Conference calls have never been more central to the communications of an organization. With the majority of teams working remotely over recent months, our reliance on video conferencing tools such a Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype has skyrocketed.
Whether your organization has been using these tools for years or has only recently integrated them into your internal and external communications, it is important to consider their potential to influence the way you work and the way your teams interact with each other.
The majority of the time, conference calls – with or without video – will be used to host your virtual meetings that can’t currently take place physically. There are a few important differences between physical and virtual meetings that impact preparation and planning.
With physical meetings, people play off each other in a much more spontaneous way, but this is difficult in a virtual meeting without the body language cues that we rely on in face-to-face situations. Holding efficient virtual meetings, therefore, requires a stricter code of behavior and organization in order to keep things on track and avoid wasting time.
Back to basics
This need to be more organized with your meeting planning should be seen as a positive opportunity to go back to basics and consider the fundamental ways your organization is scheduling and preparing for group conversations.
If you haven’t used a formal agenda for years, now is the time to bring them back, formalize the discussion to reduce in-meeting delays and unnecessary explainers. Circulate any pre-reads with the meeting link to make sure everybody is up to speed and knows what the meeting is for and what the desired outcomes are.
Zoom fatigue is a real thing and has been widely reported as people spend many hours of the day on Zoom or equivalent software. Back-to-back video calls can be exhausting and should be avoided if possible. Limited the length of your meetings and adhering to strict agendas – as outlined above – should help reduce the amount of time your team is spent on Zoom and free up time for them to actually get on with the work that needs doing.
However, virtual meetings don’t always have to be formal and particularly in times of social isolation video calls should also be used to replace those coffee break conversations that account for so many social interactions during the average working day in an office environment. Encourage your team to check in with each other and schedule non-work calls for virtual drinks or birthday celebrations such as you might have in normal circumstances.
Shake things up
In addition to organizing your meetings effectively, it is important to utilize all the tools at your disposal in order to keep things varied and engaging for your team. Using features such as breakout rooms or whiteboards is a great way to keep people involved and make sure you’re getting the most out of your team.
Alternatively, encourage your team to use virtual backgrounds to hold your next meeting in the same conference room or cafe. There are plenty of great professional backgrounds out there and it is an easy way to get a change of scene whilst also increasing personal privacy and reducing potential distractions during your meetings.
If you’re looking to increase transparency in your organization, recording your virtual meetings is an easy win. Not only will it likely increase engagement in the meeting itself, but it will provide an incontestable record of the conversation and allow those who couldn’t make it to catch up on their own time without relying on updates from others or extensive meeting minutes.