Virtual meetings are the new black. For us at Slido, with a team distributed across different locations and time zones, they are the only way to manage cross-team communication.
But we’ve learned that it’s easy for online participants to tune out or feel excluded unless they are compelled to pay attention and contribute.
To create a better experience for our remote colleagues, we’ve implemented some tools and techniques that make it easier for them to participate and get more out of each meeting.
Here are our top 7 tips to help you facilitate more engaging virtual team meetings.
Check the AV setup
The first key to facilitating effective virtual meetings is to ensure the AV setup is optimal for the purpose of your meeting.
So before you kick off, make sure you’ve covered the basics:
Ensure people online can hear you
It’s frustrating to join a meeting remotely and not understand what’s happening because you can’t hear a word. So it’s crucial that your sound is set up and tested before the meeting kicks off.
Jabra offers a range of office speakerphones that are excellent for small team meetings. With larger groups, we use the soft throwable microphone, Catchbox, to transmit the sound from the audience in the room.
Transmit the video with live streaming tools
We use Zoom for all our virtual meetings. It’s a reliable and easy-to-use tool with great video and sound quality and an easy setup.
Its feature Breakout Rooms allows you to split your meeting into 50 separate sessions, excellent for running small group discussions and virtual brainstorming.
Set up your video streaming tool with the speaker view so the people in the room can see who is talking on the screen.
Similarly, streaming what’s happening in the room will bring the meeting closer to the people online. Set up a camera in the room to project what’s going on.
Extra tip: If you’re using visual collaboration tools, give people access before the meeting starts to save time. But choose them carefully. Don’t use a whiteboard if your webcam can’t capture what you’re writing. Tools like Real Time Board offer an effective alternative.
Divide the roles in advance
To run engaging remote meetings, it’s crucial to divide the key roles across the team. Remember to agree on the roles at least a day in advance to give people time to prepare.
The roles will depend on the type of meeting but in general, we recognize three key roles:
- Leader: Every meeting should have a leader who drives it forward. Whether it’s the team lead or whether the responsibility rotates around the team, ensure there’s always someone who owns the meeting.
- AV administrator: In meetings with 10+ remote participants, it’s useful to appoint one person to look after the AV setup. In smaller meetings, we rotate this role between the more technically skilled people.
- Discussion facilitator: For bigger meetings with 20+ people, we also appoint a facilitator who helps the leader manage the discussion. The facilitator can also monitor the incoming questions if you’re using live Q&A.
Extra tip: If your meeting includes discussion slots, appoint one facilitator in the room and one for the online audience. In case you’re running multiple discussion groups online, ensure each one has a dedicated facilitator.
Welcome the online participants
It’s natural to start a meeting by welcoming people in the room. But don’t forget about your online colleagues. Address them at the start and make them feel part of the meeting.
In small meetings, you can welcome people online collectively as people will see them on the screen.
But in larger meetings with 10+ people online, you can’t always see everyone’s video on the screen. Go through the list of people on the call and greet them by name to let everyone know they are there.
To break the ice, you can get people to share their news, weekend stories or holiday plans. A quick chat can take you a long way in fostering relationships and reconnecting with people you don’t see regularly.
Prompt people to turn on their cameras
Non-verbal signs form an essential part of communication. But it’s hard to tell whether people understand your point or how they feel about a topic without seeing their reactions.
To fix this, encourage people to turn on their cameras. It will help you connect remote workers with the people in the room and make their presence felt.
Kick off by saying, “I can’t see anyone on the screen, can you turn on your cameras? We’d love to see you.”
“When people online join without video, we often don’t know they’re there. And it’s a challenge to lead meetings with 10+ people while talking to an empty screen. Seeing facial expressions conveys emotions better and helps you check if people understand your point.”
Luba Stubnova, Slido Customer Care Lead
Seeing people’s reactions makes it easier to follow up with them directly, e.g., “Marie, you don’t look convinced. What do you think about this idea?”
Extra tip: For more personal interaction, it’s good practice to maintain eye contact. Look into the camera when you address the online audience.
Create space for remote colleagues to speak up
Once the discussion in the room gets going, it can be difficult for the people online to jump in and get in a word. Especially when they’re often muted by default.
Help them get involved. Open the floor regularly for comments from the online audience.
To create space for the remote colleagues to speak up, address each person directly with a specific question.
“Open-ended questions often end in dead silence or multiple people talking at once, especially with larger crowds. What works well to avoid this and get the discussion going is addressing people directly by name to get their views on a specific issue.”
Jozef Dolinka, Slido Success Team Lead
Collect questions throughout the meeting
People always have questions. But remote participants are often scared to interrupt while the discussion is in full swing.
In small meetings, it’s easier to invite people directly to express their thoughts. But for meetings with 10+ people joining online, this becomes a real challenge.
To fix this, create a platform to collect questions during your virtual meeting. Use a live Q&A tool to enable people to ask questions without the fear of interrupting someone else.
In addition to Slido, we use Zoom chat in our bigger meetings as a forum for the online participants to share reactions to what’s being said on the call.
Extra tip: Whichever platform you choose to collect questions, appoint a dedicated facilitator to manage the tool and monitor the incoming questions.
Use live polls to help people understand the content
Once the meeting is underway, it can be hard to tell if people understand the content. Especially when you’re not physically present in the room, it’s easy to get distracted and miss a key point.
Live polling is an effective tool that will help you check if people are following. It’s also a great way to pull people back in when their attention is waning.
We regularly use live polls for case troubleshooting during learning sessions. Present a scenario and ask people how they would resolve the situation in a multiple choice or open text poll. Then discuss the options once the people have voted.
To consolidate learnings and ensure everyone has got the key points, we also use live polls to quiz our Customer Support team at the end of weekly meetings. Create 6-7 multiple choice or open text polls and let the participants submit their answers. Review all answers at the end.
“Our Customer Support team needs to be on top of the knowledge in the company. Weekly quiz is a great way to teach people something new and check they know what’s going on.”
Luba Stubnova, Slido Customer Care Lead
With the right tools and facilitation techniques, virtual meetings can add great value to your remote teams. Leverage these tips to engage remote workers actively, create space for them to speak up and improve the quality of your meetings for the online participants.