Posted March 8, 2022
Online meetings are the new norm in the workplace. The pandemic has forced businesses to rethink how they handle team interactions, and the result has been a huge upswing in the frequency of online meetings. Nearly all (96%) companies conduct virtual meetings at least sometimes. Further, nine out of ten workers said they are satisfied using technology tools that allow them to communicate and collaborate virtually, according to technology platform GitLab’s “The Remote Work Report.”
But conducting meetings, presentations, and events through remote technologies is very different from more traditional in-person interactions. They require new strategies to be effective and etiquette that’s distinct from offline interactions. What do business leaders and workers need to know to be maximally successful in virtual spaces?
1: Turn off the camera (sometimes).
Constantly using the camera can be both fatiguing and distracting, according to a 2021 study published in The Journal of Applied Psychology. Specifically, when the remote meeting includes video, people can become hyper-aware of how they are appearing onscreen and how others are reacting to them.
In the study, turning the cameras off freed people from feeling like they needed to concentrate on faces. Then, they could focus more on the content of the meeting itself. Obviously, some meetings call for people being able to see each other, but if your meeting can do without people showing their faces, consider skipping it. Alternatively, you might put participants’ focus on a presentation or visual elements via screen sharing.
2: Prep the technology.
One potential pitfall of virtual meetings is the fact that it takes technology to make it work. We’re all familiar with situations where something goes wrong with the technology. In one amusing case, a lawyer participating in a virtual courtroom hearing inadvertently appeared as a cat, the result of a “filter” gone awry.
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To avoid such snafus, make sure you prep the technology beforehand. Test every component, especially headsets, speakers, and microphones. Consider performing a complete dry run before the actual meeting, and ensure you have adequate technical support available if any problems do arise.
4: Use the technology’s tools.
Technology has upsides, though, and meeting organizers should take full advantage of them. Steven Rogelberg, author of The Surprising Science of Meetings, told the MIT Sloan Management Review that voting tools, chat room technology, and other tools give both organizers and attendees more options to interact, provide real-time feedback, and get more out of the meeting.
In some cases, the organizer can even create virtual breakout rooms that allow attendees to break into small groups for interactive exercises before rejoining the whole group. The organizer can jump between these groups as needed. As Rogelberg writes, “Utilizing the technological tools at your disposal helps increase involvement and engagement.”
3: Encourage interactivity.
Tools like those described above are especially important because facilitating interactivity can be tough when meeting remotely. Just as with in-person meetings, organizers and presents have to keep participants engaged. The best way to do that is to facilitate interactivity.
One meta-analysis of best practices recommends “allowing for introductions and small talk at the beginning of the session; setting agenda and display an agenda; utilizing technology to build in polls, surveys, virtual whiteboards and trivia showing results in real time; and working humour [sic] into the content of the session.” Such interactivity is the best way to foster success and maximize virtual media.