1. Know your agenda
Never start a meeting, virtual or not, without an end goal in mind. This is fundamental and a solid grasp of this concept is the secret to business productivity. What is the meeting for? What do you hope to achieve? What is its place in the greater scheme of the business model? Before even sending an invite, make sure that you’ve enlisted all the points of discussion that need to be tackled. In one study, 73% of participants consider having a prepared agenda as very important.
An agenda sends a clear message that you mean business and that time and productivity is of the essence. It sets the virtual meeting’s tone even before it begins. Sending an agenda beforehand cuts the meeting time shorter because through it the other participants are given the chance to prepare all the necessary documents and data relevant to the matters up for discussion.
Should suggestions be needed, this also gives the other participants more time to think and come up with concepts and ideas. It is a clear act of courtesy and respect for through it, the participants will be fully briefed of the tenor of the discussion and they will have enough time to properly prepare and be ready.
2. Choose the best VoIP service provider
Having an unreliable business VoIP service goes against the very point of having interactive virtual meetings. It’s frustrating to all parties involved when a virtual meeting is ongoing and the line is patchy and participants keep getting disconnected. It adds to headaches and delays when meetings can’t even begin due to compatibility issues. Before even venturing into adopting virtual meetings as company practice, it’s important to choose the best available business video and conferencing solution on the market.
There are numerous business VoIP services to choose from. Picking the right software is easy so long as you know the factors to be considered. Of the factors, pricing, security, support, and third-party productivity integration are primary.
When looking for a business VoIP service, it’s essential to begin the search considering your budget. A cheap business VoIP package also entails a cheap and oftentimes problematic service. Choose a business VoIP service provider that offers numerous packages so that more wiggle room can be given when it comes to figuring out what fits your company’s needs best.
An example of a reliable business VoIP service that offers numerous business packages depending on your company’s needs, is RingCentral. Not only does RingCentral provide security, support, and third-party product integration, it also has a custom mobile app that makes it easier for all the participants to fluidly interact regardless if one is using a personal computer or a tablet. RingCentral is also known in the market for providing top-notch business VoIP service where third-party compatibility is not a problem. For a more in-depth look at this business phone system, you can sign for a RingCentral free trial here.
3. Know the participants
It’s irresponsible to start a meeting without knowing the participants involved. The names, positions, and interests as stakeholders of all the participants must at least be known by all. Knowing the following will make it easier to have an environment that promotes interaction and discussion. A good meeting is one where all participants get to contribute and there’s no simpler way of making that happen but by knowing each participant’s name so that everyone may be directly addressed with questions. This easily creates an atmosphere where everyone is involved and heard.
Be particularly aware of the varying culture of each participant. Most virtual meetings have international participants that naturally come from different cultures. If you’re having a virtual meeting with, for instance, a Japanese associate, be mindful of cultural etiquettes unique to the person. Always speak in the language that is understood by all so that no participant will feel alienated. If a translator is needed, make sure that one is secured beforehand.
When interacting, make sure that your microphone is off when you’re not speaking. Never interrupt when someone is in the middle of discussion as apart from being grossly disrespectful, it’s also confusing to all participants.
Make the atmosphere light and open by starting with personal references before going into the discussion. If significant project goals were met, make sure to begin the meeting by acknowledging the persons involved and congratulating all for a job well done. A simple act of recognition goes a long way in boosting the individual’s morale and the company’s morale.
Make sure that you provide continuity. Continuity is essential given that a virtual meeting is fast-phased and the atmosphere is ever-changing and dynamic compared to a physical meeting. A short and simple narrative of developments and timelines must always be provided. It gives a clear visualization of project developments and business targets.
4. Look the part
Nothing is as disorienting and demoralizing as seeing a person who is not prepared. A virtual platform does not remove the business-nature of a meeting. Wear what you would wear on a regular meeting — your outfit must still be business-appropriate. Dress to impress, if you must. Dressing well is a form of good manners and it sends a clear message of courtesy and respect. Always check your posture and demeanor. There is no excuse for looking frumpy and lousy even if the meeting is virtual. Make sure that your alert and enthusiastic to all.
Apart from your look, it’s also important to choose a quiet spot with no distracting auditory and visual background. Choose a spot where there will be no distractions. If noise is inevitable, where one participant is on the field and actual construction is ongoing, make sure that other participants are informed beforehand. Not unless allowed, never eat during a virtual meeting. It is extremely distracting and it sends a message that you are not taking the meeting and the participants seriously.
As much as possible, choose a neutral background so that other participants will not be distracted. When at home, make sure that you close the door so that unnecessary distractions are avoided. Before even beginning, make sure that everything that you’d need is within reach. Keep your pens and notebooks close just in case you’d need to enlist extra important matters. Jotting down notes is advisable for it keeps your attention in the discussion. Make sure that you close all unnecessary and unrelated programs in your computer or tablet before the virtual meeting begins.
5. Remain present with the group
When you’re through with your discussion or when it’s not yet your time to talk, there’s the temptation to do other things, like taking a peek at your inbox or perhaps sending private messages to another. Never give in to the bait. You may likely overlook some important details or even a chance to provide a good suggestion.
Always be attentive throughout the course of the meeting. Sit up straight, refrain from making too many unnecessary movements, and keep your eyes focused on the screen and/or webcam. These gestures are not only polite and respectful of your co-attendees but also allows you to help ensure the meeting’s success.
6. Always give a good ending
A meeting’s ending is as important as its beginning. Ending a virtual meeting should be treated as an entirely separate and important phase. Given the uniqueness of the medium and the platform, it’s important to set the ending tone. It has to be clear, definite, and proactive.
Before ending the meeting, a summary of the point of discussions must be provided. A list of decisions and actions to be executed must be summarized. An invitation for clarificatory questions is a must. Last-minute tips must be raised and stressed. Immediately after the meeting, a written recap of all the points of discussions must be sent to all the participants. It is an effective act of follow-through that boosts a solid and productive execution. A written recap also serves as a record or solid time-stamps of project developments. It also removes confusion as it directly enlists decisions and actions that need urgent execution — should participants be confused, they could always return to the written recap.
7. Follow up each action
Every agreed action must be tracked based on agreed deadlines. Since this is the essence why an online meeting is held, be sure to monitor if all tasks are completed and attend to those with issues. You can send follow-up emails or call the persons-in-charge of each action. If it’s important to connect with people before and during the meeting, it’s similarly crucial to connect with them after a virtual meet.
One should keep in mind that there should be no difference whatsoever when it comes to virtual and physical meetings — a virtual meeting is not exempted from the minimum standard of respect and courtesy required from all. Respect begets respect.