If you’ve ever walked out of an internal meeting thinking ‘That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back,’ you wouldn’t be alone.
Research has shown that more than one in three meeting participants estimate they waste between 2 and 5 hours per week on calls or meetings that don’t accomplish anything.
And in the age of remote work sparked by COVID-19, with many team members physically isolated and working from home, it’s even more important to clearly communicate your strategy, facilitate action and build a connected, collaborative culture across distance.
So instead of postponing that strategy day or workshop, or swapping remote meetings for email bulletins, make every remote internal meeting and virtual event count.
Here are some tips to help you do this:
To get the most out of a virtual team meeting make sure you:
- Set clear objectives
- Have a firm agenda and stick to it
- Ensure the information you’re covering is relevant to all attendees.
It’s also important to keep your meeting collaborative, so take advantage of interactive elements such as virtual whiteboards and file-sharing. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re familiar with the technology and tools before you get started.
A good way to encourage participation is to ask participants to come to the meeting with some ideas to contribute regarding specific agenda items.
During the meeting you can keep people engaged by getting them to vote on a proposal, brainstorm ideas on a virtual whiteboard, or split into small teams in virtual breakout rooms to work on a problem, re-joining the meeting later with their ideas.
Because you’re already speaking to everyone online, virtual meetings make it easier to follow-up with action items which will ensure your meeting results in outcomes.
Successful virtual sales meetings have much in common with face-to-face sales meetings.
For starters, you should plan your meeting for the same day and time every week so everyone gets into a routine, and can block the time off in their calendar.
It’s also good to have a regular agenda so everyone arrives prepared and keeps to an established timeframe. No one likes a meeting that runs overtime, or one that runs too long, so keep it as short as necessary and make sure you start on time. Some virtual meeting services let you block out latecomers so there are no interruptions once you’ve kicked off.
When you’re trying to meet with salespeople on the road, in regional areas, or who simply don’t have a reliable internet connection, a teleconference could well be your best option as opposed to an online video conference.
And it’s worth making your virtual sales meeting as easy as possible for your salesforce to attend; for example, Redback’s One Touch collaboration service lets users click a meeting link on their phone, and their phone then rings and the meeting is launched.
The meeting host can control everything on the call with a single click, including recording and muting, allowing others to share their desktops, managing participants and sharing files.
All Hands or Town Hall meetings
With the COVID-19 pandemic seeing a majority of office workers around the world working remotely, the importance of keeping staff up-to-date with what’s going on inside an organisation has become more important than ever.
Compared to an all-staff newsletter, bulletin or plain old email, a virtual Town Hall Meeting ensures all staff are up-to-date with what’s happening within an organisation at a given point in time.
One simple advantage of a virtual All Hands update is that you can host thousands of staff from across vast geographic distances.
It’s also easier to keep your message consistent. Hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, avoids the potential for misinformation, allows the executive team to address any pressing issues or speculation, and offer staff a platform to respond.
To facilitate staff engagement, call for questions prior to your virtual All Hands. While some staff might be reticent to speak up or raise issues in a face-to-face forum, they may be more comfortable doing so via email ahead of a virtual event.
If your virtual meeting tool allows, virtual Town Halls also provide staff with the opportunity to submit questions during the meeting over private chat to ensure everyone feels heard.
For larger meetings, make sure your video conferencing service can handle the number of participants you require without impacting on your network performance.
Some virtual meeting technology also lets you track attendees, the point at which they joined and left, and the level of engagement — unlike an email or newsletter which may easily go unnoticed or unopened.
Training and education courses
As a result of travel restrictions and social distancing requirements, we’ve seen a massive shift toward online professional development, education and training programs this year.
In fact, 37% of all digital events are held for educational or training purposes, according to our 2020 State of Webinar Marketing Report.
In addition, those membership-based associations that were quickly able to deliver their education and training events virtually have reported a better-than-average response to the COVID-19 crisis, and less impact on their organisation. Read our Comms + Culture by Association blog here.
However, running a virtual learning course is quite different from a traditional classroom, which provides more opportunities for spontaneous interaction.
A good strategy is to get people involved before you’ve even started. Ask your attendees during the registration process what they would most like to learn about, and any particular topics they would like covered.
It’s also important to cover everything you need to in the time allocated. Make sure you have a detailed event plan and consider keeping questions to particular times to ensure you stick to it.
Given the intensity of the online learning experience, it’s good practice to keep your lessons shorter than you would in a face-to-face environment: most online course sessions run for around 45 minutes.
Work out which format will best suit the information you’re presenting. For example, you may only need video, you may wish to show slides and video of the presenter at the same time, and for information-heavy subjects you may prefer to show slides that you can talk over.
Inviting remote guest presenters to speak can add some variety throughout a course program.
Facilitate interaction by keeping a virtual chat room running simultaneously, enabling participants to post questions to be addressed at a designated time.
You can also share course documents, and test how much your participants have absorbed via online polls, surveys or a quick quiz.
These can also provide the host organisation with insights on other areas that might need to be covered in future.
When it comes to holding an internal workshop or strategy day, your key consideration should be collaboration.
After all, if you can’t get your staff to feel part of what you’re trying to achieve, how can you expect your customers to buy into it?
Thankfully, research shows virtual workshops can actually make it easier to promote collaboration compared with physical workshops at which everyone sits around the same table – provided you put in the planning. They’re great for brainstorming because they reduce the chance of a dominant voice taking over a conversation — which can happen when everyone is in the same room.
You may also wish to provide the opportunity for everyone to make a contribution anonymously, which may further increase the range of ideas shared.
Once again, it’s important to have a properly structured agenda, as well as a timeframe that you can stick to without having to rush through content.
But don’t make it too long. A virtual strategy day should be shorter than a traditional face to face event (try six hours if you would normally run one for eight).
It’s often more productive to have a facilitator who can time-keep while your executives focus on content and collaboration.
Tools such as virtual white boards which everyone can add to at the same time, annotation, private or public chat, virtual breakout rooms, polls, and so on, provide organisations with the opportunity to create engaging, productive workshops.
With all internal team meetings, the host or moderator must always be responsible for ensuring there is adequate follow-up and feedback, so don’t neglect to pursue any action points that arise and report on the eventual outcomes.
Only follow up with another meeting if absolutely necessary. As with all meetings, virtual or otherwise — just because you can meet, doesn’t mean you should!