Leading Virtual Business Meetings

Virtual Business Meeting

Virtual business meetings are one method for adjusting to changing business practices in new-normal times.  But home and private environments have changed, too, leaving many employees feeling stressed and overworked.  

No wonder online organizational meetings can be dreaded in these fast-changing environments!

Business is always about the bottom line — what the primary concerns are, the salient things.  An emerging most important bottom line is recognizing meeting attendees’ sense of their own time value as well as their invaluable contribution to the good of the whole company endeavor.

Clients, employees, and colleagues often experience a keen sense of lost time through “meeting sitting time,” where appearing distracted is also costly.  The response called for is true recognition, appreciation, and respect for everyone’s time.

A Respectful Meeting Environment

As an executive in international hospitality technology told me, “Making the meeting as pleasant as possible while valuing each person attending is the ever-present aim to be accomplished.”

And the only way to accomplish this is with appropriate meeting leadership.  The leader of the virtual business meeting – or any meeting – is responsible for demonstrating careful time management and helping orchestrate a respectful meeting environment.

To help achieve this, you might:

  • Acknowledge and appreciate that participants’ time is valuable, thus time management is your charge.  
  • Ensure that the meeting agenda is clear and presented well in advance of the meeting.
  • Ensure everyone understands your role.
  • Provide orderliness in reaching the meeting goal during the meeting.
  • Patience and personal respect are always the interactive guidelines for all members.
  • A “we’re all in this together” attitude shows through with perseverance in small and large sacrifices.  Employees benefit when the company benefits and visa versa.

Planning Virtual Business Meetings

Whether your meeting is categorized as a status-update, decision-making, problem-solving, brainstorming, innovation and idea-sharing, or team-building meeting, knowing the purpose and hoped-for outcome is critical.  The agenda guides expectation on what needs to occur before, during, and after the meeting.

The main ingredient in the recipe for an effective teleconference meeting is AGENDA, AGENDA, AGENDA.  Without it you will end up with "Meeting Soup." 

A suggested agenda for virtual business meetings might be:

  1. Acknowledge and greet attendees as they come online.
  2. Welcome and confirmation that all attendees present.  An expression of gratitude for everyone’s time.
  3. Introductions of guests or newcomers.
  4. Review the purpose, goals, and action items for the meeting.  Include time allotments for specific subjects (the last five minutes will be devoted to questions, etc.).  
  5. Conduct the meeting discussion, making sure to allow input from each attendee.
  6. Short re-cap and calendar check.  Close with appreciation.
  7. Follow up immediately with a post-meeting re-cap with next meeting calendar reminder.

Meeting leader/moderator must-do’s:

  • Begin in gratitude of those present.  Use first names often.
  • Acknowledge at the beginning and throughout the meeting your awareness of “our precious use of time.”
  • Manage off-topic comments by gracefully acknowledging “It is an interesting topic, and because we have so many things to cover, may be save it for the end?” or “Let’s save this topic for another meeting.”
  • Privately, the meeting leader may want to acknowledge a from-the-heart appreciation of something a participant said or did.  These kinds of acknowledgments can feel like a surprise gift, as they are statements of the value another person is contributing.

As a dispute management executive said in our interview, “Good manners is my best management and planning tool.  Being professional means thinking of others. Kindly hosting meetings where everyone knows what that person is supposed to bring to the meeting is a way of thanking people for their needed contributions to the purpose of the meeting ahead of time.”

Virtual business meetings can be a dreaded necessity.  When not conducted well, they can feel chaotic and unorganized, accomplishing little.  But when conducted properly, attendees feel they have contributed to an accomplished goal.  Their time has not been wasted.

Another business executive advises, “Letting employees know they are loved and appreciated is vital. Public recognition and little surprise gifts are ways I like to do that.”

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