March 18, 2020 11:40:00 AM EDT

COVID-19 Strategies: 4 Tips for Productive Virtual Meetings

To slow the spread of Covid-19, more and more businesses are taking precautions and setting up the right environment to make a successful move to working online. But what happens when teams who are used to working together now suddenly are forced to meet virtually? From unclear direction to background noise, there are ample opportunities for meetings to go off track and productivity to plummet.

Fear not, for as quickly as things can go awry, with the right preparation, working cameras, focused engagement and celebrating success, you can ensure that you limit distractions and sustain productive virtual meetings.

1.) Preparation is Paramount

One of the most crucial things for any meeting is preparation. This holds especially true for virtual meetings as it is more difficult to judge the meeting flow and adjustment on the fly. No meeting should be held without clearly defining a purpose and the corresponding goals outlined to achieve that purpose. These should be communicated out to the group in advance as well as within the meeting invite itself.

We know that individuals learn in different ways, therefore, provide any materials ahead of time, such as documents, PDFs, and PowerPoints. Preparing can shift your role to discussion facilitator vs. simply presenting at the team. Finally, make sure to join the virtual meeting early to test the connection and technology. If the platform is not a tool you are not familiar with, give yourself an extra few minutes to test it or look online for tutorials.

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The above chart shows examples of who should be in meetings and their roles.

2.) Video is Valuable

Turn on the camera! Sure, it can be awkward at first and working from home also means you may not have combed your hair, but a huge part of getting on the same page comes from nonverbal cues and body language. Give your team the opportunity to express themselves as if they were in person and you’ll achieve better alignment and more productive meetings. It also gives you as the facilitator the ability to engage team members that may appear to be confused or distracted. Beyond video, having a headset or headphones with a built-in microphone are also key to helping ensure consistent sound from the speaker and a reduction in background noise.

3.) Engagement is Essential

In addition to video calling, it may be necessary to engage the team in other ways, especially if they are not accustomed to working virtually. For starters, allot 5 minutes at the beginning of the meeting for more informal discussion on topics like the day, recent events, interests, or shows. This helps team members ease into the meeting while also providing buffer for anyone running a bit late or having connection issues.

You can also assign roles to individuals, such as timekeeper, notetaker, or critic to ensure people remain engaged throughout the meeting. Additionally, open a shared document or slide deck and work on it in real time during the meeting. Provide this as a location for notes or questions to revisit, or to brainstorm presentation ideas and visuals. Anything captured can then quickly be turned around and shared as a meeting recap or next steps.

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Example standard roles for meetings.

4.) Success is Salient

Given that virtual meetings don’t have the same kind of external visibility that in-office meetings have, be sure to promote your virtual meeting successes, including:

  • Follow up the meeting recap or next steps with a realignment on how the purpose and goals were achieved.
  • Ensure attendees as well as those not present are noted to maintain accountability.
  • Tie the success directly to the contributions of those in attendance and provide kudos for team members that stepped up either by driving discussion, fulfilling their role, or taking on next steps beyond the meeting.

Reinforcing productive virtual meeting behavior will help that behavior live beyond the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd meetings and eventually into meetings you’re not apart of.

With the abrupt transition from the office 9-5 to working from home, teams may have a hard time staying in touch and having productive meetings. Virtual meetings are more critical now than they ever have been, but just because more people are having them doesn’t mean they will be more productive. Having the right practices in place around preparation, a video-first culture, engagement, and celebrating success can help keep meetings on track and geared for success beyond the call.


Struggling with transition to working from home, virtual meetings, and other  business concerns related to COVID-19? Connect with us to brainstorm and talk about strategies.

Joe Kossler
Joe Kossler

Joe is an Insights & Innovation Consultant who focuses on business strategy and operational excellence. He has a background in finance / management and is currently immersing himself in the world of data science and Artificial Intelligence.