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Six tips for running a successful virtual meeting

By Bloomberg News , April 19 2020

Remote work eliminates the micro-interactions, chats, and visual cues of in-person gatherings. So if you’re hosting a virtual meeting, try to replace as much of that as you can. These six tips will get your virtual meeting ooff off to a flying start (even when you’re grounded) and keep it on track.

Arrive early, start late

Chitchat as people enter the virtual room, and allow for stragglers who may be parenting or home-schooling. Humor helps: “How was rush hour? Oh, wait.” Leigh Thompson, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, says don’t dive straight into business. Her research shows that schmoozing decreases confrontational behavior, increases trust, and improves outcomes.

Be quick and clear

Master the one-sentence summary: “This new product is a brilliant idea, though I’m feeling nervous about what I’ve heard of the launch plan.” Saying “nervous” allows co-workers to pick up on your concerns.

Toss the mic

To avoid a schoolmarmish tone, facilitate participation. Alert some attendees ahead of time that you’re going to ask them for updates and opinions mid-meeting. Use questions like “How are we doing in X county, Jane?” Or, “Josh, what’s your gut sense on this?”

Take a mid-meeting temperature check

Since you can’t see body language, you’re almost certainly missing people’s full reactions. Say: “I want to pause here and do a check-in.” Just because co-workers are nodding doesn’t mean the meeting is successful, says Timothy Clark, chief executive officer of LeaderFactor, a training and consulting organization. “Assumptions will hurt you,” he says.

Gossip, but in a fun and friendly way

In the office, everyone hears rumors of relationships, layoffs, upcoming projects, and so forth. Research shows that sharing information among peers strengthens bonds. So gab to the extent appropriate, particularly on benign topics that team members might miss. Try something like “I hear that Jim has developed a Peloton obsession.”

Keep it short

Fifteen minutes online feels like an hour in a conference room. Don’t try to have all team members, or even half, speak up every time. Instead, keep the guide rails firm and split up needed discussions over multiple meetings.

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