Long before the onset of the ongoing global pandemic, dispersed teams were slowly becoming common in the workplace. The online meeting in the age of the pandemic is now a staple. Unfortunately, some of these virtual meetings are more unproductive than their traditional meeting counterparts.
Collaboration has a great advantage in the workplace, but it is not an easily achievable attribute amongst dispersed teams and their virtual meetings. The speedy chat by the water cooler has evolved into 30-minute video meeting on an online meeting platform.
Work hours have been lost to awkward video chats with data showing a massive increase in the use of virtual meeting tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. By the end of March, Microsoft teams had accumulated over 2.7 billion minutes of use while Zoom downloads had blown up by 1330%.
It is not unusual to have these gawky meetings go out of hand as familiar sounds of “your screen was frozen for a minute, kindly repeat your point” or “kindly turn on your mic” bring the meeting to a standstill.
Zoom fatigue has now become a new phenomenon, eating away at dispersed team’s sanity and ensuring the meeting productivity stays at an all-time low. Did you know that once distracted, the human brain requires 23 minutes to get its focus mojo back? This data point is a good explanation of why the 30-minute online meeting is often extremely unproductive.
Why you need to have smart meetings
There are nevertheless many advantages to online meetings amongst dispersed teams. When workers in diverse locations, separated by time and space collaborate, they can develop products, services, and information faster, cheaply, and more efficiently.
By distributing employees, businesses become more agile in production and customer requests management. The virtual collaboration will also enhance key stakeholder involvement in a business’s decisions and work processes.
When smart meetings become a norm, both the employee and stakeholder will experience more satisfaction and an improvement in the quality of work.
Ten of the best tips on how to hold smart meetings
1. Have a meeting facilitator
Most normal meetings are not collaborative because most professionals do not have basic meeting management information. In a physical meeting room, however, this shortcoming is surmountable. The meeting’s members will fumble, stumble, and will eventually make the meeting work.
An online meeting is less forgiving. When you have a variety of professionals in diverse time zones and geographies, a few hitches can throw the whole meeting into disarray. You can put an end to awkward silences and sudden bursts of speech with a meeting facilitator.
The facilitator will put an end to the free-for-all environment, ending discussions that hijack and that throw the agenda out of the window. The smart meeting facilitator will develop the meeting’s agenda and ensure that every member has an opportunity to contribute.
They will keep every participant from going off-topic and ensure that all meeting notes are taken, shared, and followed up after the meeting. Aira is a virtual meeting assistant that intelligently takes meeting notes and shares them with meeting participants.
She will turn your normal meetings into smart meetings via her state of the art machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. This virtual meeting assistant will join your online meetings, transcribe the meeting’s dialogue, and highlights the action points discussed.
With Aira at hand, your human facilitator can enjoy sharing and solving problems with other team members. They will not spend their meeting moments on minute writing tasks. Aira integrates with customer relationship management platforms via Zapier, to ensure easy access to meeting documents and analytics.
2. Use participant’s names
According to research done by Wil Schuz, when individuals gather to collaborate they need to feel in control. They also require openness and inclusion. These three needs can be naturally meet in a physical meeting but are harder to meet in a virtual meeting.
The need for inclusion for instance can be met by ensuring that all participants are called by their names. This smart meetings feature will cut down on the fear of being marginalized or ignored. Most online meeting members join meetings with the sneaky suspicion that no one recognizes or knows that they are present.
Use names to foster the feeling of inclusion. Online meeting tools like Zoom will display names automatically during meetings.
3. Poll the participants
Virtual meetings could have cross-cultural elements opening up a wide door for cultural challenges. There also virtual meetings that are held across international airwaves, bringing about language and time differences to the already challenging virtual meeting mix.
Virtual work also has many personal challenges. Humans assimilate 65% of communication via their eyes by translating a speaker’s body language. Non-verbal communication helps to foster a sense of team and trust.
Most online meetings kill most non-verbal communication cues, which encourages a breakdown in the interpretation of dialogue. You can meet the meeting member’s need for inclusion by polling the group. The meeting facilitator can ensure that they speak to each person in the virtual room and ask them whether they have ideas to share or whether they agree to the agreement at the table.
Since the virtual space lacks visual cues, the facilitator needs to cue in members when it is their time to speak. Polling every person in the room will increase the feeling of control and inclusion and cut down on boredom and dozing members.
Use smart tools such as Lean Coffee Table that allow members to vote and suggest on the ongoing discussions. The tool will enhance inclusion, and enhance feelings of influence, competency, and control.
4. Timebox your meetings
Most meetings are too long, a disastrous mistake when it comes to virtual meetings. You need to schedule a meeting time and use it accordingly. Do not extend your meeting time. Try whittling down the time until you have the perfect time schedule fit.
Timeboxing helps in dedicating blocks of time to a specific meeting agenda and topic. This practice keeps the meeting productive, meeting all goals laid. Use smart time management tools such as TickTick Premium to time box your meeting’s schedule.
5. Lay down meeting rules then optimize them
There are many conflicting online meeting facts out there. Some say that members should mute their microphones to reduce distraction. Others say that the use of video enhances concentration, preventing distractions such as selfies or multi-tasking.
Rules are necessary for group management but you will not know how effective they are until you test them. Smart tools such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, can help you test, analyze, and optimize your meeting rules.
6. Use virtual whiteboards
You can create a common visual focus to increase participation. The visual documentation of ideas will increase participation and collaboration. Visual focus can be enhanced via screen projections or virtual whiteboards. WebEx has a smart whiteboard feature that allows its users to sketch their feelings or ideas on it.
7. Allow members to chat
Short online meetings have very little time to spare for adequate inclusion procedures. Tools such as GroupMe helps dispersed teams to chat among themselves on the go. It has a video, picture, and emoji feature as well as location sharing.
8. Have a technology guru at hand
Many businesses are grappling with the implementation of an effective virtual workplace. These companies are holding meetings without a plan in the hope that they will reap the benefits and opportunities of collaboration.
Unfortunately, all that they are gleaning are the pitfalls of unproductive meetings. The online meeting is very dependent on technology. Most employees on the other hand lack the technological know-how required to operate these virtual tools.
Since few users understand how to make the best use of these tools, the technology will ‘go down’ when it is needed the most. It pays to have a technology guru to handle your distracting technology glitches and reduce delays.
9. Inspire joy!
There is never a dull meeting in smart meetings. Eliminate any boredom by marking events to enhance satisfaction amongst participants. Some businesses will for instance call for a virtual candle lighting session to inspire joy and contemplation.
Since online meetings do not have organic socialization, encourage non-work activity, and catch up sessions after the meeting. Let them introduce their babies or fur babies or sing Baby Shark. They can utilize GroupMe to enhance direct messaging and coordinate private chats across diverse device platforms.
10. Make the meeting proceedings actionable
Use tools such as Aira to share meeting notes afterward and to ensure that all deliberations are followed up on. Aira will share your meeting notes and transcriptions via email to all team members. You can also upload your meeting documents to Google Drive to enhance real-time document sharing and collaboration.
Smart meetings are productive and enjoyable and are a formidable part of a business’s growth strategy. Use these tips above to create smart meetings that enhance collaboration, productivity, and feelings of inclusion amongst members.