Friday | 17 April | 2020
By Wilma Bedford
Virtual business meetings are the order of the day due to the world as we know it already having been changed by Covid-19 and rapidly entering a digital era.
Virtual meetings are not unusual in large companies with international interests, but for smaller companies this will be a new experience. The advantage of the virtual meeting is that it is a quick and effective way of communicating with various employees in different departments, who aren’t residing under one roof and are working from their home offices.
Virtual meetings use vide-teleconference software such as Microsoft’s Skype, Adobe’s Connect and Google’s Hangouts, to mention but a few. Currently various software packages are on the market to meet this new requirement.
To have the virtual meeting running smoothly, certain requirements and etiquette rules have to be met.
- Make sure that all participants use the same software programme, that they are familiar with the programme and that all of them have a fast online connection. Also propose that everyone test their technology and skill with the programme beforehand so as to avoid delays. Make sure that your own face and the faces of others are visible during video meetings; the meeting and participation will be more effective if participants can see one another.
- As with a physical meeting, there needs to be a committee clerk. There must be an agenda, the aim and expected outcomes as well as the background against which the meeting was called must be stated clearly to avoid tedious monologues. Because people aren’t in the office, the grapevine isn’t functioning and not everyone will necessarily be aware of the shadow developments in the company.
- All the participants must know the basic rules of the meeting: be on time, have respect for one another and avoid interruptions.
- Prepare all documents ahead of time and provide each participant with the necessary documents by email.
- To prevent one person from dominating the discussion, state clearly that everyone will be granted the opportunity to speak and that the chairperson may call a specific person to speak. If you are the chairperson, be patient and don’t dominate the discussion yourself.
- Start the meeting with an ice-breaker. Employees may feel isolated because they are working from a distance and a friendly enquiry as to the person’s wellbeing and family strengthens interpersonal relationships.
- Be tidy and dressed as if you were at the office. Sloppiness or being too casual, even if you are at home, creates the impression that you aren’t taking the meeting seriously. Make sure the background against which you sit, is well lit and creates a professional impression; no-one wants to see your untidy home or exuberant children.
- Just as with a physical meeting, switch off your cell phone, set aside your in-box and don’t fiddle with your keyboard. Don’t multi-task. It is rude not to direct your full attention to the meeting.
- Switch off your microphone when it is not your turn to speak to eliminate background noise.
- Schedule the next meeting and do a follow-up afterwards to ensure that instructions were understood and will be executed, and if there are ways in which the virtual meeting could have been executed better.
- Stop the meeting should the proceedings be interrupted for technical reasons or poor online connections.
What it Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting
Frish, B. March 2020. Harvard Business Review.http://www.hbr.org
Virtual Meeting Etiquette Rules.
Church, G. April 7, 2020. All Work Space. http://www.allwork.space
* All information was correct at the time of publication.