5 Rules for effective and productive virtual meetings

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The main reason that many a virtual meeting is ineffective is because there is little to no accountability for engagement. “We are just not communicating as well as we did face-to-face. People need to pay attention in meetings and a passive attendee does not come across in the best light, which as employees we all need to be doing now more than ever in this difficult economic environment,” says Helene Vermaak, Business Director at corporate cultural experts The Human Edge.

“Successful meetings require attendees to actively participate and engage, and it is the role of team leaders to equip them with the ability to feel comfortable expressing themselves on these platforms.”

So, how do you ensure your virtual meetings are productive? Vermaak provides five golden rules:

#1. The 60-second rule:
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If the purpose of the meeting is to solve a problem, ensure that you start off by ensuring that all the attendees understand and appreciate the problem or opportunity that is to be discussed. A good idea is to use the first 60 seconds to help them experience it – sharing shocking or provoking statistics, anecdotes, or analogies that dramatise the problem, but grabs the attendee’s attention and interest.

#2. The responsibility rule:

Early on in the meeting create an experience of shared responsibility. This is done by creating opportunities for attendees to take meaningful responsibility. Many will decide, even before they join the meeting, to take on the role of an observer – planning to do something else while still “attending” the meeting – this will no doubt affect engagement.

#3. The nowhere-to-hide rule:

If everyone is responsible, then no one feels responsible. The best way to avoid this is to give individuals tasks that they actively engage in, giving them nowhere to hide. If need be, assign people to groups (a maximum of two or three) and provide them with the medium that they should use to communicate with one another – Zoom, WhatsApp, MS Teams, etc). If your virtual meeting platform allows for breakout groups, use these liberally with a limited timeframe.

#4. The MVP rule:

Determine the Minimum Viable PowerPoint (MVP) deck that you need – remember your goal is engagement! The least amount of data you need to inform your group should be presented, and mix facts with stories to maintain interest and participation. Presenting a multitude of slides will definitely lead to disengagement.

#5. The five-minute rule:

Attendees are all in different locations, with different distractions. Help ensure they stay engaged and do not become an observer by talking or presenting for no longer than five minutes before asking the group to solve a problem or for their specific input, before continuing again. This will set a tone of meaningful involvement and demonstrate that engagement will be required.


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