Virtual meetings: How to make them more interactive in 2023
The average employee participates in at least eight meetings per week, many of which are held online. What can you do to make your virtual meetings more than just a tedious routine?In a lot cases, online meetings can be just as effective as in-person meetings. Plus, they offer the benefit of greater convenience and flexibility.
The key to a good virtual meeting is keeping everyone engaged. However, that’s not the easiest task ever. Most of us tend to tune out when there’s nothing happening on air, but you can help your team stay focused and motivated with a few tweaks.
Is there a secret sauce to making virtual meetings as interactive as possible? We know a few ingredients – you’ll find them in this article.
What Are the Different Types of Virtual Meetings?
There are three main types of virtual meetings: audio conferences, video conferences, and webinars.
- Audio conferences are similar to phone calls. Conversations take place entirely over audio, so only the participants’ voices can be heard.
- Video conferences are multi-way conversations between participants (and/or hosts) who can see and hear each other. They often also have some additional features like screen sharing and recording.
- Webinars are one-way conversations that allow the presenter to share their screen with the audience. The attendees usually only play the role of listeners here. However, such meetings are often followed by Q&A sessions when the participants can also speak up.
What Are the Biggest Challenges of Hosting Your Meetings Online?
Could online meetings ever replace in-person conversations in a business environment? Yes, especially if the company is mostly operating remotely.
They are not only more cost-effective but often also more time-efficient.
However, companies using online meetings face many dilemmas and challenges. These issues include:
- technical glitches, such as connection issues or audio problems that you have no control over
- difficulties in reading body language, making it harder to build rapport and trust
- Screen exhaustion, lack of productivity, and constant tiredness
How do you develop trust and relationships between team members when the human element seems to be irreplaceable?
We keep hearing that nothing can replace an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. And we can’t agree more.
But, what if you were able to make your virtual meetings more interactive and less of a routine so that they won’t be as tiresome as they were before?
Do you know how telepresence differs from video conferencing?
6 Ways To Make Your Team More Engaged in Your Online Meetings
Here are some best practices and tips that will help you get the most out of your virtual meetings:
Tip 1: Plan the Meetings in Advance
Come up with an agenda that outlines all the topics you will discuss during the session.
Meeting agendas help you respect people’s time.
Following an agenda can decrease meeting times by up to 80%. An agenda helps meetings stay on track, allows people to prepare before they come in, and optimizes the discussion time.
On top of that, you can document the decisions you make, which saves your organization from having repeat conversations later on.
Meeting agendas help minimize operational costs.
Did you know that ineffective meetings can cost companies more than $37 billion per year?
After all, your employees must step away from their work to attend meetings. An agenda will help you keep your audio or video calls short and sweet, helping you to prevent wasting time or money.
Tip: If there are certain people who tend to go off on tangents, you can also assign a specific topic to them in advance to stick to it during the meeting.
Having a set plan can help keep things moving along smoothly and efficiently.
What Should Be In Your Virtual Meeting Agenda Template?
While there are many adjustable elements you may want to add to your virtual meeting agenda, there are a few points you should always keep on it.
- the main objective of the meeting
- an icebreaker question (if applicable)
- essential talking points
- link to your virtual meeting rules
- list of attendees and their roles
- topics touched
- current challenges
- date, time, and duration of the meeting
- action plan
- the outcomes you hope everyone will achieve by the end of the meeting
How To Create a Virtual Meeting Agenda?
You can use a tool like Google Docs or Trello to create a shared agenda that everyone can access before the meeting starts. A preview can help them prepare any questions they might have.
In Google Calendar invite, you can put the agenda in the meeting description. Or alternatively, make use of More options and add more tools.
Many popular office calendars made by Google, Microsoft, and Apple allow meeting notes or attachments to be added.
Note: Every calendar invite should include an agenda. No matter if you’re meeting for a few minutes or a couple of hours – keep everyone informed and on the same page. This shows your respect for someone’s time and responsibilities.
Tip 2: Only Invite People Who Need To Be on the Call
71% of such meetings are considered to be unproductive. This means that almost three out of four business calls end up with disappointment.
Conference calls are often seen as a waste of time, with too many people on the line who don’t really need to be there.
As a result, meetings can drag on, important points get lost, and everyone involved gets frustrated.
Too few or too many decision-makers in a room could make it difficult to take any meaningful action.
Only include people who absolutely need to be on the call, and make sure everyone is aware of the purpose of the meeting beforehand. This will help keep the call on track and prevent people from tuning out or multitasking during the meeting.
Who Should You Invite to a Virtual Meeting?
According to Harvard Business Review, you should consider individuals in such categories as:
- those who have the authority to make decisions on the issues at hand (e.g. a COO)
- those who have knowledge and information about the topics being discussed (e.g. a customer success manager)
- those who have a stake in the issues (e.g. a call center agent)
- those who need to know about the information you will report in order to do their jobs effectively (e.g. a marketing coordinator)
- anyone who will be responsible for implementing any decisions (e.g. a tech lead)
If you stick to this list, you’ll be more likely to achieve your objectives and conclude the call in a timely manner.
Tip 3: End the Meeting With an Action Plan
Meetings can be a nuisance if they don’t have a purpose. Oftentimes, someone wants to hold a get-together just to “check in” or “touch base”.
If you’re going to have a meeting, make it productive by ending with an action plan. This should be created during the audio or video call, while the discussion is fresh in everyone’s minds.
