum to avoid any motion blur
- Make eye contact with the attendees, i.e. with the camera
4. Lack of body language
What is one advantage of meetings in person?
You get to observe and acquire knowledge about what the other person is thinking or how they are reacting, just from their body language and expressions.
But when you are conversing virtually, the situation is vaguer.
While in a normal meeting, the body language helps our brain to attach emotions to them.
It is way differenet when the meeting is set in a virtual setting.
As here, we are unable to obtain any information, for our brain cannot retain those virtual interactions.
As a result, our brain fails to decode the intent or consolidate memories.
Thereby, leading to a wide communication gap.
The solution to the above mentioned problem is quite easy.
All you have to do is ensure every attendee uses a good HD video quality format whenever there is a meeting.
Apart from this, keep specific hours fixed for the meetings. Hours when the network speed is at its peak to avoid any video connection issues.
One should also have frequent video chats with teammates to prevent any kind of awkwardness.
Have group chats, if necessary.
Once the employees are well-informed about one another, they will freely interact among themselves. And, you can just keep the communication going.
5. Engaging employees
One of the most challenging aspects of a virtual meeting is to keep tabs on who is paying attention and who is not.
With each attendee turning their camera off during the meetings, it becomes extremely difficult to figure out if they are fully engrossed in the meeting or their mind has gone on a little walk to someplace else.
Although, it is quite normal for people to divert their attention and end up checking their notifications in between virtual meetings.
There is not much anyone can do about it, virtually.
It is always better to start a meeting with a general introduction. This acts as an ice breaker and gets everyone involved before the actual meeting begins. This adds a social element to the otherwise boring real-time online meetings.
Besides, keeping the camera on can do some good but employess should be willing to do that by choice.
If anyone has issues with showing their background, they can always use those background themes provided by the virtual meeting apps.
Additionally, there should be a tone set for these meetings, so that every attendee behaves according to standard meeting norms.
Making the meetings interactive is very important, which keeps every employee in loop and engaged.
In the same setting, you can also organize some virtual team building activities for revitalizing their team spirit.
Specific questions and feedback can be asked to all the attendees, motivating them to participate actively.
6. Flow of distractions
The best part of remote meetings is that they can be conducted from anywhere.
And, the worst part of virtual meetings is that they can be conducted from anywhere.
While you have the luxury of conducting virtual meetings from anywhere, things often go haywire when conducted from the wrong places.
Virtual meetings are, most times, obstructed due to unpleasant background noise. Distractions from family members, pets, and the traffic near your house are very common in virtual meetings.
Distractions often derail the tenacity and focus of the meeting. Sure some distractions can be quite funny (your toddler walking into the room) and can bring in a few waves of laughter to take the edge off.
But more often than not, distractions often diminish the focus of the group.
Together with embarrassment, it breaks the momentum of the meeting.
Aiming to prevent such a distraction from occurring, it’s better to find a quiet place for the meeting.
Also, you should try and minimize the duration of your meeting. It is a good idea to finish the meeting within 30 minutes.
A short meeting helps your employees to find a quiet spot in their home without any distractions for a short period of time.
The longer the duration, the more opportunities for distractions to creep into the meeting.
There are several virtual meeting tools available, one of which is a mute button. The mute button helps to hold a diversion-free meeting.
Having a consensus on keeping the devices on mute when they are not speaking, during conference calls, is a smart choice.
The voices of people cannot clash and a proper discipline follows.
Therefore, everyone should be on mute until they are asked to contribute their ideas or feedback.
There are also options of chats and emoticon reactions which people can use when they want to participate without having to talk.
This way, you can reduce a lot of background noise and provide a seamless video conferencing experience.
A little bit of planning and discipline is all you need.
In a general meeting, getting your point across is not that hard. You can just put your point, and it is transparent.
But, in case of virtual meetings, the situation is reversed. You can deliver one thing and the attendees can receive it differently.
One more important thing to consider is that most video meetings lag about 2-3 seconds.
Your implications might get lost in the haphazard universe of video conferencing applications.
You may even miss a point or two.
It leads to a wide range of miscommunication.
On the face of such a situation, another tool can come to the rescue- the share screen tool.
If you are conducting a meeting, you have to make sure it is fruitful, and that you are able to make your point.
This is where screen sharing helps.
You make a presentation and explain the points in the meeting.
However, despite just speaking, make use of the visual aid tool. You can directly turn the screen sharing feature on and show the points to attendees, for them to even note it down.
Doing so, your points would have more weight and clarity.
It would be interesting and comprehensible. If anybody wants a re-run, they can even screen record your presentation.
Because of the time lag, it also becomes absolutely necessary that the employees speak and approach the meetings in a bit slower fashion for better clarity.
Furthermore, everyone can put their comments wherever required, since they would pen it all down and therefore, remember the key points.
What is the best video conferencing software?
With the new era being involved in virtual meetings on a daily basis, we hear about a brand new software getting launched, every other day.
Ever since lockdown happened, people could not help but connect to their colleagues through virtual meetings.
The office shifted to home and the meeting rooms moved to computers and cellphones.
Every work is discussed virtually.
And that was the moment when the not-so-hyped video conferencing softwares became a sensation and demand for them, heightened, overnight.
However, all these application have their pros and cons and likewise, each one of them possesses some features which are better than the other.
Which video conferencing software do you use?
Now, let us talk about 5 of the most popular video conferencing softwares in use, today.
The most convenient software in town, so as they say.
Zoom became one of the most trending virtual meeting tool for it possessed great features.
Pros: Access to 100 people in one free session ; customizable backgrounds
Cons: Maximum duration of 40 minutes under free plan
2. Google Hangouts
The simplest interface, from the look of it.
Google Hangouts does not talk a big game when it comes to features but it usually comes in handy and can be used either in a web browser or via apps.
Pros: Free & easy to use
Cons: Maximum 10 people in one meeting
3. Google Meet
If you are not convinced enough with Google Hangouts and are in need of more features, Google Meet is your go-to option.
Google Meet offers a lot of facilities one desires for, to organize video conferences.
Pros: Capacity of 100 attendees
Cons: Lack of advanced features
The online meeting software which goes way back to ancient times.
Skype is still considered to be one of the most powerful in the virtual meeting business. Not to mention everyone is familiar with it.
Pros: Unlimited meeting duration
Cons: Upto 50 people in a free meeting session
A software for entirely business purposes.
As much as Skype and Zoom enables anyone to organize a meet, GoToMeeting strictly focuses on business.
Pros: Professional & business-orineted
Cons: No free version, only a free trial; Expensive
There are many others and various new softwares entering the market with each passing day.
You just got to do your research and go for the best.
Making virtual meetings click is a tall task. Even if you do take care of everything, there is a possibility of things going south.
For eg, what if some of your employees are operating from a different time zone? What if your new employees don’t have a good idea about your products and services?
Problems are bound to arise even if you keep track of everything.
But, when you keep on solving problems effectively, you get an idea of how to deal with any new kind of problems.