Hosting a successful meeting virtually

In-person meetings with teams, clients, or vendors can be cancelled for days — or even weeks — as businesses scramble to shield workers from the spreading coronavirus with travel bans and remote job arrangements.

This, though, would not have to be the case. Using basic meeting best practices and easy-to-use, cheap technologies, virtual meetings — including impromptu ones caused by concerns of a contagion — can be run more efficiently.

1. Make use of film. Use video conferencing instead of conventional conference dial-ins to help participants feel like they’re together at the same meeting. Logitech bar, Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting are examples of technologies that can help personalize the dialogue and keep participants involved.

2. Have an audio dial-in alternative at all times. Video conferencing has a lot of potential, but it requires a good internet link, which isn’t always possible. People must be able to interact through audio, but it must be made clear that video-first is the new standard.

3. Perform a pre-testing of the technology. Nothing destroys excitement in a conference like a 15-minute wait because people need to update apps, the recording isn’t working, and so on. All attendees can test the technology before a simulated meeting to ensure they are familiar with the major features. Note that discussions with suppliers or customers can necessitate your team being acquainted with various software packages.

4. Make sure faces can be seen. Where people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language, video conferences are more successful. To better replicate the intimacy of an in-person meeting, have people sit next to their webcam.

5. Stick to the fundamentals when it comes to meetings. Set simple expectations before the discussion and, if possible, submit a pre-read. Use an agenda during the meeting, create meeting ground rules, take breaks, and explicitly explain next steps (including pacing and accountability) after each section and at the end.

6. Keep the duration of your presentation to a minimum. Only a long presentation during a simulated conference is worse than a long presentation in person. Discussions should be the focus of meetings. Prior to the PolyCom video conferencing, context material should be given. If anyone has to give a presentation, use screen sharing to direct the discussion so that everyone is on the same page.