This way, people will “walk out” of the meeting with a clear understanding of what the next steps are and who needs to do it.
An action plan is one of the most important follow-up tools of effective meeting management. It’s like a roadmap for all participants.
Action plans also make it easier to track the progress of tasks and identify any potential bottlenecks, boost your ability to respond quickly to any problems, and minimize the risk of missing something significant.
What Should Be Included in the Action Plan?
- Details of ownership – who is responsible for what?
- The timeline for each action item – when is it due?
- The next steps – what needs to be done right after the meeting?
- A place to enter status updates – structure and regular updates will keep things moving forward.
If there is no action plan, chances are the meeting wasn’t really necessary in the first place. So, the next time you’re tempted to hold a meeting without such a plan, you might consider just sending an email instead – maybe that will do.
Tip 4: Choose the Right Software
The right software can make or break the quality of your virtual meetings. It should be tailored to the needs of your business and all your team members should feel comfortable with it.
Let’s look at key factors to keep in mind when choosing software to enhance virtual meetings.
List out the features that you consider fundamental to your business processes so that you can find exactly what you’re looking for.
These will be the features that will make your webinar more interactive, you’ll use them the most often and therefore, you should make them your priority.
Tip: List up to three “must-have” features and three “nice-to-have” features to narrow down your search.
#2 Ease of Use
You want something that’s easy for everyone on your team to use from day one without hours of training.
A good way to gauge this is by trying out the software yourself and seeing how long it takes you to get familiar and smoothly navigate through it.
Tip: You can also browse for opinions from people who have already used the software before. To find out the pros and cons of a particular piece of software, visit review sites such as G2 or Capterra.
Make sure the software you choose is compatible with your team members’ devices, operating systems, and browsers without any issues.
Tip: To avoid any technical difficulties, always carry out a test run of the software and your equipment before the meeting. That way, you can focus on what’s important – leading a productive and interactive discussion.
The software should be able to integrate with the tools that you and your team already use without any major issues. By doing so, you can avoid having to learn how to use an entirely new set of tools.
As an example, take a look at CloudTalk. This software solution can be integrated with a variety of tools including CRMs, e-commerce platforms, and sales automation tools such as Zendesk, HubSpot, or Salesforce.
See all of our 30+ industry leading integrations.
Let CloudTalk improve your daily workflow and see what makes it a good choice in 2023 ➡️ What makes CloudTalk the right call center software in 2023
Tip 5: Choose the Right Setting for the Meeting
Do you want your attendees to pay attention to the discussion and not be distracted by the surroundings? Your goal should be to make it as professional as possible without being too stiff.
How to pick the right environment?
- To minimize distractions, use a room with a door that can be closed.
- Find a location where there’s little background noise.
- Look around and choose a well-lit room with a plain wall or backdrop., and natural light.
- Set up the camera at eye level.
- Ensure that your computer is plugged in and charged.
- Check that you have a strong Internet connection.
These small changes will make a big difference to the overall quality and professionalism of your meeting, without requiring a lot of effort.
Once you’ve set up your own environment, it’s time to prepare your virtual meeting space. Make sure that all participants can see and hear each other clearly.
Depending on the software you use, you might want to adjust the display to fit the brand’s visual identification. You can also add some features to enhance the attendee experience like breakout rooms, as well as set up roles and a recording option (if required).
Of course, if you want to use call conferencing for more than just meetings (like webinars or product launches), you have to consider those needs as well.
If you plan ahead, you can make your virtual meeting space as productive and engaging as any in-person meeting.
Tip 6: Include Ice-breakers for the Start of the Meeting
Starting a virtual meeting can be tough, as you want to ease everyone into it but not waste too much time. They can also be a little bit awkward at the beginning, especially if the participants don’t know each other well enough.
For such situations, have a few ice-breakers up your sleeve to help everyone relax and create a more open, connected environment.
This method applies to teammates as well. They can help build team trust and improve communication, as well as positively impact employee engagement.
So, before you get to the main point of the meeting, strike up a small talk that is not work-related to boost the meeting spirit with some light-hearted fun. It could be anything from what they ate for lunch to their weekend plans, but doing so will help you avoid awkward silences.
Tip: Virtual ice-breakers should be quick, and easy to join in with. Choose one that everyone in attendance likes or has tried before so they’ll feel comfortable from the start. Get their attention right away, break down the barriers, and you’ll see that the whole meeting goes smoothly.
The key is to use ice-breakers wisely – you know your team best and should only use them when it’s appropriate or well-received. If it’s an important meeting in the middle of the working day, your employees will get irritated at having their time wasted – so rather avoid icebreaker activities in such situations.
While it can be a good idea in certain situations, depending on the size and mood of the meeting, you should decide whether to use it or not.
The arsenal of tools that you have at your disposal in 2023 makes hosting interactive virtual meetings a cinch. Such meetings can be just like any other boring desk session, which you should avoid unless you actually want them to be. So, what is the magic formula?
Making your virtual meetings interactive and productive can be a game-changer for your team. It lets everyone sign off feeling like they had a meaningful conversation, ready to tackle their next goal.
Use the tips listed above to make your virtual meetings a worthwhile experience that your employees can look forward to. And if you’re on the lookout for that one tool that will help your next virtual meeting go as smooth as butter, sign up for a free trial today and see the wealth of features we offer.