4 Tips for Positive & Productive Virtual Meetings

Side view of man using laptop on table at home

With remote working and learning taking place across much of the globe, Assistant Professor of Management
Lauren D'Innocenzo, PhD, an expert on leadership and teamwork, shares some tips for keeping your virtual meetings on track and on time.

1. Set the tone from the start.

If you want your team to feel comfortable contributing in virtual meetings, it’s important to set a welcoming tone early. D’Innocenzo notes that teams that have already established face-to-face relationships are at an advantage here. However, because so many of the interpersonal moments of in-person work are missing in remote settings — talking with colleagues on the way to a meeting or in side conversations before and after — it’s important to allow transitional time for those interactions.

One exercise D’Innocenzo has replicated from her in-person class is to have every student speak on the first day. “That gets them in the frame of mind to speak up early and often,” she says.

2. Go in with a plan.

More than ever, people learning and working in the online environment are balancing competing priorities from both work and home. That makes having an agenda for any meeting – and sticking to it – more important than ever.

“Make sure to distribute the agenda at least a day in advance to give everyone time to digest,” D’Innocenzo says, “and leave time, when possible, to allow your team to connect on a personal level.”

3. Keep time.

When using those breakout rooms, or when diving into a specific topic, set a time limit for discussion. If you’re the facilitator of the meeting, announce that limit at the outset, and then provide warnings to the participants as the limit approaches — at the five-minute or two-minute mark — and then close out by asking for “final thoughts.”

D’Innocenzo also notes that the online environment can make it harder for someone leading a meeting to read body language, like changes in posture or facial expressions. To keep her online classes on track, she limits herself to talking no more than five minutes at a time.

4. Save some for later.

Meetings can take unexpected turns, and while a tangent might be on an important topic, it may not be related to the current discussion. When this happens, D’Innocenzo likes to say, “Let’s put that one out in the parking lot and come back to it later.”

However, just as you don’t want to forget where you parked your car, you also don’t want to lose track of what could be a valuable discussion down the road. Whether it’s an idea to revisit next month, next quarter or even later in the year, be sure to follow up with the person who contributed the idea and ask them to raise that topic next time.

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