Meetings are an inherent part of every organization, no matter the industry. It’s a way to make people feel seen and included. With meetings, employees have a platform to have one-on-ones with managers and express their opinions.
However, hosting meetings just for the sake of having meetings is a blunder that is costing your organization valuable time. If done well, meetings contribute to the overall success of the organization.
In the past year, the world drastically changed because of the pandemic. Considering the social distancing requirements, quickly switching to a virtual work setting is what helped several businesses survive.
Over a year later, some countries are on the road to recovery while others are still facing the dire consequences of the virus. That being said, many organizations have pledged to continue with remote working policies. After all, there are a plethora of benefits that come with working from home.
Through all these changes, we have had one constant — the necessity to effectively collaborate with the team. And, it seems, that the only way to do that is through virtual meetings.
Making meetings engaging and efficient is tricky. Throw in a global pandemic in the mix and you’ve got a mind-boggling puzzle in your hands. Luckily, we are sharing some common virtual hiccups that your organization can avoid for productive meetings. Let’s dive in.
1. Not Turning on Video
Once the novelty of virtual meetings wears off, many people stop turning on their cameras. While keeping your camera turned on might seem optional, it is, in fact, not.
Meetings are about collaboration and engagement. And a speaker or a manager speaking to a bunch of black screens isn’t exactly proving to be motivating for any one. The only way to recreate the ambiance of an in-person meeting is by turning on your camera. Seeing each other plays a key role in picking up non-verbal cues, which is an essential part of seamless communication.
Moreover, the pandemic has been lonely for many. And it doesn’t hurt to see a few friendly faces.
2. Expecting a Highly Professional At Home Setting
As previously mentioned, organizations had to switch to virtual operations in a short amount of time. And, there was barely enough time for anyone to set up a home office. Furthermore, there is a good chance that your employees share a home with their families or roommates.
So expecting a completely professional space with no noise or interruptions is an unreasonable request. It’s crucial to realize that the space also belongs to the other members of the family. Someone’s child may start crying, or a pet may run into the room. It’s not the end of the world! Calmly acknowledge it and move on.
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3. Never Using Mute
While there are certain interruptions that you have no control over, try to minimize the ones you can. Keeping your mic on throughout the meeting is just adding to the noise. To make the meeting easier to hear, mute yourself unless you have something to say.
Even with video, it is difficult to notice non-verbal cues and body language. Muting and unmuting yourself is also a great way to express that you want to add something to the conversation.
4. Never Turning Off Mute
In every meeting, there are certain silent spectators who would rather be anywhere else. Though you don’t have to speak just for the sake of participating, try your best to get a word in if you have something to say.
You may think that you can easily send a message or email later on, but presenting your opinions and ideas in a meeting has a different impact. Moreover, if a coworker is giving a presentation, you can boost their confidence with some words of encouragement.
5. Not Using Headphones
When you are working from home, headphones are your best friend. Especially for virtual meetings, headphones are necessary to clearly hear as well as speak. Whether you are discussing your upcoming LinkedIn automation strategy or creating a curriculum for kindergarten students, it is worth investing in a pair of high-quality headphones. This device will ensure you’re able to concentrate even in a noisy environment.
6. Too Many Meetings
Whether in person or virtual, too many meetings can put a damper on anyone’s day. You want your workforce to feel excited to discuss and present their ideas instead of dreading meetings.
Scheduling too many meetings every day interrupts the workflow. If your organization uses calendars, it is a good idea to block out certain times during the day when you get the most work done. Another way to limit meetings is by designating a day of the week for scheduling meetings.
7. Unsuitable Devices
Employees need a proper at-home setup to attend meetings and work productively. Outdated technology is going to be a problem. Make sure you equip your employees with the proper devices and the latest software for smooth operations.
8. Not Having a Backup Plan
From a faulty WiFi connection to unexpected software updates, tech issues are bound to happen. If you have an internal team meeting, you can ask to be excused from attending or use your smartphone to join in.
But if you have a meeting with an important investor or client, then smartphone attendance won’t cut it. You should have a backup plan in place just in case something goes wrong. Ideally, keep a teammate up to date with your presentation, so they can take over if you come across any technical difficulties.
Arriving late for in-person meetings is a huge faux pas. So why should virtual meetings be any different? It is a waste of everyone’s time if the speakers have to repeat everything they have already discussed.
It’s understandable that you may be facing some technical or personal issues that are keeping you from making it on time. But rather than joining in late without notifying, you should inform the host beforehand.
It is also important that managers inform the team well in advance about meetings. Unlike most in-person meetings where you just have to show up, virtual meetings take a bit of preparation.
10. Disregarding Accessibility
To make your virtual meetings as accessible and inclusive as possible, consider adding live captions. Captions improve engagement as well as retention. And of course, it is important for employees who are hard of hearing or deaf.
11. Switching Tabs
When you’re in a virtual meeting, it is tempting to multitask and switch to another tab. This is a sure-shot way to lose track of the meeting. Avoid looking at any other tab to keep yourself from losing focus.
12. Not Making it Fun
Keeping virtual meetings strictly formal is going to make employees lose interest. Usually, before the start and after the end of a meeting, employees get an opportunity to interact with each other and network.
Rather than making virtual meetings just another thing your team has to stress about, try making it more fun and engaging. Give your employees some space to talk casually. Several organizations host trivia night or happy hour on Fridays to help employees destress.
13. Business on Top, Party on Bottom
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the comfortable attire. No constricting trousers or impractical shoes, hallelujah!
It has become widely popular to dress up your top half for virtual meetings because that’s all everyone can see. But as several viral videos will show you, it’s better to think about your lower half as well. What if you have to close the door or get something from the other room? You probably won’t think twice before getting up.
From an embarrassing sweatpant choice to no pants at all, this is not the way to become the next internet sensation. It is advised to wear something comfortable yet decent.
14. You’re on Your Phone
Whether you are on a date or attending a meeting, constantly looking at your phone is simply rude. First of all, it’s a common misconception that people can’t tell you’re on your phone in a virtual meeting. But they can.
Even if you tell yourself that you’ll just look at it for a minute, it can suck you in. And before you know, you are not even paying attention to the meeting anymore.
It would be best to turn off your notification for the duration of the meeting and also avoid taking personal calls.
15. Inappropriate Background or Username
Don’t make the mistake of choosing a random username or background for your virtual meetings. It’s okay for friends and family but not suitable for a professional setting. It should be simple and distraction-free.
16. Sending Private Messages
Sending private messages to your work bestie during a virtual meeting is inviting trouble. Firstly, it is not professional to share personal jokes and anecdotes on an official channel. Secondly, even private messages on Zoom chat can be accessed by the host. Saying something inappropriate can be detrimental to your reputation. So unless you have something to tell everyone, keep it to yourself and share it later.
The Bottom Line
With new variants emerging in different parts of the globe, there is no certainty when Coronavirus will be completely eradicated. Instead of waiting for things to go back to normal, it’s time to accept that the new normal is here to stay.
The repercussions of inefficiencies in something as simple as team meetings can escalate into miscommunication, employee dissatisfaction, and loss of productivity. If your organization is guilty of making any of the above-mentioned mistakes, it’s crucial to identify and immediately rectify them.
Stefan Smulders is a SaaS Entrepreneur | Bootstrapped to €3M ARR in just 1year | Founder of Worlds safest software for LinkedIn Automation Expandi.io | Vegan | Father
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16 Mistakes to Avoid For More Productive Virtual Team Meetings was originally published in ProofHub Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
16 Mistakes to Avoid For More Productive Virtual Team Meetings