Five expert tips for running effective virtual meetings
April 30th, 2020
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Meetings are ubiquitous across companies of all shapes and sizes, and it takes a conscious effort to ensure they’re actionable and productive, rather than a laundry list of status updates. As teams around the world have transitioned to fully remote-work, many have had to completely rethink their meeting practices, including everything from content to cadence. To help make this reset easier for teams still navigating the transition, we asked our customers and community for their favorite strategies, tips, and advice on running effective remote meetings. Here’s what they had to say.
1. One-on-one meetings: Pulse before you plunge
One-on-one meetings—dedicated times for connecting regularly, building rapport, and coaching and mentorship—are an integral part of our culture. Building rapport can be difficult in a remote setting. In a virtual one-on-one, it can be tempting to delve right into the agenda and content. Anne Raimondi, Chief Customer Officer at Guru, emphasizes that virtual one-on-ones should begin with a three to five-minute pulse to see how your colleagues are doing, on a personal level. “How are you feeling?” “Do you need anything?” “How can I help?”.
“At Guru, we intentionally allocate three to five minutes at the beginning of each one-on-one and team meeting, to do a pulse rather than delve right into the content and the agenda.”Anne Raimondi, Chief Customer Officer at Guru
2. Team meetings: Three “P’s”
L. David Kingsley , SVP & Chief People Officer at Vlocity, said that for some employees, operating in a remote-work environment can feel a bit like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day” unless leaders make a conscious effort to engage everyone in the conversation, and vary the approaches used to help the team align and achieve. Team meetings are a great opportunity for leaders to infuse variety into the ways they communicate with their team. Recently, David structured one of his team’s meetings around what he calls the three “P’s”. Each team member was asked to bring one of three “P’s”—a plant, pet, or person—from inside their remote work dwelling to the meeting. The order was deliberate—people who brought plants presented their “P” first, followed by, people who brought pets, and then people who brought people (for example, children or partners). As David explained to us,
“It gave people who live by themselves the space to share in a way that I can when my son crawls in the office and onto my chair. He’s a cute little kid—everybody wants to see the cute baby, and at the same time, everyone has something personal about themselves they’d like to share. Especially in times like these, we have to focus first on our most basic human need to share and connect with each other.”L. David Kingsley , SVP & Chief People Officer at Vlocity
The event was a great opportunity for bonding and developing rapport. Team members talked about their plants—which often had names—with a passion that complemented team members who shared about their pets, partners, and family members. Most importantly, everyone felt included and supported.
3. Virtual events: An exercise in subtraction
Like many companies, we’ve needed to transform some of our planned in-person events to virtual ones. A knee-jerk reaction might be to replicate the in-person event as closely as possible in a virtual environment. Yet, this isn’t typically the best approach.
Anne reminds us that virtual events are an exercise in subtraction rather than replication. It’s important to re-evaluate the objectives of the event and how to best meet those objectives in an online format. Anne and her team recently opted to transform a three-day in-person event to a series of online modules spanning several weeks. As a result, they hope participants will be better prepared to consume all the content virtually because it won’t be jam-packed into a single lengthy session.
“Switching to an online event, we needed to give the team both time and permission to not feel like they needed to translate what their original plans were into an online format. We gave them permission to raise their hands and say, ‘This doesn’t make sense anymore.’ We asked them, ‘What are all the things you would subtract from the event that were specific to being in-person, and would now just be exercises in futility or not deliver value or waste people’s time, both ours and customers or prospects?’”Anne Raimondi, Chief Customer Officer at Guru
4. All-hands meetings—Check in first, get down to business second
For many companies, all-hands meetings are a primary outlet for business updates. During these difficult and uncertain times, it’s not business-as-usual and all-hands likely shouldn’t be business-as-usual either. It’s important to rethink the format of your all-hands meetings and ask yourself whether it’s oriented around employee wellbeing.
At Vlocity, Kingsley and his team have transformed their weekly meetings so that the first half is devoted to an employee-wide check-in. These are a series of questions, created by Theresa Ludvigson, Vice President of Global Onboarding & Loyalty Programs at Salesforce:.
- What am I grateful for today?
- Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
- What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
- How am I getting outside today?
- How am I moving my body today?
- What beauty am I either creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
Questions such as these help to ground everyone and embrace a healthy perspective during difficult times.
5. Virtual presentations: Build in time for glitches
Technical hiccups are almost inevitable during virtual meetings—especially when they involve multiple hand-offs between different presenters. Organizational behavior expert Bob Sutton recommends that hosts and participants should expect virtual presentations to last 25% longer than in-person presentations with similar content. As Bob told us, it’s not so much whether technical glitches will occur or how many, but rather how meeting presenters handle them.
“Technical glitches are a normal part of virtual meetings. They should be handled with persistence and grace, rather than panic and blame.”Bob Sutton, Organizational behavior expert
More effective meetings from anywhere
Remember, running effective meetings can be challenging even in the best of times. Now more than ever, it’s likely that the way your team approached meetings in the past won’t work the same way in a remote environment. So before you hit send on your next calendar invite, take a minute to reflect back on these tips and consider how you can adjust the agenda or format to better align with your remote audience. Taking the extra beat to make conscious changes will not only sharpen your content, it will help your team feel even more seen and supported.
For more remote work tips and insights, check out our remote work resource guide. Or, if you’re ready to get started, try Asana for free today and help your team connect and collaborate while working remotely.