Many businesses are now operating virtually, either by design or through necessity via the pandemic.

That means a bunch of people are holding virtual meetings, although not all of them are going well! If you’ve ever been frustrated during one of these meetings or walked away feeling that it could have been an email, or could have been shorter, then you’ve probably wished for a better way to conduct these meetings.

For meeting hosts, it’s important to take into account a few “golden rules” for successful meetings. These will help you to maintain engagement with your participants and get the outcomes you are looking for:

#1. Limit the number of meetings

It’s time to step back for an honest assessment - does every meeting have value? Or, are you having a daily startup just because “that’s how we’ve always done it?”

One of the quickest ways to lose engagement is if people feel that they’re at a “meeting for the sake of a meeting.” Perhaps you really don’t have much to say at a daily startup and those can be knocked back to twice a week. Basically, if it doesn’t need a daily (or weekly) update, don’t book one!

You probably have plenty of other reasons to have meetings, including specific project updates. Any additional meetings are taking up time that could otherwise be spent on work, so limiting your meetings can be the first “golden rule” to get success out of them.

7 Golden Rules...IMG 1

#2. Set a clear agenda

Another massive time waster happens when people say “let’s meet at 10am Tuesday,” then don’t prepare ahead for the meeting. Any productive meeting should have a clear start and end time. To facilitate that, you need an agenda.

Part of your meeting preparation should be to set defined goals. What do you need to achieve by having this meeting? Most of the time, that means you should also limit the agenda, rather than attempting to cram a lot of things in.

Many companies seem to book hour-long meetings because it’s a neat slot on a calendar, but often, a lot of side-tracking and daydreaming happens during a full hour (especially when people are sitting at home or in co-working spaces!) . An effective technique can be to chop it down to no more than 30 minutes, with 1-3 clear agenda goals.

Think about the content you will need to cover in order to reach your goals. How can it be gone through in the most effective way? This will help you to pin down your agenda.

Sometimes informational meetings are necessary, especially if you expect that people will have a lot of questions. Otherwise, information can often be communicated via email or other channels. It might even be via a pre-recorded video.

A huge benefit of building meetings around what you need to achieve is that it helps to streamline them. Too often in businesses, meetings end up being about giving different individuals their air time, which often drags out getting to the original point. “We have 20 minutes and here’s what we need to achieve” can be a great impetus to get to that point.

#3. Only invite those who are necessary

How many meetings have you been to where you’ve wondered why you were even there? Limiting meetings to those who are absolutely necessary respects people’s time and encourages the most important contributions.

In the virtual environment especially, larger meetings can be difficult to manage. You don’t necessarily see the non-verbal cues that you’ll notice during in-person meetings that indicate someone would like to speak. Some people just aren’t comfortable with trying to speak up, so keeping meetings small can help.

#4. Have all materials ready and accessible

Before you go into an in-person meeting, you generally expect that all printouts or necessary materials have been taken care of. It’s the same for virtual meetings - any references or materials needed should have been sent out ahead of time.

In the virtual environment, ensure that everyone has access to the docs they need. They might not want to print them out, but they need to at least be able to open them on-screen and get the information they need. You don’t want meetings to be held up by needing to grant access!

#5. Choose a good platform

Every virtual meeting needs to be hosted by a platform that enables it. There are several options! It pays to find one your company is comfortable with and offers the features you need (screen sharing, etc.).

Make sure that everyone knows how to use the platform. How many times over the last year or so have you been in a meeting where everyone is trying to tell the person speaking that they’re on mute (or any of the many Zoom faux pas that have been reported)?

Reliability should also be high up there on your list of criteria. You want strong connectivity and a glitch-free experience. For that, big players like Zoom tend to be a top choice.

#6. Have cameras on

Communication is one of your key challenges to overcome in a virtual environment. When you host virtual meetings, requiring cameras to be on is an important policy to have.

Why? Because it helps to ensure you and everyone else are giving your full attention to the meeting, as you would in-person. If you’re calling a meeting and wanting cameras off so you can multitask in the background, it’s probably time to ask if that meeting is really necessary, or the most important thing right now.

Having cameras on is a basic virtual meeting etiquette. It helps with the missing facial expressions or body language you’d normally see. It can also help people to feel more connected, rather than just a distant voice.

7 Golden Rules...IMG 2

#7. Sum up before closing

You’re holding a meeting because you want to achieve specific goals - summing up before closing your meeting can help to ensure you’ve covered them. It also gives your meeting attendees the chance to listen to the summary and speak up if they think anything has been left out.

Someone should be taking notes throughout (usually your administrative professional!), including noting key tasks and who is to deliver them. Include a summary of responsibilities so that everyone is clear on who is doing what.

Once your meeting has closed, send that list of tasks and responsibilities. To be even more effective, include a timeline.

Final thoughts

Virtual meetings can still be just as effective as in-person meetings, especially if you implement a few golden rules to run them smoothly.

Virtual administrative professionals happen to be virtual meeting specialists. You can count on your AP to understand what it takes to host a successful virtual meeting and to put some steps in place.

Schedule a call with Worxbee today to find your own virtual administrative professional. Take a look at how we can work with you here.