Following the announcement by the UK government earlier this week, it is clear that remote meetings will continue to be the norm. But how can we get the best out of the meetings we hold on a video call?

Well, here is some key guidance for designing virtual meetings: 

Change Mindsets

We are all aware that virtual meetings are not the same as the face-to-face experience, so it's important not to try and imitate an in-person meeting.

The impact our energy level has when holding a group’s attention in the same room can be harder to achieve on screen. And, there's no 'corridor' talk as you enter the meeting, no visual cues to help ‘read the room’ and your physical presence should not be underestimated. 

Once you've thought about these factors, you are in a better position to design a virtual meeting that works.

Setting Up

In preparing for your virtual meeting, ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. What is the core purpose of this meeting?
  2. Who needs to be in the meeting?
  3. What is the best time to start and end the meeting?
  4. What style of meeting do we need to have?
  5. What ground rules need to apply – which ones are standard, and which ones are relevant in the virtual space?

The ground rules are important as they will help safeguard your culture. In the ‘real world’ cultures are built around the physicality of being together and the behaviours you can see. When you are operating remotely, the stated boundaries and ‘ways of working’ become vital.  The clarity of knowing what’s in and what’s out is even more important when operating in this way. Here are some example areas in which to form ground rules for a virtual meeting:

Check the Tech

Checking the technology (e.g. camera, sound, connectivity, etc) are all working before you join is essential. The amount of time wasted when people try to get themselves sorted once they're in the meeting is frustrating for others and potentially sets the meeting up to be disastrous.

Entering a Session

Having an agreed way of how you enter a session is important. For example, do you say your name as you enter the meeting or does the meeting chair do this? Having clarity avoids awkward silences or talking over one another.

Assigned Roles

Just as in a physical meeting you need a meeting chair, minute taker, timekeeper and maybe a conflict miner. In addition to these, you will need a technical support role in a virtual meeting.

Camera On or Off

Consideration needs to be given to cameras being on or off. Remember, these meetings are in someone's private space - the lines between work and home are now somewhat blurred!

Communication

Sending out pre-comms is particularly important. Keep it as short as possible but outline the reason for the meeting and meeting ground rules

Don’t Touch

Unless contributing to a chat, keyboards and phones should be out of bounds just as in a physical meeting. If this is not explicitly stated, folks may be tempted to multi-task and become distracted.

What’s on Show

It’s important to think about what is in view of your camera, ensuring people only see what you want them to see. Also, adjust the camera so that you are at eye-level with it, enabling you to create eye contact with the rest of the participants.

Clarity's Design Tips

As a business that leads workshops and facilitates in-depth conversations with senior leadership teams, we design and prepare online engagements differently to how we work when we are in person.

To help you get the best out of your virtual meetings, here are a few of our core design tips: 

  • create short sessions of a maximum of 2 hours, ideally with a 10-minute break during that time
  • if running longer sessions or multiple virtual meetings in a day, have a 30-minute break every 2 hours – you can set some reflections for during this time, but it should offer a screen break and avoid back to back meetings
  • go outside during your break to get some fresh air (if you can), or even consider a 'walk & talk' meeting
  • making space for activities is vital to ensure that everyone stays engaged. Speak for a maximum of 10 minutes before requiring some form of engagement – a poll, raised hand, breakout room or whiteboard session
  • use all the digital tools available – whiteboards, polls, breakout rooms, putting your hands up, slide share etc – to encourage interaction
  • ensure your participants stand up in part of the meeting, just to get the legs stretched and to change their perception

Call to Action

Take time to purposefully design your next virtual meeting, considering the meeting 'rules' that are right for your culture and incorporating our design tips where relevant.

Remember, don't try to replicate a face-to-face meeting as the two offer a very different experience. This doesn't mean one has to be better than the other - they both have a place.