One of our clients summed up the current situation perfectly: Business as Unusual.
COVID-19 has caused many organizations to take on a different approach to ways of working. If you’re finding yourself in the same situation as many of our clients, you’re probably scrambling to switch your big meetings from in-person to virtual. You’re also probably worried about the quality of those meetings, and the outcome. After months and months of planning and preparation, it feels overwhelming to make large, structural changes at the last minute. Luckily, it can be done — and done well.
Based on our experiences working with clients over the last few weeks — preparing everyone for “business as unusual” — we’ve compiled nine tips that will keep your virtual meetings productive and successful:
1. SEND PRE AND POST COMMUNICATIONS
Control the narrative — be positive and candid. Explain why your conference is moving to a digital platform and make sure everyone has the information and materials ahead of time (e.g., agendas, schedules, presentation, etc.). Post meeting, send an email with the details of what was discussed to all attendees, just in case they missed something due to technical difficulties.
2. REQUIRE EVERYONE TO BE ON CAMERA
This helps keep people engaged and prevents people from multi-tasking (or falling asleep!).
3. SEED QUESTIONS AHEAD OF TIME
To keep the conversation engaging, prepare a few people with questions to ask. This helps avoid those awkward silences that we have all experienced. Seeding questions also allows for some tough questions, that you know are already on people’s minds, to be addressed.
4. EMBRACE THE AWKWARD SILENCE
It always happens – both virtually and in-person. A question is asked, and silence follows. In this case, embrace it. Give everyone a couple of seconds to speak up or encourage people to share their thoughts in a chat box. The silence never lasts long.
5. EMPOWER LEADERS TO TAKE A LEADING ROLE
Prior to the meeting, all senior leaders should review the agenda and understand how they can take an active role. Put leaders in charge of sending out materials, facilitating breakouts with their groups and reporting out when the larger group comes back together. The tone and attitude of leaders is critical for success.
6. DON’T TRY TO MAKE HIGHLY INTERACTIVE PORTIONS WORK VIRTUALLY
Not everything you had planned for the in-person meeting will work virtually, and that’s okay. Eliminate interactive sessions such as acting out different scenarios and replace it with conversations that will work virtually.
7. HAVE A DIVERSE PANEL OF SPEAKERS AND A VARIETY OF PRESENTERS
You may have already been planning this, but make sure to have a variety of speakers. Having different speakers will break up the sessions and will ensure that there is a wide range of voices being heard.
8. INTRODUCE SHORT BURSTS OF CONTENT
To keep people actively engaged, create an agenda filled with a lot of different topics broken down into short bursts. This helps keep people engaged and ensures that no one speaks or stays on the same topic for too long.
9. STAY ON TIME, BUILD IN BREAKS AND END ON TIME
It’s not easy to sit in front of a computer for an extended period of time. Build in coffee and bathroom breaks and try to stay on time. If you run over, you risk losing people’s time and attention. Another way to keep everyone engaged, is to send packages with snacks and candy that can be consumed during the breaks. Small details can go a long way.
This is not the first-time organizations have faced disruption. But even during turbulent times organizations can still thrive and grow. Use this as an opportunity to explore the future of work and new ways to remain productive and resourceful virtually. If you have questions, please reach to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.