It’s 10 am and you’re sitting in front of your computer, waiting to be let inside the virtual meeting room. It’s the first meeting for the day but you’ve probably lost the count of the number of “circling backs”, “follow-up emails”, and calls you made before this one. As you sip that morning coffee in a hurry and wait for this meeting to begin, you probably know how many more virtual meetings will sprout from this one!
Does this sound like you? Do you feel like “Oh, I’ve been there, done that!” or are you reading this blog while sitting in one such meeting?
If yes, then I have some actionable tips for you in this blog. You can implement these in your team or share it with the one who can implement them — You got our point, right?
Let’s dive in!
10 Ways To Conduct Virtual Meetings To Help You Save Time
1. Virtual Meetings aren’t the only ways to communicate
First things first, ask yourself if this meeting is necessary—mostly, you would end up saying yes. So, analyze if the topics you’d want to discuss during the meeting could be conveyed through asynchronous tools.
If yes, then you’re saving a ton of time for yourself and your team. So, instead of setting up a “quick” meeting which might take longer than needed, you can use an async tool like Vmaker or Fellow.app to record your screen and walk them through the topics you want to discuss.
Switching to async for recurring meetings/updates can benefit you because:
- You can save time
- You and your team can escape the meeting fatigue, especially while we get into the hybrid work mode.
2. Set up an Agenda
Most of the meetings take longer than intended because not everyone in the room knows where the conversation takes them. This is why sharing an agenda that has the gist of what the team can expect, time allotted to discuss every sub-topic, and save more time than you predict.
Every minute planned earlier is every minute saved!
3. Set Up A Buffering Time in every Virtual Meeting
In an ideal world, a meeting would start at 10.30 am and end at 11.00 am as planned, without having another follow-up meeting or exchanging customary “Bubyes” and “see yous” for at least 4 minutes in the end.
This is exactly why having a buffer time before and after every meeting is crucial. We all want that meeting to begin and end as planned, yes! But even while the entire team is sticking to an agenda, there are some unforeseen circumstances like tech issues or a person joining in late.
So, to avoid the rush for the next meeting, set up a buffering time in between to breathe a bit.
4. Use The Right Tools
Next, find the right type of video conferencing tool that your team would love to use on an everyday basis. The market has multiple options available but you can choose the one according to the size of your company or team.
If you’re at a very early stage startup and there are less than 20 people in your team, then Gmeet can be your go-to tool—hassle-free comes with the entire G-Suite.
Whereas, if your company has more than 500 people working and you’d want to conduct many organization-wide meetings, then Zoom would be the best pick for you.
Again, based on the usage, you can upgrade to the premium plans as you go.
5. Have Ice Breakers, Not Just Small Talks
Have a good conversation starter. Making small talks might work for an in-person meeting, but definitely not for the sake of it.
If you can break the ice and make the environment more welcoming, then the meeting wouldn’t be an unpleasant one.
Here are some of the prompts that you might find useful if you’re running the meeting:
- Compliment the painting on the wall.
- Start with an appreciation note for a well-performing teammate of that week.
- Begin with asking them how their weekend was. Also, share yours.
- Ask them about their pet that peeped in during a meeting the other day.
- Talk about the weather, if you’re in the same place (last resort, yes)
6. Make It More Interactive
Following the “I-talk-you-listen” pattern during meetings is not a healthy sign. You will not get to know your teammates, hear their perspectives or opinions, or understand the different working angles to the same.
So, make every meeting more interactive. Ask questions in between meetings — not to pick your team’s brains but to get their ideas and inputs. Not only does it break the monotony of the meeting, but also gives a sense of contribution to your team.
7. Do Not Stick To The Same Tool
Add a little bit of fun to your tech stack. It’s good to find, validate, and stick to a video conferencing tool to make the communication easier, but you can also add some fun to it.
If you’re conducting virtual Happy Hours or Get-To-Know-Your-Team meetings every once in a while, then using tools that aren’t built for team communication is necessary.
You can find some tools like Gather.Town which helps you build a good rapport with the team. If you’re using the mainstream team communication tools for virtual happy hours too, there will be a panel of people sharing success stories and another bunch of people actually listening to them.
So, if you don’t want to make your team left out of the meeting, then you can use such tools which allow your team to split into multiple smaller teams and converse with each other like they’d meet up and talk in clusters during an office party.
8. Make Presentations More Appealing
Every meeting should have a different structure based on its objective. So, if you’re making presentations to explain the annual report or growth of the marketing team, then make presentations more appealing.
You can add pie charts, infographics, memes, and GIFs. Because numbers start to sound boring if all you’ve listed from 6th to 12 slides are numbers.
9. Record Your Meetings To Not Enter The Loop Of Meetings
This is a life-saving hack that nobody tells you about. I bet! Most of the meetings you set up today or tomorrow are the continuation of the meeting from the past. You’ll never know how many follow-up meetings you’ll have to attend.
In some cases, a meeting leads to another because a teammate would’ve taken a day off or wasn’t invited by mistake, or couldn’t connect due to technical glitches.
Escaping the loop of meetings in the near future is possible only if you take a step now. So, if you’re running an important meeting or attending one, record the session.
You can use the native screen recording option on Zoom but might require the host’s permission to record it. So, instead of asking for the host’s permission or using different shortcuts, you can record the meeting using the Vmaker chrome extension.
You can record your meetings, trim, or edit a portion of the meeting to the teammate who wasn’t present during the meeting.
This way, you can escape the loop of meetings and not attend one after the other.
10. Run Polls
This is the most common activity to break the monotonous meetings. If you’re addressing a lot of people during a meeting, you can give breaks in between.
It could be a coffee break or even a poll break. You can pick an interesting/intriguing portion of the meeting and run a poll. This will create a more engaging environment for everyone present in the meeting.
