We all know the deal: second wave…social distancing…WFH for the foreseeable…As a team leader, your job is now a whole lot harder, especially when it comes to facilitating your team meetings. We’ve all taken for granted those casual conversations in the lift; the banter at our desks. But now, we’re seeing the impact of removing that personal element from our professional lives: the social cues we use to gauge the mood in the team are gone, and the often stilted, clinical nature of video conferencing doesn’t lend itself well to a connected, personal interaction within your team.

Here’s how you can make sure your virtual meeting is as effective as a physical one:

  • Stop sulking! It isn’t just Covid that’s brought about this change: this is the way the business world was heading way before the pandemic. The virus has expedited it, but now it’s time for us to catch up, and a positive mindset will help you adapt to this new way of working. Zoom isn’t a stop gap until “life gets back to normal”, so it’s worth taking some time to invest in your team’s online presentation skills.
  • Identify what is the same about your meetings now. It is still important to have an agenda and clear objectives; a moderator to move the discussion along; a timekeeper and a note taker who sends minutes and action points out afterwards (rotating these roles throughout the meeting is a good way of making sure everyone stays focussed and engaged). If you’re giving a presentation, you need to have a clear message and action points, and use empathy and storytelling: do not rely on PowerPoints just because you’re online.
  • Then work out what is different. Be honest with yourself: are you just transferring your in-person meetings online? It doesn’t work. Virtual meetings need to be shorter, punchier and more dynamic to keep everyone engaged. This means more prep work for your team – send documents out beforehand so that you’re not wasting time reading to each other, and can use the meeting for discussion and decision making. This also gives people time to formulate their opinions and arguments beforehand, leading to more effective and focussed discussion. Make sure your team knows it is expected that they will have read these papers before the meeting.
  • Take time to decide how you are going to encourage connection between your team members. Will you use the first ten minutes for informal discussion? Give each team member 1 minute to tell a funny story about something that’s happened to them this week? Run a poll to see how your team are feeling about something going on , either at work or outside? Your job is to make sure everyone is involved in the conversation and feels able to speak up, so if you can see someone is reticent, or just can’t get a word in, you have to give them the space to talk. At the end of the meeting, make sure there’s time in the agenda for a debrief – a “speak now or forever hold your peace” slot. This is time for the team to respectfully express concerns or uncertainties: the “watercooler” moment, if you like. Follow up with every individual afterwards to make sure they feel they can access you for an informal chat.
  • Set an example. You wouldn’t mute yourself in a face-to-face meeting, start checking your texts, or speak over people. You wouldn’t ignore someone coming in to the room, or allow them to be shouted down. Together, work out some rules that you all agree to: a collaborative set of expectations gives everyone a stake and makes them feel responsible for helping the meeting run well.

We’ve all been in meetings where someone has just sat and not spoken. Maybe we’ve even been that person. Your job as a leader is to make each member of your team feel valued. You have a responsibility to allow them to move forwards, and equipping them with the skills they need in a virtual world will show them you care about them, and their career. For more advice, go to https://www.thespeakerscoach.co.uk/blog/