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Improve Your Virtual Meetings With These 5 Tips and Tools

By Barbara Beauregard   |    November 6, 2019   |    9:04 PM

Keep Your Team and Other Attendees Engaged During Online Meetings

In today’s modern business environment, more and more companies are realizing the benefits of allowing team members to work remotely. Additionally, it’s more common than ever to hold virtual meetings with business partners, prospects, and clients. 

But, despite the upsides, things can get tricky. Especially when you want to hold effective meetings with a dispersed team. 

Communication, technology, time zones, and more can all add to the difficulty of online meetings. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to improve how you conduct remote meetings. Keep reading to learn about the best tools, tips, and strategies that you can use to engage attendees, no matter where they’re calling in from.

1. Choose the right virtual meeting tool

Online meetings rely on technology, and getting this piece right is crucial to future success. There’s no shortage of software, so use these two important questions to guide your search:

  • What key functionalities do you need? Some teams rely on video, others are good with voice. You might also need capabilities like screen sharing and document collaboration.
  • How many people will attend your meetings? If it’s just you and another person, a simple virtual chat tool like Slack or Google Hangouts may do the trick. If you’ll have 15 remote workers, you’ll need something that can handle a crowd.

These questions will guide your search for the perfect online meeting tool. To start out, look into popular options like GoToMeeting, Zoom and Skype

Don’t forget about “old school” tools like conference calls, either. Phone call-based meetings can be very effective, especially when you have access to conference-ready phones and other equipment.

2. Prepare an agenda and set objectives

Poorly planned meetings are the bane of every office worker’s existence, regardless of how the meeting is held. 

Respect your attendees’ time by preparing an agenda and establishing objectives. Share these details with everyone so that they know what’s in store.

3. Establish ground rules for your online meeting

Ground rules ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them. Some helpful rules to share include:

  • Hit ‘Mute’ when in a noisy environment and not speaking.
  • State your name before speaking, especially in a large group.
  • Do not interrupt someone when they’re speaking (some online meeting tools have a ‘Raise Your Hand’ feature, which can be very useful.)

While you’re establishing rules, don’t forget to let attendees know if the meeting will be recorded.

4. Learn how to get your virtual meeting back on track

Even the most meticulously planned meetings can go haywire. Prepare for this scenario and think about how you’ll get everyone back on track.

For example, if someone brings up an unrelated topic, you can ask a clarifying question like, “I’m not sure how X relates to (the topic of the meeting.) Can you clarify the relation, or perhaps we should talk about X another time?”

5. Avoid time zone snafus

Coordinating schedules across time zones can quickly become frustrating and complicated. You want to choose a time that’s reasonable for everyone, after all.

In theory, tools like Google Calendar should make it easy to schedule events across time zones, but this isn’t always the case. Here are two free online tools you can use to double check time zones:

  • Worldtimebuddy creates a visual timetable based on where attendees are located. 
  • Every Time Zone’s slider defaults to your time zone and allows you to easily see what time it is in other countries.