Video conferencing software is an important part of the modern work environment. Workforces are becoming more geographically diverse, remote work is on the rise, and outsourcing continues in an upward trend.
These factors create the need for frequent virtual meetings and they need to be as productive as possible. To make that happen, there are a few universal ground rules for conducting effective virtual meetings. In this article, you’ll find 7 tips on how to successfully start and host a conference call.
1. Create and Distribute an Agenda
Before the virtual meeting takes place, you should have a good reason to ask people for their time.
It’s not a good idea to call a meeting for every small issue that crops up. Instead, have at least two or three important points that you want to cover and send those, in writing, to participants beforehand.
The point of the agenda isn’t to make a comprehensive list of every detail you’ll be covering. Only list the broad goals of the meeting in sequential order.
2. Sort out the Technical Aspects
Before you start a conference call you should make sure that your software and hardware are in order.
You will rarely have a perfect start to a virtual meeting, but small hiccups are not a disaster. However, software updates and hardware malfunctions can quickly derail a video meeting. Make sure your video conferencing software is up to date and there are no pending system updates scheduled.
Even if you do your best to make everything perfect, other participants might have some issues. Set aside the first 10 minutes of the meeting to give everyone time to set up.
3. Be Punctual and Demand the Same
There is zero chance that the people you’re calling are twiddling their thumbs waiting for a conference call.
Be respectful of their time and make sure the virtual meeting starts exactly on time. If you are hosting the call, it’s a good idea to get set up five to ten minutes early and wait for everyone to join.
Also, make sure all the participants are aware that the meeting will start on time and they are expected to be ready.
4. Eliminate Distractions
You want to give people as few distractions as possible. Anything other than your voice and face will make it harder for them to concentrate.
Make sure that the space around you is uncluttered and there are no obvious intrusions on camera. This may require moving your setup to another environment. You should also reduce or remove any noise or potential noise in the area, as it can disturb the entire meeting.
If there’s a designated area for conference calls in your office you might want to set up there. Aside from making your meeting distraction-free, you will also avoid distracting your office mates.
Pro tip: It’s a little less convenient but consider placing your microphone on push-to-talk rather than always on. It cuts down on noise or distractions from your end and you won’t need to worry about stray coughs and sneezes.
5. Start with Introductions
When everyone’s settled in and ready, get to know each other. If you’re hosting the meeting, you should take it upon yourself to introduce everyone or ask for introductions.
This shouldn’t take long, especially if some or all of the participants are already acquainted. All you’ll need are the participants’ names and titles.
If it’s an audio call, it’s indispensable to put a name to every voice.
6. Avoid Dead Air and Interruptions
At times, there can be awkward moments when a participant is resolving a technical issue or it’s unclear where the conversation should go next.
Silence is not a catastrophe, but it derails the meeting. You should be able to pick up the thread of the conversation quickly or have some peripheral material to discuss while a participant is away.
Moreover, it’s a breach of virtual meeting etiquette to interrupt someone while they’re speaking. You should avoid it yourself and if a participant is doing it repeatedly, it’s a good idea to calmly call for order.
7. Run a Tight Ship
No one wants to spend more time than they need to on a conference call. If you made an agenda and you know what needs to be covered, there needn’t be too many diverging conversations.
You may discover that you fail to mention some issues that need to be discussed, and that’s not a big problem. However, if the meeting starts spiralling too far from the agenda, bring it back to the point as soon as possible.
Video Conferencing 101
These are the top conference call tips, but they’re especially important for virtual meetings. Your guiding principle should be to make it all run smoothly and not waste anyone’s time.
To do that, always make a clear agenda and send it to the participants before the meeting. Make sure everyone knows that the meeting needs to start on time and when it does start, keep the conversation flowing in the right direction to complete the agenda in a prompt manner.