For this, you could use the good old polls section on Zoom , Slido or Jotform Poll Maker.
But You Can Add Some Fun As Well
Here’s a hard fact to swallow—no matter how much you try to make virtual meetings interactive, continuous meetings can bore people easily. So, get that Happy-Hour-During-Office-Hours look on and set up a fun meeting.
The agenda here is simple: Have fun with your team. Leave the work-related talks away from your work desk.
Here are 5 ways to make virtual meetings FUN
- Play board games
- Go Async
- Shuffle teams
- Create a memory board/drive
- Send a thank-you note
As I mentioned earlier, not all meetings have to be about work nor do they have to be all-suited-up ones. You can chill, relax, and sometimes be a bit more of yourself.
This is an old-fashioned way of connecting with your teammates that do not seem to go away. However, there are some online tools that you can use to play games without much effort.
You can play:
- Draw & Guess game
- Board games
There are plenty of sites that help you with creative game layouts but here are a few that we found interesting and cool.
You can check out:
- Drawasaurus for cool Pictionary templates.
- Gartic to play the Draw & Guess game.
- Board Games Arena for a collection of multiple games.
Indulging in such games helps your team to connect better with each other than most of the ice breaker sessions you host. In short, these are the virtual happy hours that bring your team together.
Since most of us are still working remotely (or rather choose to work remotely), a team can have people working from different time zones. Although it’s amazing to have every team member present during a team meeting like this to play and have fun, sometimes it becomes impossible to fit them all under the same calendar slot.
But, we have an asynchronous way to make up for it. When a part of your team is unavailable, you can ask them to play or shoot pictures, or send a video recording of themselves and convey what’s on their mind to the rest of the team.
You can instruct them to use green screen footage to help them record themselves. This asynchronous approach allows everyone to stay connected and stay on track, even if they can’t all be present at the same time.
It could be them sharing their recent fishing experience or a cool party they’ve attended recently but not the bug they’ve resolved that morning. The bottom line is to make everyone in the team feel included and involved despite the varied time zones.
This goes without saying that shuffling teams is one of the most important things when it comes to making virtual team meetings fun.
It’s one of the few chances for your team to network with people from other teams beyond their Team’s or Hangouts profile pictures. But here’s a heads-up: This might get a bit awkward and unpleasant in the beginning but don’t lose hope.
Teams bond better during such meetings. Also, if possible throw an impromptu virtual happy hour and surprise your team. You never know how much your team needed it at that moment until you throw one!
Create A Memory Board/Drive:
It’s been two years since we’ve started working remotely. If you and your team are used to hosting such virtual fun parties, then this is the time to create a video trailer or hit that flashback button!
Sounds interesting? Most of us love screen grabbing and screen recording the fun or light moments during the meeting. So, if you’re a host, you can consider creating a video collage of all the fun moments to have ever been captured by your team.
This could be one of the examples of thinking-out-of-box or “going beyond what your role demands from you” kind. It’s important to outperform yourself and treat your team with such surprises as it is to give your best & beyond to your work.
Send A Thank-you Note:
Now, this goes both ways. It’s applicable for people on either side of the table. The host can thank the team for taking time out of their schedule to join the fun meetings—for some, virtual fun meetings could be pushing beyond their comfort zone—and we got to respect that.
On the other hand, pulling off and hosting a virtual fun meeting when there are multiple other things on their plate already is no joke. So, if you had fun sitting back, laughing, joking, and connecting with the other team members, then send a thank you note to the person who has hosted it all. It takes a couple of minutes of your time to appreciate hours of their effort.
A thank-you note could be a simple email or text message. However, if you wish, you can walk the extra mile and send a video message. You do not need to make it insta-worthy or set up flashy lights but a simple video shot on your webcam can do the trick.
All you need is:
- A webcam
- A screen and webcam recording software like Vmaker
- A warm, heartfelt thank-you message.
That’s it. It’s the easiest way to carry the bond beyond the meeting! So, if you enjoyed meeting your team, then make sure not to miss this step.
Here’s a TL; Dr for the skimmers:
Making a virtual meetings more fun and engaging is possible only if you understand the objective better and validate if that task requires a meeting before sending out invites.
If the topic can be conveyed through an asynchronous tool, then chuck that calendar invite and send a screen recording!
But if you have to schedule a meeting, then here’s how you can make it more interesting:
- Set up an agenda
- Set up a buffering time
- Use the right tools
- Have ice breakers, not just small talks
- Make it more interactive
- Use fun tools
- Make presentations more appealing
- Record your meetings to not enter the loop of meetings
- Run polls
- And, Don’t forget to have fun
However, at times, making the work-related meetings fun can go a bit overboard. So, if you can, find a slot to host just the fun meetings.
Brownie points if you can find a slot on a Monday on everyone’s calendar (I’m sure that most of your teammates would love to join it)
Things you can do during and after such fun virtual meetings:
- Shuffle the teams and help everyone connect with the team members they don’t work with
- Play games—simple but an effective way to create light moments
- Play asynchronous games to bring people from different time zones together
- Create a memory board or drive with all the happy meetings and moments
- Send a thank-note to everyone joined—individual or a team blast; Also, the team can send a note to the host.
Although these virtual meetings cannot replace the foosball table or bean bag fun sessions, it’s totally worth it to give it a shot!
Here are some Add-ons:
Since we are on the topic, I have a few pointers that could be considered as “remote/hybrid” etiquettes for virtual meetings:
- Keeping the cameras is a personal choice.
- Do not pass comments on the messy background/child in the background.
- Do keep the meeting short
- Write meeting minutes, only if needed
What are some of the other ways you’d like to add that can make the virtual meetings more interesting and less boring? Tell us in the comments below. We’d love to know.