How to run a collaborative virtual meeting
Can everybody see my screen? Oh, you’re on mute. Sorry, you’re frozen and I can’t hear you.
You and your team used to be able to meet face-to-face around your conference room table (shared snacks in tow) to brainstorm ideas and solve problems. But now that you’ve had to move to online meetings, you’re dealing with technical glitches, frustration, and potentially even disengagement.
What can remote teams do to host successful virtual meetings? This is your guide to productive, collaborative conversations – when you can’t work physically side-by-side.
What are collaborative virtual meetings?
Collaborative virtual meetings are meetings that happen using meeting software like Miro to invite real-time participation from your attendees. The best online meetings use collaboration tools to involve and engage team members in the discussion. You want attendees to feel comfortable chiming in with their two cents, rather than feeling like they need to stand by and watch the conversation unfold.
How virtual meetings took center stage in 2020
Virtual meetings were already commonplace among remote teams prior to this year. But, when the coronavirus pandemic rocked the globe, teams of all types needed to pivot to transform their face-to-face discussions to an online environment.
Need proof? Video conferencing solution, Zoom, has experienced a 335% revenue leap since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. GoToMeeting experienced a 20% spike in daily usage since the beginning of February.
Without a doubt, more teams are meeting online than ever before – but not all of them are equipped to do so successfully.
Key advantages of collaborative virtual meetings
From unstable internet connections to the challenge of reading body language and other nonverbal cues, virtual meetings have their snags.
However, businesses are also coming around to the numerous advantages of collaborative virtual meetings, including:
Better documentation: When you use meeting software, it’s easy to record your conversation and store it somewhere accessible. Nobody needs to frantically scribble notes or a meeting summary, as everything is already captured. Plus, people who were unable to make the scheduled meeting time can still catch up on what was discussed.
No bad seats: Remember when you’d walk into the conference room and notice that the seat way in the back was the only one open? Then it was challenging to see the whiteboard, slides, or other visual assets that were being used. That’s not a problem with virtual meetings. Video conferencing software allows for screen sharing, so everybody has a perfect view.
Preparation: Every team member gets to join the conversation from their own desk or workspace, which means they have immediate access to their files, notes, and other information. That’s usually not the case when people have to pack up and file into a physical conference room.
Simplicity and ease: If you use the right video conferencing software, attendees can join your meeting with the click of a single link. It’s an incredibly easy way to join a discussion.
Add in the lower costs, zero travel, and the fact that everybody can join a meeting from their couch (while wearing their favorite sweatpants, no less), and it’s obvious that virtual meetings have plenty of perks.
How to run an interactive virtual meeting: 9 must-know tips
When it’s done well, a collaborative virtual meeting offers improved employee ownership and commitment, more creative ideas and solutions, and increased retention of information.
However, hosting an online meeting that keeps your team members engaged is no easy feat. Here are eight must-know tips.
1. Send an agenda
There’s nothing worse than a meeting that seems to have no structure or point. That’s true for all meetings – whether they’re online or in-person.
Attendees should have a clear idea of exactly what will be discussed. Ahead of the meeting (aim for at least a few days, so people have time to review), send an agenda that details:
Participants: Who is attending the meeting?
Discussion topics: What topics will you be discussing?
Who is expected to contribute to each topic?
How long will you spend on each topic?
Goal: What question are you trying to answer or what problem are you trying to solve?
Not only does this help keep your online conversation on track, but it also gives all of your meeting attendees adequate time to prepare – which leads to an even more productive conversation.
Need help? Grab this meeting agenda template.
2. Be mindful of your participants
Think more people will automatically lead to greater collaboration? Think again. Big groups are always tough to manage, but especially when the conversation is happening online.
Limit your number of participants to only the people who need to be active contributors. If you’ve added someone to a meeting invite just to keep them “in the loop,” they don’t need to be there. You can provide them with the recording or a summary afterward.
Every single one of your attendees should have a clear purpose.
3. Join early
If you’re the meeting host, hop into your video conference at least five minutes ahead of all of your other team members.
Confirm that your internet connection is strong and that your microphone and webcam are working. Nothing runs a meeting off the rails like a bunch of technical glitches at the start.
4. Get the right environment
Nobody expects that your background looks like something out of a magazine, but you do need to pay attention to your surroundings for your video conference.
Are you seated an appropriate distance (about three feet) from the camera? Is your lighting adequate so team members can see your face? Is your background picked up so it’s not distracting?
You can also open your Miro board and make sure everything is rendering properly, and ensure the stage is set for your meeting.
