Virtual Staff Meetings can be chaotic — Technical malfunctions, employees missing necessary equipment, and everyone talking to each other can ruin your meeting quickly.
You need to ensure you can present the information you have to relay in a streamlined manner that meets your time constraints.
This can be a tall order when you’ve never attempted a virtual meeting before, and your staff is suddenly working from home for the first time. COVID-19 has left many business owners scrambling to maintain communications with their workers and retool their processes to allow for remote work.
We understand how challenging this is, especially when you didn’t have any time to prepare. Let our expert business consultants give you tips to run your virtual staff meetings successfully.
What Software Should I Use?
There are numerous video chat solutions to choose from — but which one is right for you?
The first thing you need to consider is your budget. When you’re tight on funds or won’t be using the virtual meeting software for the long term, you’ll want to stick with a free or low-cost provider.
Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams all have free versions. But, depending on your needs, the free version might not be a good fit for you.
Let’s take a look at each of these virtual meeting solutions so you can get a better understanding of which one would be the right choice.
Zoom is one of the most popular virtual meeting solutions in use today — and for good reason. It’s quick to get started, the free version is pretty robust, and for those looking to get more features, the paid versions are worth looking into.
Pricing for Zoom
With the free version, you get up to 100 participants, unlimited one-on-one meetings, and an unlimited number of meetings. The biggest downside to the free version is that you are restricted to 40 minutes when hosting group meetings with three or more participants.
Upgrading to the Pro version unlocks 24-hour group meetings as well as more user management and admin control features. For small teams with up to 9 hosts, the Pro version is a good fit when you want the extra features.
For small and medium-sized businesses, the Business version allows you to have up to 10 hosts and includes dedicated phone support and more features for company branding.
The highest-priced tier is the enterprise version. With it, you can have up to 100 hosts, 500 participants (or 1000 with enterprise plus), dedicated customer access, and more.
To find out more about the differences between tiers, visit Zoom’s pricing page for the most up to date information.
Skype was the first virtual meeting software to hit the scene, but it’s not the best. One of Skype’s most significant downsides is that the picture and sound quality are lacking, and calls drop way too often.
Pricing for Skype
Skype is completely free to use. You simply have to create an account, download the app, and get started.
For businesses looking for an upgrade to Skype, Microsoft owns Skype, and they created a paid version of the software called Microsoft Teams, which we’ll talk about later on in this article.
Find out more about Skype and the features they offer on their website here.
Google Hangouts is a simple to use solution that anyone with a Gmail account can use. While they don’t have time limit restrictions like Zoom, Google Hangouts is pretty limited on what you can do with it.
Pricing for Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is free for anyone with a Gmail account.
To unlock more advanced features, you’ll have to pay for a G suite enterprise-level membership and use Google Meet.
Microsoft Teams is a lot more than virtual meeting software. It combines document collaboration, live chatting, and file sharing between individuals within and outside the organization, as well as within specific departments or the company. You can create teams for each department (such as HR or IT) and allow departments to collaborate.
Pricing for Microsoft Teams
With Microsoft Teams, the free version is pretty limited. You can’t access the meeting and calling features at all without upgrading to the highest-paid account.
When all you need is a virtual meeting software, Microsoft Teams isn’t worth it.
If your company is a small to large size business that needs an all-in-one collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams may be a good fit.
Find out more about Microsoft Teams and get the most up to date pricing information here.
Tip #1: Plan in Advance
Plan the meeting agenda, establish the goals for the meeting, and ensure that all participants have the required equipment beforehand to save you a lot of headaches.
You don’t want to spend half your meeting trying to get all the technical aspects functioning correctly. Know what to say ahead of time so you can keep the meeting on track.
Share the agenda with attendees at least 24 hours before the scheduled meeting time so they can prepare. Provide them with any relevant documents, files, or other information they need to review, so they will be informed on what you’re going to discuss.
Include your expectations for how the meeting will be run. Make ground rules for asking questions and their role during the meeting.
Use one of the free meeting agenda templates here to get you started, or you can create your own.
“I’ve held virtual staff meetings many times with employees in multiple offices. The day before the meeting, the agenda was sent out to participants, asking if they had any other items they wanted on the agenda. We rotated leading the meeting and taking notes. The notetaker sent notes with action items, assignments, and deadlines to all participants within an hour after the meeting.
