The coronavirus pandemic has brought situations unusual and somewhat disturbing to people, even more so, to businesses and multinational companies. The prospect of working together in one office and holding team meetings has been completely put off by the notion of social distancing. Though these times are difficult for everyone to bear, but businesses can still continue to work from home and communicate with each other in an effective manner with the wide range of technologies available in the present day. One of the most productive ways of holding meetings with colleagues is through video conferencing apps. It is important to not only know why to hold virtual meetings but also how should you conduct the same. What you must and must not do and how you can improve the engagement of the participants if you are already conducting one.

When everyone is isolated in their own homes and are required to work, it can sometimes prove to be demotivating and saddening. Connecting teams and colleagues through virtual conferencing can boost their mood and motivate them to be productive in addition to creating ideas and solving problems.

Firstly, set a time for the meeting that suits all the team members. With many employers hiring remote working employees, from other cities and sometimes from other countries, a special focus should be put on setting the time for the meeting. Make sure to receive confirmation from all the members an hour prior to the meeting. In order to save time and avoid chaos during the video conferencing, make a list of the agendas to be discussed in the meeting and mail it to all the participants. Ask them to read it thoroughly and prepare their inputs for the same. This will save you from unnecessarily wasting much time on reading and explaining the agendas during the video call. If the members have any query regarding the agendas, they may ask once the virtual meeting begins.

Set a time frame for all the sections of the meeting. For a virtual meeting to be productive, it needs to be short and informative. Make sure to not drag any section of the meeting for too long otherwise the participants might lose focus. Set a time for all the sections for not more than 30 minutes.

As you start the meeting, don’t forget to break the ice first. Small talk on virtual meetings might feel informal at first but in reality, virtual meetings are new and unusual to most of us and making small talk, asking how everyone is doing is a great way to release some tension and make everyone feel comfortable. This way, people will be able to engage with you as well as others more freely and will put up their ideas with more confidence.

During the meeting, make sure to falter off all distractions that might disturb the flow of someone’s speech. Mute your mic when you are done with your chance to speak as if left unmuted, it might catch accidental or surrounding noise like that of sneezing, coughing or the door closing and opening behind you, etc. It might obstruct the focus of the person who is speaking and therefore it is always a good thing to be considerable of your colleague and mute your mic so that it is easy for them to concentrate on delivering and listening to others’ ideas without any distraction. Also, make sure you are sitting in a quiet place with a decent background with the same objective avoiding distractions.

Remember to dress formally while attending virtual meetings. It might not be a good impression on your teammates and colleagues if you showed up in an informal attire for the meeting. Not only your clothes, your appearance on the whole must not be compromised. Wash your face, brush your hair and shave your beard before sitting in front of the camera.

While on the camera, avoid any sort of multitasking. Firstly, because, you will be seen by others on screen and it will prevent you from paying attention to the keypoints that are being discussed. You can also assign various tasks to the participants so that they have to be attentive during the meeting and do not have a chance to multi task. Ask them to make notes, prepare a viewpoint on a particular agenda or look after the slides of the presentation being displayed.

Make use of the various in-app tools in your meeting. To avoid the meetings from turning monotonous, make use of the various features provided by almost every video conferencing app. Use virtual whiteboards, display presentations and provide handouts for reference. Many people are not accustomed to speaking on video calls and it is your responsibility to make them come of their shell and contribute their worthful insights. Go around the table and ask everyone for their views on a topic or for a solution of a problem that you might face. This will make them feel included and confident, in addition to some of the brilliant insights you might come across.

Some other tips that might come handy from time to time while you continue to run virtual meetings include, running a trial meeting on the app before the actual one begins, so that you are well versed with the features and are able to overcome any hassle that might emerge during the actual meeting is going on. Wait for your turn to speak and do not interrupt your colleagues as this might create a confusion among the rest. Wait for the other person to indicate that they are done with their part and then begin with what you have to share. Lastly, don’t forget to make the meetings interactive to retain everyone’s attention and interest.

Face-to-face meetings are the best way to share our thoughts and assess others’ emotions and body language and virtual meetings are the next best. During these times of crisis, they can work as a motivating and bonding force between your team. If conducted efficiently, you will find it extremely productive and a way better solution that a passive phone call meeting where there is no way to know if all the members are really attentive or have dozed off halfway through the meeting.