The Science of the Perfect Virtual Meeting

American workers spend a lot of time in meetings – an average of 6 hours per week by some estimates, with the total number of weekly meetings across the country as high as 55 million. At the same time, nearly half of all meetings are rated as “poor” by employees, meaning they walk away feeling as though their time has been wasted and little was accomplished. (Verizon)

At their worst, bad meetings make employees feel de-valued, demoralized, and isolated. This is a major concern for virtual teams, which typically spend even more time in meetings to replace the convenience of physically dropping by each other’s desks.

So virtual team managers, take note! Below are three scientifically proven steps for hosting meetings that leave your team feeling valued, energized, and productive:

Step 1: The Science of Perfect Preparation

Over half of respondents in the Verizon survey recognize that good preparation makes for a good meeting, and it often starts with an important question: Do we even need a meeting? Issues to consider:

Issue Impact
Is there a decision to make or a problem to be solved? Make sure each meeting is worth having! Meetings that are just about sharing information can be perceived as wasteful, pulling team members away from more important tasks – especially when an email would suffice.
Who needs to attend? Ensure that all attendees will be in a position to learn crucial information or contribute to the discussion. Those who will not do so should not be invited. This leads to a greater sense of psychological satisfaction and higher engagement.
How much time does the meeting truly need? Make the meeting as short as possible while still accomplishing the desired goals. The more time your team has to do their work, the higher their morale.
Why are we here? Share a meeting agenda and objective beforehand, providing everyone the opportunity to prepare and enter the meeting ready to work.

Step 2: The Science of Perfect Execution

Once your team has gathered, it’s time to make sure the meeting is positive, focused, and on time. Especially in a virtual environment where interpersonal cues such as eye contact and body language are not available, it’s critical to:

Issue Impact
Stay on
topic
Stick to the agenda! Gently bring conversation back to the topic at hand when you get sidetracked. If a related point is truly important, you can make a note to focus on and address it later.
Use positive
language
Model positive and collaborative language patterns to foster an open, productive dialogue. Complaining and using words like “can’t” or “impossible” will suck the energy out of any meeting – particularly virtual ones where tone and word choice are the primary communication tools.
Know who’s
attending
Distribute a visual map of attendees, providing a tangible reminder of who is in the meeting and where they are so nobody feels left out or forgotten.
Value your attendee Make sure everyone gets to participate in a way that suits their personality. For instance, a colleague who is not comfortable speaking up can share his or her thoughts over email beforehand, or in chat during the meeting, allowing them to participate while remaining in their comfort zone.

Step 3: The Science of Perfect Follow-up

Actions taken after a meeting can make or break how that meeting is regarded and valued by your team. With a few simple follow-up strategies, you put your team in the best position to regard the meeting as a success:

Issue Impact
Meeting minutes Distribute minutes to all attendees soon after the meeting, identifying key takeaways and action items. This reminds everyone of what was accomplished and provides momentum for their work going forward.
Seek
feedback
Every so often, ask your team what they think about your virtual meetings. What works? What could be improved? This helps them feel involved and engaged with team workflow, even when working in isolation.

Virtual Team Builders offers one-on-one coaching for virtual leaders to support you in honing your virtual skills to drive measurable, sustainable outcomes for your team.