5. Close out distractions
We’ve all been there: We’re engaged in a meaningful online discussion when we hear the knocking of a Slack notification. Or the buzzing of someone’s smartphone on their desk.
Surprisingly, it can take upwards of 23 minutes to refocus after a distraction – which means those seemingly innocent pings can send a productive conversation screeching to a halt.
Silence all of your notifications, close out all non-work-related tabs, and ask your meeting participants to do the same. This means you can all give your undivided attention to the topic at hand.
6. Use the mute button
One of the biggest frustrations of virtual meetings is background noise. From barking dogs to echoes, that audio clutter can be tough to tune out.
Make it a team-wide rule that everybody use the mute button when they aren’t speaking. It’ll make it much easier for your team to listen to one another.
7. Invite participation
If you want your virtual meeting to be collaborative, you can’t treat it like a webinar where you’re broadcasting to your team members. You need to actively invite them to participate. Here are a few ways to do this:
Frequently ask open-ended questions so participants can offer their ideas and insights.
Add in icebreaker questions or mid-meeting activities to shake things up and get the conversation flowing.
Encourage participation by asking the team to brainstorm in real time on your Miro board.
Be sure to provide plenty of resources and opportunities for team members to contribute, or they’ll feel like an audience member rather than a valued participant.
Want to shake things up? Grab this fun icebreaker template.
8. Choose the right software and tools
Have you ever tried to join a meeting only to realize you need to install a specific app? Then the installation process drags on and you’re late for the scheduled meeting time.
Once in Miro, you can browse our many free add-ons and integrations that can help you create a dazzling meeting board – and do even more fun things during a meeting. Think: Adding emojis, clustering ideas quickly, setting up voting and countdown timers, mind mapping, and more. By adding these features ahead of time, you’re sure to have a smoother meeting.
9. Solicit feedback
When you were meeting in-person, you likely asked for feedback about your meeting styles. You’d use that input to make future conversations even more productive and helpful.
You should do that same thing with your virtual meetings. Especially as you and your team members gain more experience with meeting online, regularly solicit their feedback about what’s going well – and what could use improvement.
For example, maybe they’ll point out that people often continue sharing their screen long after they need to, which limits everybody’s ability to see each other. Those are things that wouldn’t have been brought to your attention if you hadn’t asked.
Improve future meetings with this meeting reflections template.
3 tools to boost collaboration in your next meeting
You’re eager to make your online meeting as collaborative as possible, but you aren’t sure how to get the ball rolling. Let’s dig into a few different strategies you can use to get everybody warmed up.
1. Ice breakers
Ice breakers are a great way to start your meeting with some levity and get everybody in a more collaborative frame of mind. Even something simple like asking everybody to describe themselves in one word will eliminate awkwardness and make your meeting participants a little more comfortable.
Ready to break the ice? Grab this template.
Don’t just ask people to collaborate – give them a vehicle to do so. Whether you want to work on a shared mind map or save some quiet time for brainwriting, using a specific structure or model for your virtual meeting will always lead to more efficient and effective collaboration than simply asking, “Does anybody have anything to add?”
3. Action items
Collaboration shouldn’t just happen during your meeting. The real work happens after your virtual meeting wraps up. That’s why it’s important to end each meeting by discussing clear action items, owners, and deadlines. This ensures that you keep that momentum going long after the conversation is over.
Keep track of what steps you need to take with this action plan template.
Virtual meetings don’t need to be groan-worthy
From frozen screens to people talking over each other, virtual meetings aren’t without their challenges. But, when they’re done well, they can be positive and productive opportunities for team bonding, ideation, creativity, and problem-solving.
Use this as your guide, and you’ll host online meetings that pull the best out of your team – without any groans or eye-rolls.
FAQs about virtual meetings
Have more questions about virtual meetings? We have rapid-fire answers to some common questions right here.
1. What does “virtual meeting” mean?
A virtual meeting is a meeting that happens online using video conferencing software or another online collaboration tool.
2. How do you set up a virtual meeting?
This will depend on what video software you end up using. But generally, it’s easy to schedule a meeting and invite attendees with just a few clicks. Check if your chosen video conferencing solution has a tutorial or guide – that should teach you everything you need to know!
3. What is the best virtual meeting software?
The best software is the software that meets your team’s needs. Understand what problem you’re trying to solve. Do you need better quality video conferencing? A way to work in real-time on a shared project or document? Determine what you need, and then go from there. Just because a solution is popular or widely-used doesn’t mean it’s the default best choice for your remote team.
Looking to read more about remote collaboration? Start at Chapter 1 of our guide!