Working from home is becoming a common occurrence in today’s workplace. Although remote working has been around for a long time, it has grown significantly popular thanks to the pandemic in 2020.
With restrictions in place, workers all around the world had to stay home to prevent the spread of a deadly virus. Companies turned to virtual meetings and effective communication to meet deadlines and deliver results to keep workplace culture intact and work undisturbed.
Virtual meetings have become an essential part of workplace communication. It’s not unusual for companies to have virtual meetings throughout the week. What used to be done in the office can now be done online, making meetings easier to schedule and arrange. This is excellent because it cuts down operation and travel costs.
However, since online meetings have become a regular part of our day, they can get a bit redundant and ineffective. Many employees have fallen to online meeting fatigue. Most meetings have become filled with repetitive routines, making them less productive, defeating its initial purpose of breaching a productive and effective work environment.
Here’s How to Keep Things Running
So, what can you do to make your online meetings productive? Thankfully, there are several things you can do. In this article, we’re going to break down ten ways you can keep your online meetings productive, effective, and efficient. Want to find out how? Read on below.
1. Have introductions
There’s nothing worse in virtual meetings than awkward silences. This can happen because the participants aren’t acquainted with each other. To avoid awkward silences and encourage more productivity, make it a priority to have introductions.
Acknowledge every participant and give them a chance to introduce themselves, so everyone is aware of their presence. Introductions are also excellent ice breakers. It provides the participants a chance to get to know each other and learn something about their colleagues. All in all, it’s a great way to build and encourage teamwork.
2. Set some rules
A meeting without rules can go awry. Participants may not be aware of the ground rules, which can cause the meeting to go on longer than usual. So, set some ground rules at the beginning of the meeting and ask the participants to comply.
Suppose you’re unsure of what ground rules to make. In that case, the usual rules in a virtual meeting usually include staying on video, staying on mute to reduce distractions and disturbances when others are speaking, and raising your hand when you need to talk to not interrupt other participants when they are speaking.
3. Break the ice with brain teasers and games
Brain Teasers and games are other great ways to break the ice. They’re also excellent team-building exercises. There are a wide variety of games to choose from. Puzzles or interactive quizzes are popular choices, but guessing games like I Spy are also favorites.
Brain Teasers and games can eliminate some of the awkwardness online and bring a sense of fun into a meeting. It gives participants the opportunity to engage and spend time with their colleagues.
4. Have a clear agenda
A meeting without a clear purpose will lead to nowhere. Without an agenda, a meeting will end up in confusion and wasted time. So, before you waste anyone’s time, make sure that you have a clear agenda of what you’d like to discuss during the meeting.
Write down the topic and all the essential points you’d like to bring up during the meeting. Once you have all your points written down, send the agenda in a proper business email to all the participants 24 hours before the meeting. By distributing an agenda, the participants will know what to expect during the meeting, preventing the meeting from going all over the place.
5. Appoint a moderator
A moderator comes in handy during these virtual meetings. Sometimes the conversation can go off track. A moderator’s job is to keep the meeting under control. They have complete authority to control how the meeting goes. No one is allowed to speak without the moderator’s permission.
Online meetings often come with distractions and problems such as internet connectivity or audio problems. A moderator can help keep everyone focused by spotlighting the main speaker and placing essential information in the chat box. A moderator plays many roles during the meeting and is vital in keeping the meeting productive.
6. Prepare in advance
Technical difficulties are inevitable. However, you can reduce the chances of it happening by preparing in advance. Before the meeting starts, send out a reminder to ask participants to restart their computers at least 30 minutes in advance to prevent lags or connectivity issues.
As a participant or leader of the meeting, you should check your camera and microphone before the meeting starts. Ensure that they are working correctly and that all the software you need is laid out to avoid fumbling during the meeting. The last thing you want is your microphone to malfunction during an important meeting.
7. Set a time limit
No one wants to spend an hour in a meeting. The fact is, everyone has work to do, and although meetings are important, long-winding meetings can decrease productivity and cause frustration. So, to keep meetings productive, set an ideal time limit.
Ideally, meetings should not go on for more than 30 minutes. In your agenda, mark the duration for each talking point, so the meeting doesn’t go on for more than the allotted time. This way, participants won’t get bored, and they’ll stay focused, knowing how long each talking point will take.
8. Recap the meeting and focus on the main ideas
A meeting should end with a conclusion. Similar to a call-to-action on a website or video that tells the user what to do at the end, it’s a good idea to conclude the meeting with some practical goals. For example, after discussing the talking points, you should jot down your plan for the week. This way, participants leave the meeting with purpose, and the meeting isn’t for nothing.
Whether you’re the leader or just a participant, don’t forget to take notes during the meeting. Another thing you can do is record the meeting and make the recording available for all the participants in case they missed out on specific talking points.
9. Set breaks for long meetings
Sometimes meetings can go above 30 minutes. This can get tiring, and participants will lose focus. Prolonged sitting has been associated with poor executive function, memory, attention, and visuospatial skills. This means that sitting for too long can affect productivity.
After 30 minutes, people sitting at their desks for extended periods should be given a short break. So, for every 30 minutes, participants should be given time to stand up and move around to help them refocus and recharge.
10. Have a conversation
Don’t make the meeting a lecture. Encourage conversation. Ask open-ended questions and involve everyone as much as you can. If there are things you need to deliver during the meeting, try making it into a two-way conversation by encouraging discussion and feedback.
Another thing you can do is to give the topic to someone else to discuss, break the subject up into pieces and have everyone in the meeting discuss their part, or do a Q&A session.
Doing either of these will surely increase engagement and make meetings more engaging. Instead of having one person do all the talking, it would be better to involve everyone and have an active discussion. This way, you can get the whole team to participate and maybe gain some new ideas.
The Bottom Line
Virtual meetings are becoming the norm when it comes to working. They’re convenient, easy to schedule, and everyone can attend. However, they also come with drawbacks. Sometimes they can drag on for too long, technical difficulties can occur, and participants can suffer from fatigue, which results in less productivity during these meetings.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to keep online meetings productive, effective, and efficient. By utilizing icebreaker activities and encouraging attendees to participate, you can build a comfortable atmosphere and eliminate the initial awkwardness. Being more organized by using agendas and appointing a moderator will help keep meetings on track.
Having rules set out is also another effective way to keep meetings organized and productive. It helps keep attendees from disrupting the meeting and creates an orderly flow. Since technical difficulties are bound to happen, having everyone prepare in advance by restarting their devices will help decrease the chances of malfunctions.
Time capping the meeting and having a clear conclusion, in the end, will also keep meetings productive because it reminds attendees of the purpose of the meeting and will leave them with clear direction.
Last but not least, meetings shouldn’t be lectures. They should be a two-way conversation where participants are free to discuss their ideas and ask questions. For long meetings, you should give breaks. Prolonged sitting has proven to have adverse effects on productivity. So, allowing attendees to move around and take a break every 30 minutes will help keep the meeting running and increase productivity.
About The Author
Ebnu Sudarso is the Co-founder of Milkwhale, an internationally acknowledged infographic production agency. Graphic design and writing have always been a passion. Over the years at Milkwhale, the company has created and published numerous infographics and great visuals.