Virtual meetings have become a fact of our work lives in the Covid-19 era. As a facilitator, I’m learning so many things about this fairly new-to-me medium and feel I’m really starting to get a handle on it.
Until now, the largest virtual meeting I’ve facilitated has been for around 18 people. Next week, I’m making a big leap, and will be hosting two meeting for about 68 people using Zoom. They are a group of stakeholders in a fledgling industry who are preparing to launch an industry network to share research, learnings and technology. Many of them are strangers to each other.
The purpose of the consultation-style meeting is to get input from the attendees on a draft proposed vision of the network. The organizers have already done a lot of aspirational thinking and had conversations about its goals and purpose. We want to present their ‘first draft thinking’ to the participants and give them opportunity to weigh in during the planned three-hour meetings .
I’m feeling confident that the meeting will go well , because during the past few months I’ve learned what makes a successful virtual meeting, especially one of this size:
It sounds like a tall order for a virtual meeting room, but I’ve discovered a lot of tips and tricks that I’d like to share with you for when you’re feeling brave enough to host a big group meeting.
Because we are not face to face, here are some essentials for the meeting to be a success:
DO – Send meeting reminders with meeting links 1 – 2 hours before a meeting starts.
DO – Open the meeting early so you can test audio and video. We will be opening an hour early to catch any potential problems. It’s also a good idea for the facilitators to do a dry run.
DO – Be fastidious about timing, ensuring the meeting starts and ends on time. Have a timed agenda and be sure to build in transition time between activities and chats. And, be sure to send the meeting link out ahead of time.
DO – Be crisp and clear. Use verbal instructions and screen-sharing written instructions when you are asking people to do something, such as a task or assignment. Copy the instructions into the chat box so they persist into the breakout rooms.
DO – Ensure that you pattern the meeting to build safety and capacity for people to talk with each other. For example, I will say, I’m going to give you something to think about and then pair off people to talk about the topic.
DO – Be thoughtful about the conversations you’ll have in the larger room.
DO – Be clear with your co-facilitators about exactly who is doing what. Who will share the file link? Who will admit participants? Who will monitor the chat box? Who will share screens? Etc. It makes for a MUCH smoother meeting experience.
DON’T – Bite off more than you can chew, putting too much process into the stages of the meeting and trying to cram in too much information and expectations.
DON’T – Use new technology you haven’t tried out ahead of time. Nobody needs to experience that.
DON’T – Be in intransigent mode, lecturing for hours. People will just shut down.
DON’T – Forget to give people breaks.
And finally – be sure that you have thought about how you will follow up with participants and that your participants are clear about how they might follow up with you. We plan to send them the documents they generate in the workshop immediately following the workshop. The contact information that we will collect in the Google form is immediately delivered to the client. We will also collect a bit of meeting feedback too!
Bottom line, conduct your meeting like the professional that you are and you’ll be rewarded with the satisfaction of nailing this new world of workplace meetings.
Parsons Dialogue is based in Calgary, Canada, serving clients across North America. We design and facilitate strategic processes that help teams collaborate with clarity and confidence.