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How to run better meetings (virtual, hybrid and in-person)

Whether virtual, hybrid, or in-person, effective meetings are often the cornerstone of success in any organisation. Yet, we’ve all been part of meetings that seem to drag on endlessly without accomplishing much. In this guide, the CJ. Talent team delve into the secrets of holding better meetings, covering everything from handling the dreaded Zoom fatigue to ensuring productivity.

How to hold better face-to-face meetings

Set out a clear agenda and objectives

Before the meeting, circulate a clear agenda and objectives. This helps participants come prepared and sets expectations for what needs to be accomplished – making the meeting more focused and efficient. Make sure to prioritise the agenda in order of importance to ensure the most critical items are covered when the participants are most refreshed.

Choose a suitable meeting space

Beyond booking a space that is adequate in size for your group, consider whether a specific type of space may help to support the meeting’s objectives. This might be a creative, inspirational space for brainstorming, a cosy lounge for an informal meeting or a tech-focused boardroom for a more formal set-up.

Hone your participant list

To keep the meeting focused, only invite the essential participants. This helps limit too many viewpoints and decision-makers while ensuring that the time is used wisely. Consider whether members only need to attend certain parts of the meeting rather than the entirety.

Distribute necessary documents in advance

To maximise productivity, send key documents before the meeting, allowing participants to absorb the information before the meeting. Ensure all documents are saved for easy access during the meeting.

Encourage an open dialogue

Active participation is vital to a successful face-to-face meeting. Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts. Ask for input from various team members and facilitate discussions that allow different perspectives to be heard. As chair of the meeting you should try to ensure that everyone is given the chance to air their views, not just the most vocal participants, and you may need to give the quieter participants extra encouragement to join in.

Create a sense of collaboration

Face-to-face meetings provide a unique opportunity for team members to collaborate in real time. Use this time to encourage brainstorming sessions, group activities, or interactive discussions. Breakout sessions can be particularly effective in fostering collaboration among smaller groups within a larger meeting and can be used to increase efficiency if a single large meeting needs to deliver multiple outcomes.

Follow up effectively

After the face-to-face meeting concludes, it’s essential to follow up promptly. Share meeting minutes, action items (including any deadlines), and any decisions made during the meeting. This reinforces the outcomes and helps participants stay accountable for their responsibilities.

How to hold better hybrid meetings

Running a hybrid meeting can feel like a significant challenge. It can be easy to prioritise those in the room, whilst virtual participants may struggle to hear the content or take part in the conversation equally. To run a hybrid meeting successfully, it’s crucial to ensure that everyone feels similarly engaged and included.

Use technology wisely

Leverage reliable video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to bridge the physical and virtual divide. Ensure that all virtual participants have access to the necessary technology and provide clear instructions on how to join the meeting.

Set up the room with both audiences in mind

Room and technology preparation is essential for hybrid meetings, as it’s key that the virtual audience is able to see and hear the in-room participants clearly. Set up in advance of the meeting, ensuring there is a camera that clearly shows the in-room participants to the virtual audience.

Create equal participation opportunities

Create a level playing field by actively involving both in-person and virtual attendees. Encourage virtual participants to share their thoughts, using features like virtual hand raising and rotating speaking turns to maintain inclusivity. 

Encourage involvement

Actively involve all participants by asking for their input, opinions, and ideas. This not only fosters collaboration but also ensures that diverse perspectives are considered. Having two people working together to chair/manage hybrid meetings can really help with this – one person can take specific responsibility for involving and managing the virtual attendees (including helping with any tech issues that crop up). 

Conduct a pre-meeting tech check

Conduct a brief tech check before the meeting to troubleshoot any connectivity issues. This small step can save valuable meeting time and frustration.

How to run effective virtual meetings

For teams that operate entirely in the digital realm, fully virtual meetings are the norm. But the challenge here is to maintain engagement, foster collaboration, and prevent the dreaded “Zoom fatigue.”

Consider the right platform

While many companies will have dedicated meeting tools in house such as Teams or Zoom, when inviting external members to the meeting, make sure to consider the platforms they can access. And ensure they have all the required details for externally accessing a virtual meeting.

Familiarise yourself with the tech

While we might all be familiar with the standard Teams or Zoom meetings technology, when leading a virtual meeting, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with some aspects you might not be used to.

This might include:

  • For larger meetings, muting all microphones except the presenter
  • How to transfer presenting duties
  • How to successfully play a video with sound and without a lag
  • How to monitor a chat or Q&A function
  • How to share the correct screen or tab
  • How to create a breakout group
  • How to limit who can share their screen
  • How to lock a meeting
  • How to record a meeting
  • How to create your avatar
  • How to make queries in a meeting
  • How to create an online whiteboard.

Use Visuals

Keep participants engaged by using slides, graphics, or other multimedia elements. Visual aids enhance understanding and break the monotony of staring at screens.

Incorporate Interactive Elements

Incorporate interactive elements such as polls, Q&A sessions, or breakout groups where appropriate. This keeps participants actively involved, helps prevent energy levels from dipping, and fosters a sense of connection among team members.

Trim the Fat

With attention spans shorter in a virtual environment, cutting out unnecessary items from the agenda is even more important. If a topic doesn’t contribute directly to the meeting’s objectives, consider addressing it through alternative means, like email or a separate discussion.

Adopt the Goldilocks Principle: Finding the Right Meeting Length

In the quest for better meetings, the length of the meeting plays a pivotal role. Too short, and essential discussions may be cut off; too long, and participants might lose focus. So, how do you strike the right balance? Enter the Goldilocks principle.

  1. 1. Set a Realistic Duration: Start by setting a realistic meeting duration based on the agenda and topics to be covered. Aim for the sweet spot that allows comprehensive discussions without causing burnout.
  2. 2. Schedule Breaks: For longer meetings, incorporate short breaks to give participants a chance to recharge. This helps maintain focus and supports better productivity.
  3. 3. Time Management: Stick to the schedule! Be respectful of participants’ time by managing the meeting efficiently. Assign specific time slots to each agenda item and use time-tracking tools if necessary.

Holding better meetings requires a thoughtful approach and a commitment to continuous improvement. Whether you’re navigating the challenges of hybrid meetings, fully embracing the virtual realm, or simply trying to optimise meeting length and productivity, these strategies will help guide you towards how to hold a better meeting.

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