By Jaci Bitner
As we all know, a meeting can go sideways very quickly.
The mute button has moved on Fred again, and we can all hear his three-year-old screaming in the background.
Renee keeps trying to say good morning, but all we can see is her mouthing the words “can anyone hear me”? But the mute button just won’t unmute.
Karl is always eating on camera, no matter what time of day.
Becky’s wifi is “iffy” and no matter how many different places she moves to in the house while we all get motion sickness watching her traipse about, she still cannot locate the right signal.
Roger gets excited for his announcement and completely derails the meeting. Yes, Roger, there is actually a placeholder for announcements at the END of the meeting which you would know about if you had only read the agenda I sent this morning. However, I completely forgot to email the agenda to @All Teams and ended up just sending to my direct reports. Three people are now the only ones who know why this meeting is happening.
What a headache!
The pandemic has changed how we interact, and virtual meetings are now a big part of all of our lives. Thankfully, they don’t have to be a constant headache. With a few tips and tricks, the whole team can feel the joy in their hearts that I feel after a productive virtual meeting.
Tools to Host Your Virtual meetings
Pros: My personal favorite because it’s incredibly user-friendly. I love the different options of viewing all the participants. There are also many backgrounds included to choose from as well. Most importantly, Teams integrates all my tools in one space. Simply put, life is easier with Teams.
Cons: I’ve found that sometimes the videos do lag a little and once in a while my status in Teams (available, busy, away, etc..) does not automatically flow from my Outlook calendar as desired. This seems to be getting better though!
Pros: User friendly and good quality on the camera.
Cons: Zoom isn’t as organized as Teams, especially when sharing files It doesn’t feel very safe and secure after all the Zoom bomber incidents I’ve seen reported.
Pros: Slack is simple to use in a way that makes it easy for everyone to use. I also like how it pairs easily with the Google platform.
Cons: Slack is disorganized and is easy to lose track of conversations. Conversations also get deleted after a period of time, so being able to search old threads is almost impossible. Emojis are not easy to find and I love a good emoji.
Now that we’ve chosen a platform, productivity here we come!
Tips and tricks to keeping your virtual online meeting on track.
Use an agenda
This allows everyone on the team to know exactly what will be discussed and how we are moving through the meeting. You may have heard this somewhere: Time is money. Some of these meetings are VERY expensive depending on the participants. With an agenda, you can get right to the point instead of wasting valuable time and money on figuring out what the meeting is trying to accomplish.
When should you send an agenda? No less than 24 hours in advance! This gives people ample time to prepare for whatever the topic is at hand. The agenda should include:
- A quick welcome including the Key Objective of the meeting
- Topics for Discussion
- Session Structure: This includes how and who will be running the meeting and logistics.
- Time for Questions/Comments/Concerns
Get comfortable with your tools
Practice before the meeting with a trusted colleague who is able to assist if you are feeling uncomfortable. Find the mute button. Learn to raise your hand. Find out how to post a chat to someone directly (and not to the entire group). I am personally a huge fan of Teams but it took me a little while to get used to when I was only familiar with Zoom and Slack prior to working at Managed Solution. I took the time to use it and research it before I went to my important meeting. I love that I can easily change the background whenever I am somewhere that may be distracting to the team. Which leads into the next point…
Yes, we all have to eat.
Yes, we all love your pets and want to know their names.
Yes, we want to know about the artwork hanging on your wall.
Yes, that child playing in the background is the cutest thing I have ever seen.
However, in order to have a productive meeting, we need to limit distractions. All of them. Eat before or after, not on camera during the meeting. If you are going to eat, mute yourself and turn the camera off. We know Fido may jump up and say hi, but if everyone focuses on your dog instead of the topic, we may never get back on track in order to end the meeting on time. Fido is welcome before or after any business meeting but distracts us from getting to all the points of making our meeting productive. This is not the time to multi-task. Stay present in the meeting for optimal productivity. So, for you in the back, just in case you missed it, just one more time: Please turn off the camera if you are not fully engaged.
Use the mute button
Everyone, and I mean even the CEO (yes, you), needs to mute when they are not speaking.
Don’t forget that your virtual team is now living all over the world! Time zone synchronization is of utmost importance. Also, if someone can’t attend, you can easily record the session. I tell the team beforehand while we are in our Microsoft Teams meeting that I am going to record. If they don’t want to be on camera, this is the time to go off screen. From there, I hit the record button and send it to all those who could not be in attendance after we finish the meeting
Post meeting follow-ups
My favorite part of Microsoft Teams is how it pairs so perfectly with Outlook and One Note. I create a Teams meeting via Outlook. I send the invite with an agenda in the email. I enjoy taking notes for the team and sending them out after the meeting. One Note is perfect for that! I just select Meeting Details and the participants list and agenda show up right in the notes. It's just so easy. After the meeting is over, I select Email Page and the participants are automatically in the addresses ready to go. It’s as easy as one click. At this point the joy is overflowing in my heart.
This has been a challenging year. We are all in this together. We can allow ourselves to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
I find the greatest joy in virtual meetings that:
- Have a point
- Stay on task
- Don’t go overschedule
- Make me feel part of
It is my hope that by using these simple guidelines, you, too, will be able to find great joy in your hearts the same way I do after virtual meetings.
Interested in what Teams can do for your business?
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