The shift from working at an office to working from home has made huge impacts on a worker, and a company’s overall performance and strategies. Some have adapted quickly, while some are still struggling. One of the common struggles a team encounters during this new-normal setup is conducting meetings. Gone are the times when you need to physically go to the meeting room to discuss several topics or issues to be addressed for the day; now, it’s all done all across the world within the four corners of the screen, virtually.
Meetings in general are already difficult to run smoothly. More often than not, there will be a period when the meeting will go off-topic; lingering on a single detail is also a common struggle. Now that everything has shifted virtually, running a meeting has become extra challenging. Unstable internet connection of the members of the meeting, technical difficulties, unclear video reception, background noise, and going off-topic are some of the most common obstacles needed to be overcome in a teleconference. Hence, it is still a need to set ground rules for online meetings. These rules will help organize the meeting and make it run smoother.
Effective Meeting Guidelines
A smooth run of a meeting is difficult to come by, but it can be achieved. It involves cooperation on both the facilitator and the participants’ side. Similar to in-person meetings, rules should be set. A set of effective meeting guidelines that have been laid out and explained clearly is a must in ensuring all issues are discussed, and all goals are met by the end of the meeting.
Meeting Rules of Conducts
1. Set the time and date
Set a time and date for the meeting and make sure everyone is informed. A successful meeting can be achieved if everyone is made aware of it. Meeting virtually will no longer allow you to call a participant a few seconds before you begin because you forgot to inform one. Online meetings should be scheduled ahead of time to ensure all needed participants get to attend and discuss issues accordingly.
In line with this, make sure that you have decided which software you will be using for your meetings. Setting this ahead of your first virtual meeting is crucial; participants can make accounts if needed, do a trial video conference, and set everything needed for the meeting.
2. Be punctual
Meeting online is not an excuse to prepare for it a minute or two before it. Similar to when everything was done at your office, make sure that you are ready 10 to 15 minutes, or even half an hour before the meeting. Once the date and time are set, make it a point to log in with all the needed information and materials for the meeting. Getting ready minutes before the meeting will lessen or better yet avoid unnecessary meeting pauses looking for needed files. Respect each other’s time and report on the designated time of the meeting, so you can end it on time as well.
3. Put Away Distractions
Working from home has a lot of nearby distractions like the TV, your housemates, and your bed to name a few. Turn the TV off, don’t listen to music, put your phone on silent or vibrate, and close any unnecessary tabs open on your computer; give your focus and attention to the meeting; avoid multitasking as you might miss an important topic when doing so. Giving your full attention will help in making the meeting run smoothly and end on time.
4. Listen to understand
Not being physically present in one room makes a huge difference in meetings. You are not able to see facial expressions or whether all participants are paying attention through the screens. Setting aside the unstable connection or any other background noise, see to it that you listen to the facilitator or to whoever is speaking during the meeting. Do not interrupt others. Give them time to speak, as they will give you your time too.
5. Speak up
Successful meetings are achieved via collaborative effort. Everyone must participate so all target issues can be solved. As much as possible, don’t press that mute button (unless needed). In connection to listening, responding to questions, or giving comments when necessary is important. Your responses will help the facilitator know whether you have understood the topic or not and if it is time to move on to the next one.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask away unless your team has designated a time for this. When giving comments, keep in mind to do it constructively and never attack a person. Make sure that what you share is also relevant to the topic to avoid getting off-track, which can only lead to an extended meeting time. Learning virtual hand signals is also a key skill to learn especially when you have an unstable internet connection.
6. Keep it concise
Respect everyone’s time by keeping the meeting short. Avoid having too-long meetings as it isn’t always effective. This might also hinder the accomplishment of tasks for the day. Set a time for each topic to be discussed, and stick to it. For example, set 2 to 3 minutes to check the attendance and longer minutes for important issues. Sending an agenda of the meeting to each participant will also be beneficial. Having a guide will also help in keeping the discussion relevant. This will be each participants’ guide throughout the meeting. Even when the internet connection was lost at some point, a participant can easily follow along with the flow of the meeting with the ready agenda.
Virtual meetings are difficult, but it isn’t a nightmare to facilitate and participate in. Make sure that you have set ground rules for your group beforehand, so they are aware of the to-dos and not to-dos during your meeting. When setting meeting rules of conduct, listen to what each participant has to say too. Listening, acknowledging, and using their input will result in a well-participated meeting.