By Leia O’Connell, MSW, GCDF
Corporate Recruiter, APUS
As many workers have shifted to a remote setting, what was once normal is now unfamiliar territory. In your traditional workplace, you had a certain rhythm and knowledge of what to expect from each day, each meeting, and each task. Now you’re in an upheaval, trying to manage your new life at home and online.
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For some employees, the change to remote work and virtual meetings might feel shocking at first. It was for me almost eight years ago when I started working from home.
What did I learn early on? Virtual meetings require a new set of rules than what I was used to.
You’re likely aware of the basics of a virtual meeting. Ideally, test your tech ahead of time, make sure you’re not in a shadow so your face can be clearly seen and remember that wearing your bathrobe is never a good look.
But there are other ways to contribute to successful virtual meetings. Here’s how you can do your part.
Facilitating a Virtual Meeting
The energy you personally bring to the meeting is likely to be the #1 factor in how successful it will be. As the facilitator, participants will look to you to set the tone, answer tough questions, and showcase clear expectations and goals. If you’re not excited about your own virtual meeting, don’t expect anyone else to be.
You will not have the rapt attention of your attendees in a virtual meeting. When you attend a meeting in person, it’s much easier to focus. But in a virtual meeting, instant message pings and email beeps create constant distractions.
Find ways to engage your staff during the meetings. Ask them direct questions. Don’t just let them know you expect them to participate; actively incorporate ways for them to engage with you.
Change it up! Give others the opportunity to step up and lead the meetings. This strategy will not only help decrease a meeting’s monotony, but will help employees understand how running a meeting differs from merely attending it.
Know what your goals are ahead of the meeting and share them with your team. Like all meetings, virtual ones can easily be derailed.
Remember, you control the meeting; it doesn’t control you. Keep in mind that meetings don’t have to be all work. You can create time dedicated exclusively to fun. Virtual scavenger hunts, Zoom Pictionary or your own version of MTV Cribs are all options for remote team building!
Participating in Virtual Meetings
You’ve likely heard a lot about ‘muting’ yourself during a meeting if you’re new to remote work. I’ve seen a number of horror stories in the past few weeks about employees new to remote work who should have muted themselves during a meeting, didn’t, and were promptly embarrassed (or worse).
Knowing when to stay on mute is very important! But if you truly want to help enhance your virtual meeting, try ‘un-muting’ yourself and staying quiet. If your family is at home with you, I realize this might simply be impossible.
When you’re off mute, you can give the facilitator some verbal feedback. There’s nothing worse as a presenter than telling a joke and hearing dead air. Did the joke flop or was everyone laughing on mute? This feedback is especially important if you and others are not on video.
Refrain from Online Distractions during a Virtual Meeting
Online distractions during a virtual meeting are all tempting. Responding to an email during a virtual meeting, however, is just as obvious as it would be in person.
While some distractions cannot be avoided, try to stay away from them whenever possible. Remember that you may be in a position to facilitate a meeting someday, and you’ll need everyone to listen to what you have to say.
Whether in person or online, each of us contributes to a successful team. By doing your part during virtual meetings, you’re moving your team forward instead of holding them back.
About the Author
Leia O’Connell has worked for American Public University System since 2012. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF). Leia has been an Academic Advisor for the School of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), a Graduate Academic Advisor and a Career Coach. In her current role as a Corporate Recruiter, she forms mutually beneficial relationships with diverse employers. Leia holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hartwick College and a master’s degree in social work from Binghamton University.