Virtual Meeting Fundamentals

I read the below article on virtual meetings from
Julie Winkle Giulioni with a smile on my face.

Prior to COVID-19, most of us used some method of virtual meeting technology and application, but it was the exception, not the norm. What certainly was the norm? Meetings. Lots of Meetings. More than we want to admit, more than would really add value, and way more of a time investment than was worthwhile.

It’s the Fundamentals

If you’ve ever played sports, studied martial arts or played an instrument, you were probably told hundreds of times “it’s the fundamentals” that make you a proficient practitioner. If you don’t master the fundamentals, you are not going to be very good. Guess what? It’s the same way with meetings.

If you had unproductive meetings before using virtual meeting tools, you’ll have them with Zoom, Skype or whichever tool you’re using. Whether you are hosting a meeting in a boardroom or on Zoom, the same fundamental keys apply to hosting an effective meeting, with the one added variable of technology. Those fundamentals are:

  1. Clearly establish the objective of the meeting. If you can’t say definitely why you are meeting, and what the objective of the meeting is, you should not be meeting. If you are simply providing an update, do you really need a meeting?
  2. Agenda and pre-read. Ideally you will send out a meeting agenda a day or two ahead, and a pre-read or list of expected items for meeting attendees to bring. It’s also a good habit to test the technology platform you are using to see if any bugs need to be addressed.
  3. Invite the appropriate people required to achieve the objective. Based on the above-mentioned objective, who do you need in the meeting to gain alignment or support? If a person is not going to contribute significantly or have a substantial influence on the path of the project covered at the meeting, s/he does not need to attend.
  4. Encourage participation from all attendees. As the meeting host, one of your main jobs is air traffic control. You want to see participation and dialogue, creative solutions and collaboration. Aim to do only 20% of the talking, and encourage richness in the dialogue through open-ended questions. Most importantly, do not let one person dominate the entire meeting.
  5. Stay-on track; don’t allow scope-creep. It’s very easy for ideas or concerns to take meetings down tangents. Don’t let that happen. Keep focused on the objective and outcome, and create a “parking lot” for other issues that need to be addressed at a future time.
  6. Follow-up with clear action items. Follow-up with meeting notes and actions. These should be SMART, and assigned to people who attended the meeting. Aim for no later than 24 hours after the conclusion of the meeting to keep the momentum and attention fresh.

Even though the platform and tools may change, the fundamentals do not. Master the fundamentals; master the art.