Seven New Secrets for Great Virtual Meetings

By Greg Nathan posted July 17, 2020

Most franchisors now use virtual meetings to stay connected with their franchisees and teams. Our observations are that these could be far more effective and enjoyable for all parties with a few tweaks. My last Tip contained seven common camera blunders and how to avoid them. Here are seven more blunders to avoid, with valuable tips to create truly engaging, well-run virtual meetings.

Blunder #8. Ignoring the mute button. While the effective use of the mute button is vital to keep virtual meetings civil and efficient, here’s a common scenario. Michael is talking enthusiastically but has forgotten he is muted. People gradually realise and start to yell “You need to unmute yourself Michael”. The embarrassed Michael eventually notices the barrage of animated faces and voices, finds his unmute button, apologises to everyone, regains his composure, and repeats himself. Meanwhile, valuable time is wasted, and the flow of the meeting has been interrupted. Treat your mute button with the same respect and care as the hang-up button on your phone.

Blunder #9. Poor audio. Bad sound is frustrating and drains people’s energy because they have to strain to hear what you are saying. While the inbuilt microphone in a computer is usually fine if you are just a meeting participant, presenters should invest in a good quality microphone to reduce echo and improve sound clarity. If you want participants to speak in a meeting, ensure they know this beforehand, and ask them to do an audio test before the session. If you have poor or unreliable internet, it can be a good idea to use your phone for audio.

Blunder #10. Poor speech habits. Slow rambling introductions, and presenters who repeat themselves or fail to make their points succinctly, can be a turn-off. This can be avoided by preparing a tight script and following it. Poor speech habits that can undermine credibility include lip-smacking, overuse of filler words (umm, like, ahh), speaking in a monotone, and vocal fry. Vocal fry occurs when there is not enough breath being pushed through the vocal cords, creating an annoying creaky sound in the lower register at the end of sentences. If you want people to enjoy listening to you, speak with certainty and energy, and vary your pitch. This can be mastered with practice.

Blunder #11. Not involving participants. Most online meeting platforms have features that enable participants to share their thoughts, and presenters to gain important information. The most common are polls, chat boxes and the use of icons. Unless you are an amazing presenter with life-changing information, people will tire of your voice within 10 minutes. You can engage your audience with polls and chat box questions, or by bringing in a co-presenter. Virtual breakout rooms, where people explore a topic in small groups, is also an effective and enjoyable way to keep participants engaged.

Blunder #12. Not preparing adequately. A mistake made by otherwise experienced presenters who start running virtual meetings is assuming the technology will work, and they can largely wing it. Believe me, something will inevitably let you down. It may be your sound, your screen, your slides, your computer, the internet, or a feature button someone accidentally mismanages. I highly recommend the use of checklists, the prior testing of the technology, run-throughs with fellow presenters, and practising technical transitions. It pays to be slightly paranoid. Think about everything that could go wrong and have a plan B.

Blunder #13. Trying to do everything yourself. If you are presenter or facilitator of an important meeting with more than eight participants, you need to focus on your content, the needs of participants, and your flow. So ensure you have an assistant to manage the inevitable technical issues. Don’t try to do it alone. If you can’t afford to have someone with you for the whole session, at least have them for the first 10 minutes to sort out any initial technical glitches. Also, ensure you’ve got the ability to chat directly with your technical assistant through text or private chat.

Blunder #14. Assuming participants have the skill and will to engage. Most people are used to turning up for meetings or training sessions, and just sitting and listening. However virtual sessions require the use of a new suite of skills. To ensure everyone can participate in the intended way, you may need to start with a short training session. Also, if you want people to get the full benefit of your virtual meeting, you’ll need their full attention. This means explaining your expectations upfront and the benefits of participating fully with emails closed. Of course, you need to ensure your session is interesting, relevant, and delivered in an engaging manner. (Hopefully, the information from these past two Tips will help!)

In conclusion, virtual meetings are here to stay. And they can definitely be as effective as face to face sessions. So let’s put in the effort to get this right. By the way, we have a series of exciting Virtual Forums for different members of franchisor teams, starting this month, where we will be doing our darnedest to demonstrate the best practices covered in these Tips. If you lead or support franchisees, I invite you to check these out by clicking here.

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