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How to Host a Successful Virtual Meeting

photo of a woman in a virtual meeting.

Modern audio/video (A/V) technology and collaboration platforms provide useful features that help to increase the productivity of a virtual meeting. Technology is the platform for an efficient meeting, but it’s the role of the meeting host to provide a solution that drives productivity, and the role of the participant to limit distractions. 

The following tips will help you and your team gain confidence in producing and hosting meetings with concise objectives, engaged participants, and easily identifiable action items. 

#1. Meeting Invites 

Resolve Scheduling Conflicts with Recordings 

When scheduling any meeting, we all know it’s important to make sure everyone (or mostly everyone) is available for the determined time slot. When it comes to virtual meetingsit becomes a lot easier to keep your team or contacts in the loop if they cannot attend by having the option to record the meeting for later viewing. While they might miss out on the opportunity to contribute ideas along with everyone else at that time, they can still be briefed on what was said and assign tasks to them (be sure to inform them of these tasks when they are available) without needing to be there. Recordings are a good idea for any meeting, however, make certain that all participants have been informed of the recording. 

Benefits of Recording a Meeting 
  • Adds a level of incentive for professionalism  
  • Increases participation (but depending on group size and personalities, it could also have the opposite effect) 
  • Serves as a reference for clarification or training 
  • Allows for team members/contacts to reference the discussion if they could not attend the original meeting 
  • Can be used for measuring quality assurance 

Have a Dial-In Option 

Be sure that whatever virtual/video conferencing solution you use has a conference bridge dial-in option for attendees to join the meeting from a phone if they don’t have a microphone available 

Creating and Following an Agenda 

Having a concise agenda that lists out the goals, objectives and anticipated outcomes of the meeting is a great way for the invited parties to prepare for the meeting ahead of time. It also provides a structural flow for the host to redirect everyone’s attention back to if the conversation starts to divert in other directions. Keep the agenda handy and visible (share your screen) to the participants throughout the meeting if possible. 

#2. Introductions and Expectations 

The success of a virtual meeting relies upon the host to delegate meeting responsibilities, minimize distractions by promoting engagement, and to provide clear action items or next steps.  

Create a Meeting Host Checklist 

At the beginning of each meeting you’re hosting, there are a few housekeeping items that set the stage for a successful meeting. We recommend defining some company-wide standards for all your company’s meeting organizers to follow. It can be as simple as checklist, or as advanced as a formal addition to your employee handbook, or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).   

If you are giving a demo, for example, it’s good to allow for questions as you go. You would want to start off those meetings by explaining to your audience that it’s alright to ask questions as they come up. If you are presenting slides for a webinar or training overview, however, it may make more sense to explain to the attendees that there will be an opportunity at the end of the meeting to ask questions, and that everyone’s mics will be muted until then. 
Download our Virtual Meeting Host Checklist [hyperlink to the checklist below]. 

#3. Limit Distractions 

Visual Aids 

It’s important for the meeting host to do their due diligence in minimizing distractions when they occur. It’s also just as critical for all participants to be mindful of how easy it is for focus to drift elsewhere and finding ways to prevent it. 

Be Present 

It’s no secret that one of the largest hurdles with virtual meetings is limiting distractions, especially when there are participants who can’t join visually with a webcam. Today’s virtual meetings allow for face-to-face communication which helps the host “read the room” in terms of attention levels and body language, among other benefits.  

Encouraging your meeting participants to join with video levels the playing field and helps each member remain accountable to focusing on the agenda, rather than allowing themselves to work on other things. The in-person meetings of yesteryear provided an element of peer pressure to at least appear to be mentally present. That social norm hasn’t quite evolved in the virtual meetings landscape yet, which makes it important for the host to set those expectations beforehand. 

Tips for Minimizing Unnecessary Distractions 

Unnecessary distractions can’t be prevented completely due to limited control of outlying factors. However, there are several ways you can prepare for and minimize distractions for both when they occur and before they begin. 

For meeting hosts, a highly utilized feature of video conferencing platforms is being able to mute other participants if they are in a noisy setting. For non-host participants, here are some tips you can put into practice 

  • Stage a professional setting
    Video in and of itself can be a source of distraction depending on how it is setup. Be cognizant of your lighting and keep the camera height right around eye-level. You don’t need a super fancy office, either! Test out your video conferencing platform’s virtual background options. Many of them now have a blur option which is perfect to keep the participants focused on what you’re speaking about, instead of seeing distracting objects around you.  

  • Avoid smartphone cameras if possible 
    When joining a video meeting from a smartphone, 9 times out of 10, your face will appear huge on other attendee’s screens, which doesn’t exactly shout “I’m a professional!” from the rooftops. Moreover, it can be a large source of distraction for the duration of the meeting. It’s best to avoid smartphone cameras, but sometimes they get the job done when nothing else can.  

  • Be stationary 
    Have you ever had a video meeting where one the participants joined from their mobile device (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.) and was walking around from one location to the next, and all you could focus on was the bouncing image on the screen instead of listening to what the current speaker was saying? It can break even the most engaged attendee’s concentration. Out of respect for the meeting host and participants, join the meeting from one location and try to remain. 

  • Be mindful of background noise 
    A lot of us have experienced meetings where you can hear loud conversations in the background, incoming phone calls, neighborhood dogs barking, construction crews’ beeping, etc. If your desk is located in the heart of the operation, consider finding a quiet place to attend the meeting from. You can’t always control ambient sounds while your speaking, so another solution is to find phones and headsets that cancel out background noise and chatter. We partner with Poly (formerly Polycom and Plantronics) and can provide you with industry-leading communication devices for clear calls with minimal distractions. 

  • Be prepared: practice, practice, practice 
    Many of us experienced working remotely for the first time when the pandemic first struck, and a lot of us dealt with the “Murphy’s Law” of remote work: what can go wrong, will go wrong. Maybe you take calls with one headset, and have to use a different one for video calls, but don’t realize that until you go to do your first virtual meeting and now you’re 5 minutes late trying to figure it all out. It happens, a lot, especially when you are invited to a meeting on a different platform than what you’re used it. Your best defense against losing time to fumbling through a meeting join is to schedule out 10 minutes before the video meeting to perform a practice join. This will give you plenty of time to get familiar with the interface and device settings.  

The Age of Virtual Meetings 

Virtual meetings are a fundamental way of getting things done for many professionals today. These meetings can be frustrating and ineffective, but with a little planningpreparation, and practice, they can be made both effective and efficient 

Help from the Experts 

At Superior Managed IT, we have been assisting companies large and small get their virtual meetings goals and objectives aligned with their current software and infrastructure. In some cases, we have upgraded entire phone systems with our Unified Communication and Collaboration services, while others may just need to implement the collaboration platforms and get a few headsets. Whatever your preparedness level may be, we can help get your internal and external communication optimized for your business. Give us a call at 612-999-6200, or send us a message today for more information! 

About the author

Erin Gibbs

Erin Gibbs

Erin joined the SMIT Team in 2017. Her passion for technology and commitment to helping others inspired her career transition from Transportation Safety & Compliance into the Managed Services industry. With her unique blend of regulatory knowledge and tech-savvy skills, Erin plays a pivotal role in enhancing our team's capabilities and ensuring client satisfaction.

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