Everyone got used to the format and understood expectations and responsibilities. The meetings went smoothly and nearly always stayed within the scheduled time frame.”
Tip #2: Establish a Time-Frame
Establish a time-frame for how long the meeting will last based on realistic expectations from your meeting agenda. After you create your agenda, you’ll have a better idea of how long the meeting needs to be to cover everything.
Make sure to include some extra time for socializing and setting up.
Don’t let your meetings run for too long, or you’ll end up with employees who have to cut out early because the meeting ran over.
Plan to have everyone join the meeting at least 15 minutes earlier so you can work out any technical issues without cutting into your prime meeting time.
To keep the meeting on track, have a person act as Timekeeper. We’ll talk about that more in Tip #5.
Tip #3: Create Ground Rules
Creating ground rules for asking questions, and taking turns speaking helps avoid the chaos of everyone trying to talk at the same time.
With Zoom, attendees can raise a virtual hand and wait for the speaker to get to them to ask their questions.
If you’re using software without that feature, you can ask everyone to hold their questions until the end and conclude with a Q&A.
When multiple speakers need to present information in the meeting, give them each a time limit for how long they can talk. Your Timekeeper can cut them off to keep the meeting within your time constraints.
Ask everyone to keep their mics muted unless they’re speaking so you can reduce irritating background noise.
Tip #4: Appoint a Leader
Appoint a leader to run the meeting. The meeting leader will be responsible for:
- Creating the meeting agenda.
- Appointing a Timekeeper.
- Appointing a Note-Taker
- Making sure attendees are engaged during the meeting.
- Ensuring attendees are sent essential documents, files, notes, or other information they need to review and keep after the meeting is over.
Having a person responsible for all these tasks makes sure your meeting goes as planned without as many interruptions or hiccups.
The person you choose for this role should be detail-oriented, organized, and able to run the meeting confidently.
Tip #5: Appoint a Timekeeper
A Timekeeper is crucial for making sure your meeting doesn’t run over, and you keep to the planned schedule.
The Timekeeper needs a copy of the agenda and a timer or stopwatch. When someone starts speaking, the Timekeeper starts the timer and cuts the speaker off when their time is up.
It’s their job to keep the meeting flowing smoothly, limit interruptions, and ramble from speakers who like to go on and on.
Tip #6: Appoint a Note-Taker
Note-Takers should be able to type or write fast enough to keep up with everything said in the meeting. Your outlined agenda should help them keep their notes organized in the correct order.
To assist them with their duties further, you can have them record the meeting so they can fill in anything they missed afterward. You may wish to keep these recordings for reference purposes.
The Note-Taker will compile all the crucial information from the meeting into one or more documents that will be sent to attendees later.
Tip #7: Keep Attendees Engaged
Zoom makes it easier to keep attendees engaged with interactive polls and Q&As. Work the polls and Q&As into the meeting schedule, so you make sure there’s plenty of time to allow people to participate.
Encourage participants to ask questions in chat and assign a person to answer questions while the speaker presents. You’ll be able to answer more questions and keep them more engaged throughout the meeting.
You should allow time for a little socializing before and after the meeting to help your people feel more connected and engaged.
Tip #8: End With Action Items & Assignments
Once all the information has been presented, you want to end by giving them assignments to complete and making sure everyone knows the next step to take.
This can be as simple as telling them to review the information the Note-Taker will send later. It may have to be more detailed if you’re conducting a project management meeting.
The importance of ending with action items and assignments is to make sure they leave the meeting with a clear idea of what you want them to do next.
Don’t ever leave them hanging or guessing what to do.
Get The Advice You Need Now
Planning a virtual staff meeting can quickly leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused — and we don’t want that.
Our team is here to help offer you the support you need to keep your company running smoothly despite the current challenges from COVID-19.
We provide the following services, so the support and expertise you need are quickly accessible:
- Management Training: our experts teach your managers practical skills they need to achieve company goals.
- Strategic Planning: creating a clear goal and action-oriented steps to keep your business heading in the right direction and your priorities in order.
- Leadership Coaching: leading a team is about more than just making sure work gets done. We teach your leaders how to be high-performers who motivate and inspire their team to do their best work and remain engaged with your company.
- HR Consulting: leverage our expertise to recruit, engage, develop, and retain the best employees possible while running a lean HR department.
- Team Building: we help you build a well-organized and cohesive team that gets along and communicates effectively with one another.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you take your company to the next level regardless of the current crisis.
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