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Successful Virtual Collaboration Part 1: 12 Advices for Holding Virtual Meetings

Just last week we told our training participants that the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus is a perfect example for today’s VUCA world – a world where events happen so quickly and forecasts have a short half-life.

Already a few days later we (and millions of others) find ourselves affected by the situation. Since last Friday we have been working from home, to make a contribution to stop the spread of the Corona virus. Luckily, working remotely is not completely new for TEAMWILLE. With three company locations, many business trips and our long-standing experience with mobile working, it is quite normal for us to work flexibly from various places.

And yet, despite our experience, we are also not used to today’s exceptional situation. We are constantly looking for ways and means to best possible convert our home into a “Home Office”.

In brief blog articles we would like to share our experience and best practices around the topics virtual collaboration with your team, partners and colleagues in home offices.
Our colleague Elisa-Christin Müller starts the blog series today with a brief instruction of advices for successfully holding virtual meetings.

12 advices that you should consider when holding virtual meetings

The subsequent step-by-step instruction is described in detail on purpose, since, not rarely, the devil is in the detail and, as far as our experience goes, meetings run rather smoothly when all preparation for the meeting has been done correctly and thoroughly.

  1. Send the meeting invitation incl. all relevant documents (e.g. accompanying documents, agenda etc.) to all participants with sufficient time in advance.
  2. Enter the virtual meeting room at least three minutes before the meeting starts and check, whether all the technical equipment runs smoothly (test of the camera, microphone and loudspeaker). If the technical equipment does not run correctly, have a plan B, for instance holding the meeting on telephone. Since all participants received the accompanying documents in advance, a shared desktop might be unnecessary, if the connection is low for example.
  3. Start and end the meeting always on time. A timekeeper shall explicitly pay attention to that (please see advice no. seven).
  4. In the event that the technical equipment does not work and a meeting on the telephone is not an option, you can also hold video conferences for free with https://talky.io (browser-based without registration), Google Hangouts (browser-based with Gmail account) or even with WhatsApp.
  5. Switch on your video camera right from the start of the meeting and ask your participants to do so, as well. Using your cameras considerably encourages the non-verbal communication and a feeling of community – at a time where the nice chat in office with a tea or coffee in the kitchen is no longer possible.
  6. Be 100 % present in your meeting and avoid any distractions. Switch off your mobile phone or other devices and close any internet pages on your laptop that are not relevant for the meeting. Using your camera provides a stronger focus of the participants (social pressure due to peers).
  7. If you yourself are not the moderator of the meeting, determine a moderator right in the beginning – a person that monitors the agenda, the time and the word according to the list of speakers. If participants want to contribute towards the meeting, they can send a message directly to the moderator via the chat. The moderator then can give the word to each participant by calling each person by name.
  8. Determine a participant who shares his or her desktop and/or content, who makes the discussed items visible and visualizes the gained results in an intended tool or who takes the minutes of the meeting. Tools such as Trello or One Note or also a word document can be perfectly used for that purpose.
  9. As the moderator – start the meeting with a brief but personal check in round at first – a short time slot where all participants have the chance to tell their colleagues how they feel and in what issues they are involved at the moment (one minute max). Since there is only less or even no room for an informal chat between colleagues in a Home Office, the check-in round is a perfect opportunity to maintain a sense of community.
  10. As the moderator – explain object and purpose of the meeting and the respective meeting agenda. If necessary, ask the participants for their expectations. In the event that there has not been a defined agenda, you can collect agenda items, assign them to specific time slots and process these items bit by bit.
  11. As the moderator – summarize the results in the end of the meeting including the next steps. Stipulate a moderator and a keeper of the minutes for the next meeting (in case it is a serial meeting). Pay attention that the documentation is saved available for all participants and don’t forget to share the filing location.
  12. End the meeting always with a brief and personal check-out round – a time slot where all participants explain quickly their personal impression and findings of the meeting.

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