Distinctly Different

By Keri Morris, Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Membership Director

Virtual meetings are vital in today’s world and take preparation and planning to be successful. What are some ways to keep your meeting on-track and efficient? Below are some tips to hold a better virtual meeting. 

First, there are some basics everyone should follow.

  • Start every meeting with expectations.
    • The general rule is to make sure all attendees mute their computer microphone if the meeting has over 20 attendees.
    • If under 20, remind them to keep background noise limited.
  • Give your meeting an agenda and purpose.
    • Send out an agenda a week in advance, if possible and communicate with attendees what the purpose of the meeting is and what it is not.  Example: 
      • We will be learning about customer needs and trends.
      • We will notbe brainstorming ideas for our annual event.

Now let’s explore the types of meetings and ways to keep attendees engaged. The main types of meetings are: presenting and engaging, collaborating, brainstorming, and decision-making. 

  • Presenting and engaging. This is when there is a speaker and attendees are mostly just listening. Ask a question that is connected to the discussion to help people feel connected to the meeting. Be sure to wait 20 seconds to have impact and allow folks to actually think about the question – or answer it. Set a timer to keep the meeting moving. Use a poll to have people interact with a question. Breakout rooms are available on Zoom meetings. This allows you to create up to 50 mini-sessions within the main meeting. Be sure to test them ahead of time to make sure you understand how to use them.
  • Collaborating. This is when a group is working together or finding a solution. Use a worksheet and build it during the meeting. Allow people to add their input to the document during the meeting or have them give feedback and you make changes to the document. Google docs is a good option for note input.
  • Brainstorming. This is when the group is coming up with ideas off the top of their heads – no idea is a bad idea as it may spark a better idea so everything should be recorded. Use an app during the meeting, allowing others to add content, vote on content, or give content to a scribe. This would be similar to working on a whiteboard so you can begin to formulate ideas. Mural is a great tool for this. 
  • Decision-making. This is what the title says; using the meeting time to come to a decision of some sort. First you must ask yourself – is the purpose to explore potential decisions or are you making a final decision? To keep it clear, name the question. Decide on roles. Clarify your options. Affirm your decision whether this is a verbal commitment from everyone attending or a poll for everyone to vote. The more important the decision, the more formal the affirmation should be.

A virtual meeting can be just as useful as an in-person meeting and these are just some of the ways to keep your meetings more focused and make the most of everyone’s time.