Are you dreading your next virtual meeting? The other participants probably are, too. Conference calls are no one’s favorite activity, but they don’t have to be the miserable experiences people often make them out to be.
As many jobs and teams become increasingly remote, video conference calls are an essential tool for conducting business and keeping everyone connected. If virtual meetings are typically slow, boring, and unproductive for you, here are a few things you can do so that your next conference call is awesome:
Tell everyone to come prepared
Email everyone well before the meeting to come prepared. Tell them what the purpose of the call is, what they need to read, research, and create. The meeting will flow much more smoothly if everyone has done their homework. This way, you won’t waste precious time filling people in on things they do not know, and you’ll spare someone embarrassment from not knowing what’s going on.
Use a high-quality platform
Virtual meetings can be sluggish or go haywire if the technology is not optimized for it. Every meeting seems to include when someone’s microphone stops working, someone’s image freezes, or a camera blacks out. There’s an awkward moment while everyone waits to see if the issue will resolve quickly or if more advanced solutions are necessary. Either way, dealing with technical issues throws a wrench in the meeting’s flow and wastes time.
While there are plenty of options available, such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Slack, other platforms offer a full range of features and additional services. For your next video conference, use a platform that boasts enhanced video and sound quality and maybe even a few other perks, such as operator-facilitated calls.
Have an agenda to follow
Plan an agenda that includes details like potential discussion topics, sharing information, objectives, and more. You should ensure everyone knows the meeting’s agenda well in advance, but it never hurts to repeat its outline at the beginning of the call (it helps get everyone in the right mindset).
You can use the agenda to fall back on in case the conversation fizzles out before you’ve accomplished what you were hoping to. It’s also helpful in keeping people on track; if participants begin to go on too many tangents or take the conversation directions unrelated to the call’s purpose, you can refer back to the agenda.
Make sure everyone knows each other
Conference calls can be incredibly awkward if not everyone knows who is participating. Video conferences are different from audio-only and usually include a list of everyone involved. Still, the list might be extended, and no one has time to scroll through before the meeting begins. Take a second to conduct a roll call and introduce individuals that the rest of the group may not know, such as clients and freelancers. You don’t want someone to say something that could embarrass them.
Engage in some small talk
Engage in small talk if you have time. Some individuals prefer to jump right to the point (and your call might include people outside your business), but if you have a small gathering of team members who are acquainted with one another, warm up to the business subjects with casual conversation. Initiating games or going in a virtual circle to answer a “would you rather” question prevents people from speaking too stiffly. Small talk is also advantageous for building personal relationships and strengthening connections if any of your team members or clients are fully remote.
Use names… lots of names
Even though video conferences are the closest thing technology can get to an in-person meeting, there is still a fundamental lack of eye contact (when you are in a virtual setting, do you look at the camera, or the screen? Everybody is always looking slightly downward). The result is that it’s sometimes unclear when someone is finished speaking or addressing an individual person or the whole group.
A practice that can compensate for this is using names as often as possible: “What do you think about this, Tyra?”, “Deshawn will now share last month’s report with us,” or “Do you have a question, Alyssa?” It’s also wise to introduce yourself each time, “Hi, Cassandra here, I’d like to add..” Names improve the conversational flow and reduce the risk of awkward moments.
Eliminate noise and other distractions
Where are you joining the meeting from? Make sure you have a well-lit environment free of clutter and distracting elements so that people can focus on you, not what’s behind you (or what’s on your face). Find a quiet place to minimize the potential for loud noises that interrupt you when it’s your turn to speak (your mic should be on mute the rest of the time). Suggest that others do the same.
Conference calls don’t have to be miserable experiences; they can be beneficial tools for communicating across businesses. How do you try to make your virtual meetings awesome?