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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Gredeson

(Starting Guide on) Setting up Virtual Meetings

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

These days more and more work is moving away from the traditional brick and mortar office to a virtual space. It’s normal for work teams to be made of people who rarely, if ever, see one another in person. This is all thanks to innovations in virtual meetings. These kinds of meetings let people working on the same project have more flexibility with their time. This can mean that people still have effective and impactful meetings despite differences in geography or availability.

With so many advantages, the virtual meeting is quickly becoming an indispensable part of project management. All of which begs the question,

How Do You Set Up a Virtual Meeting Successfully?

The very first thing that you have to consider for a virtual meeting is exactly what your needs are. Figuring out exactly what information you actually need to convey and share in a meeting can give you an immediate understanding on how you should set things up. Every meeting will have its own set of goals and requirements with some meetings needing more than others. Moreover, there are many kinds of virtual meetings.

The most basic kind of virtual meeting is an old fashioned conference call. This style of meeting can seem pretty outdated in a world with file sharing and Skype calls, but if the situation only needs people to talk to each other then there’s no reason to add in anything more. It can also be the best option if anyone in the meeting has unstable wifi and you need to guarantee everyone can at least hear what is spoken.

Of course, as the needs of a meeting change, so should the tools and platform that it’s hosted on. Consider what information you need to access as well as what you need to share. The person running the meeting is also in charge of choosing the platform and should choose what best suits its particular needs and goals. For example, if you’re working off a shared document, then Google Docs is probably best. If you have a detailed oriented discussion of a topic, then Slack might be the best option so that people can have extended conversations about specifics.

If you’re leading any kind of virtual meeting, you have to test out the platform beforehand to make sure that it works for your needs. After that, you also need to make sure that all your participants have some familiarity both with the platform as well as the tool you plan to use.

Know When a Virtual Meeting is the Best Option

That being said, it’s also important to understand when a virtual meeting is truly necessary and when it could be replaced with something else. The best way to do this is to consider the purpose of the meeting itself. If people need to talk through a process or have any kind of dialogue to solve a problem, then holding a virtual meeting is going to be a lot more effective than emailing back and forth. However, if the main purpose is to inform people of new information, then consider cutting the fat. If something can be stated in an email then it saves time and productivity to just write it out. Don’t hold a virtual meeting for its own sake! Instead, save them for when they are really needed.

The Structure of a Virtual Meeting

Much of the same rules apply to virtual meetings as in regular, in-person ones. Just because people are meeting online doesn’t mean that a lot needs to change. If a session is running for a long time then consider having scheduled breaks. This works the same way for in-person meetings to keep the levels of energy and engagement high.

Think about setting up a document for how the meetings should be run for people to read beforehand. If it is one of the first virtual meetings that you’re running, send out an email explaining how the meeting will go. You can pair this with a clear agenda on the topics that will be discussed. These steps could familiarise your participants with the etiquette that you want to establish for the meeting.

The overall structure of an online meeting will be nearly the same as one in-person. Make sure that you set aside enough time on the agenda for each topic so that everything receives the right amount of attention. Also make sure to set aside enough time for questions and discussions. At the end, make sure everyone gets a job or task to do after the call. This makes them feel useful and understand what their role is in the team, as well as use the meeting in the most effective manner.

As with an in person meeting, you should have someone take notes for each meeting. These can be made into a short summary which is later sent out to everyone to make sure all information is known to everyone. With this you can also make it clear to each participant what actions need to happen next and who has which responsibility. Make sure that all of these ideas are written down in the meeting summary in a clear manner.

Being in a Virtual Meeting (coming soon…)

Are you looking for more ideas about how to set up your online meetings more effectively or to make them more productive? Here at plankton, we have run hundreds of virtual meetings and can work with you to make your work online more effective.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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