Just several weeks ago, virtual meetings and presentations were a second-choice, only-if-we-can’t-avoid-it option. Now, they’re the norm. The rules of engagement are different, new, and at times super awkward.
But we still have to set the room—even if it’s through Zoom. Knowing the fundamentals of a virtual meeting is more important than ever.
1. Test Your Tech
Knowing the types of tech that are most compatible with your meeting participants is key. Ask them before the meeting for their preferred platform and align on a plan. Before you meet learn how to use all the functions on that platform, including video controls, how to present or share your screen, and how to chat within the meeting.
Most importantly, make sure you know how the audio function works, including muting and unmuting your audio. Always check your audio! And then check your audio again. It’s also helpful to check your tech with a friend before the meeting. Do a quick test run so you can work out the bugs on your own.
Consider recording significant meetings, reviews, and brainstorming sessions to ensure you have a reference to your conversation. This makes it easy to share the recording with anyone who may have missed the meeting, too.
2. Set the Agenda, Attendees and Goals
It’s time to make every meeting count. When you’re planning to get together, think through what you want to get out of the meeting and who’s necessary to help you meet that goal. At GS&F, every client and project has a defined team of leaders—it’s what we call the leads model. This helps us include the right stakeholders in the right conversations, and it’s been especially important as we’ve begun working remotely. It’s easy to invite everyone, but resist the urge. Invite only those involved directly with actionable steps forward.
You can make your meetings more efficient and meaningful before they even begin. Send material for attendees to read ahead of time. Make sure you save time for questions, and end with a hard wrap up. Recap what you accomplished and provide next steps for everyone present.
3. Assign an Emcee
In person it’s easy to keep the conversation moving, but on a video call the cues we use to move the conversation aren’t as easy to come by. That’s why your meetings need an emcee—a hype man—to be the traffic cop. They’ll open the call, introduce the meeting’s purpose and participants, provide direction throughout the meeting, and direct questions to the right person.
Moving the discussion from person-to-person is also the emcee’s job. These have to be hard stops during a virtual meeting—lingering or talking over one another can lead to confusion and inefficiency. Instead, get your thoughts out and then shhh.
The emcee can help by alerting the group who is on deck to speak next, and each speaker can give a heads up to the emcee when they’re done talking by saying something as simple as “Back to you, emcee!” Treat group meetings just like a professional walkie-talkie—communicate your moves. And don’t worry if there are a few pauses. Wait a few more seconds—it’s likely someone will jump in and spark a conversation.
4. Be Mindful of Your Appearance, Environment and Non-Verbals
Video meetings give us a gifted glimpse into someone’s real life, and we can use these opportunities to foster deeper relationships and connect further when we’re back to meeting in person. For example, you might get to meet a coworker’s kiddos who peek their heads into a meeting unannounced.
But we also have to be cautious of the distractions that our presentation can cause. Make sure you’re cognizant of audio distractions like dishwashers or washing machines, as well as visual distractions like a busy background or clothing. You can always show your personality and use your environment to inspire, entertain and energize a meeting—but be selective and intentional.
When you’re screen sharing be mindful of open tabs, desktop hygiene, and the information shown on your screen. Always check your body language—no eye rolling, deep breathing, or shoulder shrugging—and especially no multi-tasking. No matter how subtle you are, it’s easy to tell when someone’s typing out an email or checking a text.
5. Be Human
Finally, you may be on a screen—but you’re still human. Take a few minutes to connect with your team before beginning your meeting. Introduce new faces just as you would in person. Smile with your eyes, be approachable, and look into the camera. Get people to engage through activities—body polls (thumbs up or down), chat functions, or quizzes and surveys. Keep your reference materials close by so your smiling face can be seen in full at eye level.
A Few Last Reminders
Don’t forget—relying on virtual meetings and presentations is new to pretty much all of us. It’s a new art we all need to improve. So remember to practice. Practice again. And then finish your day with more practice.
The way we work virtually will change the way we work forever. It’ll either make us better than ever before—or slow us down. At GS&F, we’re all about bringing out the best in each other, no matter where we are or how we’re meeting—and keeping our presentation skills in top shape is a way we do just that.
Check out how you can keep your brand moving forward during these challenging times here.