- Plan the meeting agenda by listing desired outcomes, process to accomplish those outcomes (including who will participate in each agenda item), technology to support the process, and estimated times.
- Select the appropriate technology/technologies for the task(s) to be accomplished.
- Don’t hold “marathon” meetings. It is difficult to maintain focus in a virtual meeting for an extended period of time.
- To help manage the time of the meeting, decide which activities can be done asynchronously in advance of the meeting, and which require synchronous interaction. For example, participants can use asynchronous technologies to brainstorm ideas in advance of the meeting, provide their opinions/input to a meeting topic, provide updates on status, etc.
- Schedule the meeting.
- Consider rotating the meeting time to accommodate participants in different time zones.
- Notify participants of the meeting.
- Consider carefully who really needs to attend. Technology can enable us to interact with more people than face-to-face, but only invite those who really need to be there.
- Ask for confirmation of attendance. Do not assume they will be there!
- Ensure that all team members have access to and know how to use the technologies selected for the meeting.
- Distribute the agenda ahead of time.
- Let participants know how they are expected to contribute during the meeting.
- Distribute materials required for preparation or pre-work. If documents will be discussed during the meeting, make sure that pages are well-labeled to help keep participants in sync during the meeting.
- Send a meeting reminder with any supporting documents/materials at least three days ahead of time.
During the meeting
- Take time to reconnect with some social interaction at the start of the meeting.
- Vary interaction styles. Repeating the same type of interaction/activity can become monotonous. Mix verbal and electronic interaction modes to mix things up, as well as different techniques for generating ideas, voting, etc.
- Ask team members who are not speaking to put their phones on mute.
- Eliminate distractions—request that people turn off cellphones and other electronic devices and avoid using email and texting during the meeting.
- Actively facilitate meetings.
- Check frequently that the team is staying with the agenda and actually making progress. If time is running out for an agenda item, try to guide it to completion. Let team members decide if they wish to continue with the agenda item once time has run out.
- Ensure everyone participates. Ask team members who have not spoken if they have anything to contribute.
- Maintain engagement by having members “check in” during the meeting. For example, ask them to vote on an item under discussion, give their reaction to an idea that has been raised, etc. Think about how technology can be used to promote participation (e.g., electronic voting).
- Be considerate of people who are participating where the language used in the meeting is not their native language. Provide sufficient time for them to digest the information and formulate their thoughts.
- At the end of the meeting, review decisions, next steps and accountabilities. Obtain commitment on who will do what by when.
After the meeting
- Make copies of meeting notes available to all participants. If possible, have the meeting minutes available within two days.
- Periodically gather feedback from the team on how to make the team’s virtual meetings more effective.