Do you follow any best practices for conducting effective virtual meetings (i.e. conference calls, video conferencing, WebEx, etc.)? If so, what are the top two or three that come to mind?

If you do not have a set of best practices to share, what about pet peeves related to virtual meetings…?

Tom Nieman, RPA, ARPC, CMFC

Relationship Manager at New York Life Retirement Plan Services

I would recommend a lot of the same best practices for physical meetings:

  • Publish an agenda before the meeting stating expected outputs from the meeting
  • Invite the people that need to be there and if there’s any doubt or confusion around why someone is invited, send them a private note explaining what you expect of them (eg. “I thought that you may have some valuable insight into xxx and I’d appreciate it if you could attend”)
  • -Take a roll call with job function or group that the represent. Keep the list of participants and roles in front of the presenter
  • Establish and state the ground rules for the meeting up-front.
  • This is a tough one for a lot of people – *Don’t* recap the meeting for latecomers. Offer to fill them in on a break or at the end of the meeting, but don’t allow one or two people to derail everyone else.
  • Stay focused on the agenda and reign in anyone that takes the meeting off on a tangent.
  • Have someone *other than the presenter* take notes
  • Actively poll the attendees rather than relying on general callouts like “Any questions? Any Issues?”. Before breaks just go through the list and ask each person by name if they have any questions.
  • Find opportunities to ask relevant questions of specific individuals. It will keep the rest of your audience focused. (eg: “Tom…this section of the presentation covered issues that I thought you might see in Sales…are there any specific opportunities that you see?”)
  • If you have large groups that make verbal polling impractical, make use of online realtime surveys, virtual “show of hands” by requesting participants to change status, etc.
  • Don’t dawdle. State your point and move on. People multitask in virtual meetings and you’ll need to keep things moving to keep the group focused.
  • Summarize points and discussions as you close each section of the meeting (also a good way to confirm your minutes)
  • Try to leave time at the end of the meeting to evaluate the effectiveness of the meeting with the participants.
  • Start and finish on-time.
  • Publish minutes in a timely manner (no more than a week after the meeting. Preferably the same day.)

Check out any guides to effective meetings and just keep in mind that you don’t have the ability to read body language and there’s no deterrent to people multitasking during the meeting.