Tips for Leading Virtual Meetings

April 30, 2018



Best practices to follow as the global workforce turns to online meetings.

Running efficient meetings can be a difficult task under even the best of circumstances. It can add to the challenges if all of the attendees are remote and reliant on technology. Here are tips to keep virtual meetings running smoothly.

Set an agenda

It is natural for us to interpret physical and facial cues in person, but it becomes harder when you can’t easily see everyone’s screen at once or if there is a lag in audio or video. This can lead to uncertainty about who should be contributing or people talking over each other accidentally.

Agendas can help by sharing ahead of time about who is starting a conversation in the meeting and then who is contributing. Over time, the flow will become more natural.

Encourage participation

In a time of physical distancing, it’s important to still connect with others on a personally and encourage active participation. Getting everyone to speak up in a remote setting can feel like a huge challenge since it’s easier to “hide” in a digital setting.

First, allow for time to talk socially. Put aside time at the beginning or end of the meeting to share personal stories and small wins. When there’s no physical place to hang out, everyone needs a virtual watercooler. Second, manage participation by following five steps outlined by HBR, which includes making sure the problem is felt by participants, and no more than five minutes goes by without people working on active solutions to problems together.

Use meeting chat and be polite

Use virtual meetings to sharing links and attachments in the chat channel of the meeting for context about topics at hand. It can also be used for messaging and asking questions while another person is speaking.

But also be sure to not dominate a conversation in the chat, just as you wouldn’t talk over someone in an in-person meeting. Use the chat function to supplement conversations, not replace them.

Set up office hours and take breaks

Listen. Not every virtual interaction has to be a formal meeting. You can use online meeting tools like Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business allow you to s open up your virtual door and let others virtually drop in to ask work questions –– or just to chat.

Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings in a day as it can lead to virtual meeting fatigue. Take a break away from the screen to give your brain a chance to switch gears between meetings.

Finally, remember to be patient with colleagues and with yourself as you continue to adjust to virtual meetings. It has been an adjustment for many people. And when someone forgets to mute their mic –– inevitably –– just politely remind them that everyone can hear them. We’ve all been there.

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