Great virtual meetings do not just happen. They require planning and preparation just to be good. Web meetings, teleconferences, and, video conferences can be complete failures and a waste of valuable time and resources without proper prep. To prevent this, as a virtual meeting planner, consider the six items for prepping your meeting and attendees suggested below.
1. Determine technology to use. Use only what is needed for an effective meeting. There are lots of options offered by various meeting tools, but using too many can cause confusion, create problems, and make the meeting run long. If using chat, instant message, tweet, or text features, it is a good idea to arrange for someone to monitor that information stream so the facilitator can concentrate on the meeting process. Be sure to allow spaces in the agenda to respond to questions and comments from those using the communication features. If webcams are being used for the meeting, then a few additional things need to be considered:
- Main room should be properly lit so speakers are not in shadows or appear washed out.
- Those speaking should know to look at the camera when talking as if they are conversing with a person. Check microphones or headsets to be sure everyone can be heard.
- Everyone should check their appearance and clothing before going on air. For example white, red, and stripes are not usually good on camera.
- Use slides to emphasize presentation points that have little text in large fonts or images such as pictures and charts. Avoid lots of numbers or verbose text.
2. Schedule meeting times that are convenient to most attendees. If attendees are scattered across time zones, consider making ongoing team meetings at different times so everyone gets a chance to meet during their standard business hours. It is better to schedule less than two hours for virtual meetings and plan to hold more meetings than try to squeeze too much into a day as people get distracted after a short while. One hour meetings are even better!
3. Invite only the people who need to participate in the meeting. Having too many people involved can cause things to go off-track. When sending the invite, include the purpose of the meeting so people can opt-out if they do not believe their participation is required. If a document needs to be reviewed or downloaded before the meeting time, include that as a link in the invite or as an attachment. Be sure the invite includes how to get into the meeting and information on installing any necessary software prior to the event start. Also, consider including URL links to any on-line help for the tool being used. This information may prevent last-minute calls from frustrated attendees trying to get into the meeting. If planning to invite people outside the organization, consider security requirements of corporate documents and information before doing so.
4. Create an agenda in advance. Try to limit topics to be discussed to two key items per hour. When making the agenda, use the 3T’s: Time the item will start, Teller is who will be speaking, and Topic is item being presented or discussed. Send the agenda to meeting participants with their meeting reminder at least two days before the meeting. This helps attendees to prepare for presentations and discussions.
5. Plan for note-taking. Either ask someone to record the meeting outcome or select a tool that allows recording within presentation documents. Having someone besides the facilitator record meetings insures they facilitator can concentrate on keeping the agenda moving along and that the minutes get out quickly after the virtual event is over. The alternative of having the facilitator or presenter record comments, changes, and decisions directly into the presentation lets the attendees know they were heard and understood.
6. Send a reminder one to two days before meeting. The reminder email should include the URLs or phone numbers and any login information required to attend the meeting first. Followed by the agenda and a reminder of information of any documentation to be reviewed prior to the meeting. If presentations slides may be accessed prior to the meeting, include how to get those. Suggest that meeting participants log-in 5-10 minutes prior to meeting start so they have time to fix problems that may occur and are ready to participate when the meeting starts.
Using these tips as a virtual meeting organizer should prevent wasted meeting time and frustration caused by not being properly prepared. Consider which of these ideas will move virtual meetings from poor to good, or from simply good to great. Excel in prepping virtual meetings and discover how effective and efficient these types of meetings can really be.