Lead virtual meetings like a boss

Virtual meetings have quickly become the currency of business collaboration. Despite COVID-19 quarantines and work-from-home orders, businesses around the world are surviving, if not thriving, on technology that lets us connect and even see each other in real time.

But even as virtual meetings help us “keep connected and carry on,” business owners and managers are concerned they may actually decrease productivity. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, attendees often interpret virtual group meetings as a license to multitask or even tune out while a few dominant voices carry the load. And in a recent survey by Econsultancy and Marketing Week, 71% of UK marketers and 67% of their North American peers said creative collaboration suffers when workers don’t share a space. More than 80% of UK and North American brand-side marketers believed that in-person collaboration is “always going to be superior” to virtual meetings.

At Right Hat, we are a “hybrid” business. While most of our team typically works together in a single location, others have always contributed remotely. We’ve learned to keep the creative energy and productive output high even when we can’t be in the same space. So before you fire up your screen for a session on Zoom (or Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or your platform of choice), consider these tried-and-true tips:  

 

1. Method conquers madness

Behind every great brainstorming session is a strong agenda. This is especially true in virtual settings where distractions abound. When you’re not trying to figure out how to run the meeting, more brain space is available to generate ideas. Create your agenda, set your goals and let imaginations run free. To make sure your collaboration bears fruit, assign next steps and send out a quick recap to keep everyone on the same page.

As the buyer gets interested, learns more and engages with the brand, look for ways to create a personal dialogue. If you manage this process well, you should see an increase in inquiries and purchases. But the journey doesn’t end when you are selected. It is just beginning.

The final stages—retaining buyers and getting them to advocate on your behalf, are just as important. Client feedback programs can be critical touchpoints here.


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2. See and be seen

No hiding behind initials, photos and avatars! Virtual meetings work best when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language. So make sure your team knows you don’t care about messy hair or informal clothes, and keep those cameras on. 

 

3. Shine a light on what matters

Sure, a creative free-for-all is fun, but virtual meetings can quickly lose focus if you’re not careful. Send around a pre-meeting summary of background information so that everyone logs on knowing the key points.

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4. Share and share alike (especially your screen)

Some of us process information best by listening, others by seeing. Help visual learners engage by preloading images, websites, and even emails that you might reference into an easily retrievable window on your screen, so you’re ready to share when the time comes. (If you’re not an experienced screen-sharer, practice a few times before the meeting so you don’t slow down the conversation.)

 

5. Acknowledge the elephant in the room

Virtual meetings feel a little different, and may make some people uncomfortable. Give participants the space to express any concerns or frustrations they have about the format instead of allowing it to fester. There might or might not be an easy solution, but it’s always best to acknowledge the elephant, deal with the feelings and move on.

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6. No passes on participation

If you’ve invited the right people to your meeting, you want to hear from everyone. But in a virtual setting, it can be challenging to get everyone to participate. People can be concerned about talking over each other, or simply content to let others drive the discussion. To ensure that you hear from everyone, call on people periodically during the meeting or go around the table to solicit views. If your group includes highly introverted members (as so many creative teams do), you can invite them to virtually “raise a hand” if your meeting platform permits.

 

7. Go small

People often feel more comfortable trying out creative ideas before a smaller group. Use your online platform’s breakout room feature to create brainstorming teams. Between meetings, use conversation platforms like Slack, Google Hangouts, Hive and others to replicate the kind of on-the-fly problem solving that happens when people work in close proximity.

 

8. Don’t forget the funny

Strange things are going to happen on a virtual meeting: technology fails; wardrobe malfunctions; and visits from kids, pets and spouses. Lean in. Sharing a laugh will help your team build the kind of trust that’s needed for creative ideas to emerge.

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To spark more joy at your next online confab, download our free virtual meeting backgrounds, click here. For more ideas about your next creative meeting, check out our article How to Run a Great Creative Meeting.

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