Virtual Meeting Tip #3: Starting the Meeting

As you begin your virtual meeting, if you're not using a web meeting tool that allows everyone to see who's online, don't forget to announce who is on the call. A great way for you and participants to keep track of who's on the call is to ask participants to draw a circle. As each participant joins the call, assign a number as they join, starting at 1:00. This way you have a mental picture of everyone at the table.

Once people are on-board, you want to clearly state what's expected of participants and what to expect from their time together. A good virtual meeting agenda contains:

  • What are we trying to achieve and how will we know when we're done? An update on a project is very different from a brainstorming session. Do we have to actually make a decision? Will this be interactive, with my input requested? Attendees are only human and will occasionally give in to other distractions, so providing them a valid reason to stay engaged is critical. Knowing the agenda, desired outcomes, and expectations will help people stay on track, and it also allows team members to keep each other accountable with comments like, "I think we're getting off-track. Remember the goal of this meeting is to assign roles for the trade show. Can we refocus on that goal?"
  • How long will this take? If I know that the meeting will take 45 minutes, I can mentally block out the time and dredge up enough attention span to be productive. But if I don't know how long it will take, I'll be much more likely to tune out.
  • What should I do about it? If you want people to actively participate, tell them so and specify how you want their input. Hold them accountable for their participation by calling for input throughout the program, especially at the beginning. Ask everyone for a quick update or feedback of some sort early in the meeting. This demonstrates that they shouldn't just put you on mute and answer email - there's stuff they'll have to think about and contribute to.
  • What are the ground rules? Finally, before formally starting the virtual meeting, remind everyone of the ground rules.

NEXT MONTH: Learn what GROUND RULES lead to successful virtual meetings.

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