How do we make sure that meetings are effective when we’re all working at home and relying on video technology?

According to Rogelberg, in his book ‘The Surprising Science of Meetings’, it’s estimated that non-managerial employees have eight meetings a week and managerial staff have 12, costing companies an estimated £100 million in lost profit each year. However, the

cost of meetings shouldn’t just be measured by how many hours they absorb but instead, measured by the cost to the business of a bad decision or no decision.

There are plenty of methods you can use to make your virtual meetings more effective. Below you’ll find some ideas from our Effective Virtual Meetings workshops to help you to recharge your meetings and fill them with purpose.

The characteristics of effective meetings

There are several markers of effective meetings, including having clear objectives, getting the environment right, setting a strong agenda and focusing on continuous improvement. We’ll cover some of these below. But our words of advice as a starting point are to be brave. Virtual meetings are not so different, so have confidence and commit to them being productive. If you keep your meetings as short as possible and pay close attention to language style, body language and facial expressions, you’ll get off to a good start.

How many people should attend?

According to Bain, the ideal maximum number of participants for a decision-making meeting is seven. Each additional participant above 7 reduces the ability for the group to make a decision by 10%. How many meetings have you attended recently where your Teams gallery has been completely full? This is definitely something to keep an eye on.

What’s on your agenda?

Another key characteristic of effective meetings is having a clear agenda with specific objectives. A meeting without this core staple can leave participants feeling confused and unproductive. Research by Hubstaff suggests that teams can have meetings purelyproductivity through leadership coaching to fulfil a sense of purpose and feel as if they’ve got things done. Don’t let this be the case in your business.

Meetings should only be held when there is something of genuine importance to discuss.  Agendas should also reference expected timings for each item, to allow the chair to make sure the session is as short as possible. According to the Parkinson principle, the shorter the meeting, the greater the chance of retaining essential information.

Start as you mean to go on

It’s important to introduce rules of engagement at the beginning of your meeting to set up the session for success and provide a benchmark for behaviours that aren’t acceptable. Your role as leader is to build an environment of trust amongst attendees. Colleagues who trust each other are more likely to contribute more creatively to discussions. This is because low levels of trust cause our brains to release catecholamine, which reduces new ideas, creative thinking, empathy and good judgement. On the flip side, when we trust others, our brains release dopamine, making us feel more positive, oxytocin, helping us to connect, and serotonin, encouraging us to help each other.

Objective thinking

Clarity during meetings can help us when we’re working virtually. One way to make your Zoom or Teams meetings run like clockwork is to develop simple objectives. They must

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be outcome-focused and understood by all participants in order to be fully successful.

Meeting objectives should be SMART, and must relate solely to that meeting. Clear objectives for all meeting attendees will provide a renewed focus and give people renewed confidence in their role.

Ambience and engagement

Have you ever wished that your team meetings were calmer and that everyone who wanted to contribute was given the chance to do so without being interrupted? It’s widely acknowledged that warmly welcoming people, even without face-to- face contact, or even playing soft music can help colleagues feel at ease.

In terms of meeting organisation, Hubilo suggests that everyone who wishes to contribute to the meeting should have a full and free chance to do so. The chair should ask each attendee to contribute in turn and make sure there is a balance of input from everyone.

Keeping meetings interactive

Meetings should not always only be discussion-based. There are many techniques that can be used that are more effective in the right situations to make virtual meetings interactive.  Methods that encourage experiential learning, such as immersive experiences, themed challenges, real life scenario-based exercises and role play will lead to a 90% retention rate, versus more traditional discussion-based methods, which result in a 5% retention rate.

It’s also a good idea to use lateral thinking when aiming to solve problems. According to De Bono, the main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls. A well-chaired interactive meeting can allow attendees to explore new ways of thinking, enabling them to clarify their thoughts and find new solutions to problems.

Find out more about running effective virtual meetings

The above is just a taster of information from our workshop, which offers a comprehensive, immersive and interactive guide to better meetings. If you’d like to find out more about applying these concepts and more to help your teams thrive in virtual meetings, talk to us. Our virtual meetings workshops will help you to create meetings that lead your teams to success.

If you need support on a broader level, I’ve set aside part of my working week to offer free mini Executive Coaching and Mentoring to people who would value some help in adopting new ways of working. Get in touch if you’d like to talk.