Digital meetings can be challenging, but with a bit of practice and the proper tools they can be as effective and efficient as they’re energizing.
It is difficult to hold a digital meeting. Or, rather, it’s difficult to hold digital meetings that are actually great, and even more so when the transition from physical to digital meetings happens quickly. So, how should you think to make sure that the next meeting you hold is truly great, and leaves participants with more energy than they had before? A large question, but one that Harvard Business Review has a few answers for, and that was shared in an article of theirs. Answers that we’ve gathered, combined, and discussed below:
1: Use video…but allow participants to only do audio if necessary
As we’ve talked about before, video is a good way to increase understanding and empathy, and HBR also underline just how much of a difference video can make – explaining that video can make meetings more personal, and play a large role in engagement levels. Especially if you also ensure that participants are seated close to their cameras and are clearly visible, which can ” help to recreate the intimacy of an in-person meeting.
That said, HBR also underline that it should be ok for participants to participate with audio only, if they, for example, are experiencing a bad connection. Something that further implies the importance of being considerate of the different situations participants are in, and making sure that as many as possible are (and feel) included.
In other words, it will be beneficial to hold digital meetings where you encourage the use of video, but to also understand and accept if it isn’t possible at this time.
2: Test the technology
For the meeting to really be efficient, it’s a good idea to test and verify the technical aspects before the meeting takes place – and to ask participants to do the same. To understand the tool(s) you’re using, and ensure that everyone can smoothly join and interact in the meeting, will here be an important factor for success (where we also see that it can be beneficial to check external, technological devices and functions, and ensure that cameras and network are functional, and that no firewall is preventing participants from joining the meeting).
3: Plan ahead and make presentations shorter
HBR underlines the importance of setting meeting goals ahead of time, of using an agenda and sharing relevant material before the meeting starts. Furthermore, they emphasize that ”meetings should be discussions”, which entails that presentations that are kept short and background information that is handed out by presentors before the presentation starts. This way, there will be less one-way communication, which gives you a chance to spend more time on discussion.
HBR also suggest that presenters can share their screen during presentations, as a simple way of guiding participants forward and making sure that everyone follows along.
4: Ask questions and involve participants
When we’re separated and meeting digitally, it is even more important to ask questions. In order to check how participants are doing, and encourage a more personal connection. To shine a light on individual participants (now and then, giving a heads up before the fact) can also work as a way to increase interaction. Which, for example, can mean going around the virtual table – so that everyone gets to speak their mind.
5: Have someone lead the meeting
To lead and moderate a digital meeting can oftentimes be more difficult than when everyone’s gathered in the same physical room. With this, it can make a huge difference to have someone with the dedicated task of leading the meeting forward. Someone who, for example, can ”use a polling system to “take the pulse” of the group on certain questions and ensure that all voices are heard. “ This meeting leader should also be acquainted with the tool you’re using, so that they can answer any questions that come up.
6: Get used to the digital format
”Meeting virtually is a learned behavior” HBR says, and explain that “…you’ll be amazed how much you can get out of it once you and your team begin to be comfortable working this way”. This can, however, require some practice, which may come in the form of an internal meeting that is then evaluated together. So that you can see what went well and what should be improved upon, in order to get used to this new way of meeting.
In the same way, it can be a good idea to discuss the harder questions virtually as well – despite the fact that these may be better suited for the next physical meeting that takes place. This way, you can make sure that the questions are discussed in time (as we’re not yet sure when we will meet physically again), and adapt to this new way of interacting. After all, you can read the room even when the room is virtual – especially if you have taken the first of these tips to heart and made sure everyone’s faces/expressions are clearly visible, and even more so if you’ve put in the work and practiced.
7: Ask for feedback
As you probably know, feedback is Alpha and Omega for a lot of activities, including digital meetings. Where you may use the tools available to you, asking for feedback throughout – or after – the meeting. Something that can give you a sense of how participants are doing, and how they feel about the points you’ve discussed. And, if you want to take it to the next level, why not ask a few questions on how they experienced the meeting? That way you can make the proper adjustments, and make the meeting even better the next time.
The digital meeting is the new normal; a new standard that may take time getting used to. But, with a little bit of practice, the right tools and some helpful tips to keep in mind, they can actually be truly great. Leaving participants with more energy than when they came into the meeting, entirely ready to tackle the tasks at hand.