The new virtual environment is here to stay.

In recent months, who more or less has had to hold non-face meetings. For some it has been a new experience, for others a previous reality that has accelerated. Although we long to be able to meet in person, I think it is quite peaceful to admit that holding virtual meetings has many advantages: it saves time and travel costs, increases digital skills and collaborative work, orders interventions, etc.

Today, after 20 months of pandemic, we have all accepted that this new reality is here to stay, and that we will probably not attend those marathons of face-to-face meetings. In fact, as in the case of teleworking, the pendulum will surely lead us to a hybrid management of meetings. We will also see how the appearance of the offices changes. Some companies, small and not so much, will decide to dispense with the liability that represents many square meters of infrastructure that now, with teleworking, are not so necessary. Nor will the proliferation of face-to-face meeting rooms make much sense, which will be replaced, in part, by virtual meeting rooms.

But not everything are advantages. An important part of team management has to do with that ‘human touch’ that is generated around face-to-face meetings. In addition, when there is a negotiation component in the meeting, non-verbal language plays a very important role. And in virtual meetings it is very diluted. In relation to this non-verbal language, sharing the same physical space makes all your actions visible, which makes it more difficult to ‘disconnect’

If, due to your profession, you need to exercise leadership in non-face-to-face meetings, here are six tips to make them efficient and successful:

Set goals before you start.

It is very important that you take the time to convene by calendar. This call requires some reflection. In any case, you must include, in addition to the day and local time, the objectives to be achieved and the agenda items to be discussed, with the name of those responsible for presenting them. It is also important that you set the connection tool, which should be clear and, if possible, just one click away.

Be punctual, it denotes seriousness and respect for the time of others.

Punctuality is more important, if possible, than in a face-to-face meeting. The first responsibility in this regard rests with you, as a leader. Remember that as an attendee there is nothing more frustrating than waiting in front of a screen that reminds you that the meeting will start when the organizer connects. But, in addition, since this modality lacks a large part of the social component that face-to-face meetings have, communication gaps can be generated during the waiting time that do not help the meeting to work.

Summon the necessary people: no more, no less.

One of the most frequent problems is not hitting the summoned. If you leave someone out, the meeting can go into paralysis because ‘Murphy’s Law’ makes knowing that person always essential. Worse still is to summon more people than they should. This happens many times out of fear of making someone uncomfortable, but the result is that some of the attendees do not feel ‘connected’ to the background of the meeting, and this causes demotivation. In any case, don’t forget to reflect on the effectiveness of your organization chart when you perceive that more people attend than necessary in most meetings.

Encourage clear, concise and orderly interventions.

Something that is often forgotten, and that causes comprehension deficits, is that while there is no intervention, the ‘mute’ must be activated. Remind everyone of this before the meeting and, if necessary, feel free to ‘mute’ a person, if your application allows it. The order of intervention is marked by the order established in the call and, in the discussion of each point, you as the organizer must assign turns of interventions, if the dynamics requires it. By the way, wait for the interventions of others before expressing your opinion. Many times, a hasty intervention by the leader restricts the participation of the attendees.

The meeting ends with a summary of the treaties, setting actions and responsible parties.

The way it is finished is as or more relevant than the way it is summoned. It will determine its success in a decisive way. It is absolutely essential that someone write a conclusion document, point by point, assigning responsible parties and deadlines. Today there are many collaborative office automation tools that allow the meeting itself to draft and agree on the conclusion brief, with the participation of all. Also, it is very important to schedule the next meeting, if necessary. And by the way, never forget to congratulate those who have contributed the most, before and during the meeting.

Manage the results of meetings based on data.

Data is the oil of the 21st century. You need to have a dashboard that shows you if your meeting system works. If you use collaborative office automation (Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace), the tool itself will show you the average time you spend on meetings and the investment, also in time, with each of the people you are going to meet, among other data. On an individual level, you can schedule periods of concentration or check if you always meet with the same people (which can lead you to lose lateral perspective in management). The good news is that this data can also be exploited collectively, with which you can check the degree of efficiency of the team in this field.

If you follow the steps above, you will have laid the foundations for the meetings to be successful and the attendees will surely appreciate it. As you have seen, some of the concepts we have listed apply to the entire digital environment, not just meetings. In this way, precision, agility and traceability are three concepts that must permeate all work dynamics in the new reality.

Remember: An efficient meeting is not improvised, it is prepared.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro


How to get the most out of your team