Meetings | August 18, 2020

How to Get Better at Virtual Meetings in 2020

image representing How to Get Better at Virtual Meetings in 2020

When you're meeting in person, you can read a teammate's body language, make eye contact, and connect more effectively. Face-to-face meetings are always better, but they're not always possible.

When you have a distributed team, virtual meetings are a necessity. While meeting remotely provides a connection challenge (and not just because of spotty internet), it's still possible to have a great meeting -- from anywhere.

How to Run a Virtual Meeting

In a related post, we outlined a basic distributed team meeting template with principles on how to structure a virtual meeting. Here's the agenda we recommend:

  1. Check in personally and professionally. If you're following the Level 10 Meeting methodology, this is known as the segue.
  2. Discuss each item on the meeting agenda. Ideally, everyone will be looking at the same list in a tool like Strety. To move through talking points more efficiently, ask all team members to review and contribute to the agenda before the meeting starts.
  3. When decisions are made and action items are assigned, check off the talking points and add tasks for the appropriate parties while still on the call.
  4. When you've checked off all your agenda items, ask everyone to rate how the meeting went. You're shooting for 10s all around but all feedback is worth knowing. If someone gives a low rating, that might be a cue that your meeting processes could be run more smoothly.

Strety Users: If you're using our Meetings tool and your meetings don't feel as efficient as you'd like, email our Success Team - We'd love to give you some customized advice on how to spend less time on the phone with your team and more time doing high-impact work.

So: you have the structure down. You're tracking your goals, you're documenting action items, and you're taking notes in a centralized hub. That's a great start -- but if you're used to meeting in-person, it can still feel like something's missing. Using our template for virtual meetings will help you address existing pain points, but it can be trickier to read someone's body language to understand what's *not* being said.

The best meetings preempt issues before they turn into problems. To do that virtually, you need a blend of communication best practices and the right systems for automated team management.

How to Uncover Unspoken Issues in a Virtual Meeting

Structuring a meeting is pretty straightforward -- if you're using a tool like Strety and have a set agenda, the meeting almost runs itself. (Almost.)

Understanding team dynamics and preempting issues that employees haven't yet voiced is murky in any situation. Reading people can feel like a talent you either have or don't -- and, certainly, some are more naturally talented at it than others. Luckily, it's also a skill that can be learned. To have an effective remote meeting that preempts issues before they turn into problems, add some communication best practices to your software stack:

Default to Video

We'll get this out of the way: it can be annoying to hold a video call instead of a phone chat. If you're on the go, or multitasking, or just haven't showered (we won't judge), a video call can feel disruptive or frustrating. 

Much of the way we communicate is non-verbal, and picking up on those cues is crucial to connecting effectively with teammates. Without video, it's impossible to read someone's body language. Make video calls the rule and an audio-only call the exception.

Listen With Your Eyes

Have you ever gotten halfway through a video call and realized you've been watching your own face the entire time? We all do it. While it's human nature to watch your own thumbnail on Zoom, try to resist the urge. Instead, watch other faces for reactions and nonverbal cues. That's the magic of defaulting to video: you have a way to see those nonverbal cues instead of just relying on tone (which can be misleading).

Watching to see how your employees' faces change when things are discussed will help you understand where friction lies, what people are really excited about, and what could turn into a big problem down the line. If you're using Zoom, try switching to the Gallery View instead of Active Speaker View. You'll see more faces at once and will be able to "read the room" more quickly.

Make Time to Check In

When you're meeting in-person, there's time in the margins to chat about your weekends, talk about your lives, and generally catch up. It happens when people are milling about or walking to the conference room. While idle chatter can sometimes feel like it's delaying the important stuff, idle chatter has a crucial purpose: it warms people up to meet. 

If you're meeting virtually, make time for some idle chatter. We recommend allotting 5 minutes to catch up at the beginning fo a meeting. Some teams have success sharing personal good news one at a time, and others do well just chatting for a little while before moving onto action items. Try a few formats and see what works best for your team -- but don't skip it.

Follow Up Privately -- and Immediately

If you noticed a nonverbal reaction from a team member that hinted at a potential issue, follow up after the call. Asking a team member about their body language outright during a video call can derail the conversation and potentially bring up resentment that someone might prefer not to discuss in front of everyone. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about it at all -- it's just more effective to do so privately.

Message your teammate privately after the call and leave it open ended. Vague is better; "how are you feeling about X" will go a long way.

private notes strety meeting 

Strety Users: if you're sensing unspoken issues during your virtual team meeting, add a private check in question for teammates to answer after every meeting. It'll prompt employees to answer automatically, saving you time and giving people a space to respond to top-of-mind issues they'd rather not discuss publicly. 

We're Here to Help

If you're ready to incorporate better virtual meetings into your continuous performance management system, contact Strety for a demo of our tool. We'll make this easy!

 

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