Working from home and ‘hybrid’ working is the new norm post pandemic. Much of the UK workforce have seen benefits of working in this way and it is likely to become the new ‘normal’ for many organisations. It is very likely therefore that at some stage you may need to run a session virtually or hybrid – so we have shared some thoughts below.
On our site we have also written an article about how you prepare to participate in these meetings, this article is focussing specifically on when you are overseeing the session!
Before you start to plan , however, there is something you should consider carefully first however…. ask yourself honestly do you really need a meeting?
Some activities may be delivered more quickly and efficiently by collaborating and messaging across one of the many platforms which make this possible. If a meeting is decided to definitely be the best way of doing things, then take a look at our tips below.
Plan, plan plan!
Virtual Sessions need to be more concise so to make sure every minute is used well planning is even more critical when we consider onlinel sessions.
Set out for yourself the desired outcomes of the session, specifically what you need to cover and a detailed plan of how.
The loose agenda that may have worked in the past, which relied heavily on the energy from the room, is much more likely to fail in the virtual world and can result in awkward silences. Be clear at the start of the session what the attendees can expect and if you need them to to share something (for example their progress) let them know this in advance as they may decide to prepare something visual to help them articulate this.
Think about your guests...
Generally, meetings with fewer participants work more smoothly virtually. People have more chance to contribute, and it keeps them engaged. If you can keep the invite list to single figures everyone can be on the screen and this avoids the temptation to multi task or check social media! It’s a great idea to send a copy of the agenda to everyone who’s invited so they know why they have been invited and what you expect them to contribute or be prepared to share.
Leave some time at the start of the meeting so people can settle in, don’t forget to check if anyone needs introductions as people can’t just stroll up, shake hands and make their own introductions. Build in some time for this and general pleasantries. Helping people to relax and connect will ensure the meeting is a nicer place to be.
Keep Things Moving
Shake things up a little every few minutes or so by asking a question or a response of some kind. Ask permission up front to check in ad hoc on people’s thoughts as this will keep them focused. In a smaller meeting encourage the tech such as thumbs up and use of the chat, if you have a larger session then most virtual platforms have poll functions. Think carefully up front about how to use visual aids to drive discussion. All of these tips will keep the meeting moving forward and engage the attention of everyone attending.
It can help to ensure ‘buy-in’ to the meeting if you take the time to assign specific roles to at least some of those attending. One person could oversee timekeeping, another could take minutes or actions, it can even be worthwhile to assign someone to ensure everyone is getting a ‘share of voice’, calling out if someone hasn’t had a chance to contribute this avoids a few people hogging the session as others are less confident speaking out virtually.
Check the Time Zones
Don’t forget the time zones even if you are only working across Europe. People are much more engaged if they aren’t out of (or right on the edge of) their working day. If you do need to request out of hours sessions remember to check in with them first.
With practise all of this becomes second nature. If you are new to it build in 10 minutes to reflect after each session to work out what did and didn’t work. Very soon the ways in which people interact in a virtual setting, and the steps which can be taken to create an atmosphere in which the best meetings can take place will simply become as instinctive as face to face.