There’s no question that COVID has certainly impacted our relationships. But for work relations, it’s made communication between professionals even more integral.
You may find yourself working on a virtual or remote team. And this can present a multitude of challenges. So ensuring that all team members can communicate effectively with each other is crucial.
Have you ever experienced a lack of productivity due to meetings? If you have, you’re not alone. As many as 65% of employees have reported feeling this way.
And with COVID, a new set of challenges await. Video calls might be longer. Scheduling might have to factor in time zone differences.
But at the core of these stifled business meetings is a lack of team communication. Without an office environment, distractions are certainly to be had.
But a virtual meeting does not have to feel futile. In fact, there are many benefits to working within virtual teams and multiple time zones.
Below are some tips to help improve your virtual communication. With the proper tools, you’ll be feeling back on track in no time.
See Related: How To Make Virtual Meetings More Fun
#1. Establish a clear purpose
Having a purpose when walking into a meeting is everything. In fact, managers and employees alike should adopt this mindset respectively.
When colleagues enter a collaborative space, they should be prepared to participate. After all, ensuring that the meeting meets the needs of the group is up to all participants.
For managers, try setting this expectation early on. Communicate that no one should come unprepared to a meeting. And encourage others to speak up.
Employees should also reinforce this among their colleagues. Encourage everyone to contribute in positive ways. And the virtual team will certainly thrive.
As a concept, this is not only respectful but will help remote teams communicate effectively. Below are some sample questions to ask yourself before team meetings:
- How will I moderate the meeting?
- Will there be enough time allotted for a discussion?
- How and when should I allow team members to share their ideas?
- How will I handle technical issues?
- What specific action items will I list at the beginning of the meeting?
- What message would I like the tone of the meeting to have?
- What exactly am I bringing to the table?
- Do I have an idea that will best be shared through screen sharing?
- How can I ensure there are no distractions in my immediate area?
- How can I dress most appropriately to set a good example amongst my colleagues?
- How can I ensure that every team member feels supported by my actions?
#2. Have an agenda
Having a clearcut agenda will certainly improve communication tools. This way, expectations for the meeting are set from the get-go.
Try sending out the agenda to workers beforehand as well. Having the agenda and its information in one’s email will also make for an accessible tool.
Attendees will feel secure in the handling of the meeting. And managers can rely on an engaging outline that they have predetermined.
No more worrying about how many topics can be discussed. If you come prepared with an agenda, your outline will only help you deliver each point.
If you are in charge of the meeting, you may want to try making virtual meetings shorter, to begin with. Screen fatigue is a very real thing. So limiting screen time may actually benefit your workers.
If there is information you can pass on through email, choose that instead. Sometimes, it is just as productive to limit meetings and replace them with other forms of communication.
Additionally, an agenda reminds you to include all important information. If a point gets lost during the meeting, your outline can remind you to circle back through email.
#3. Start and finish on time
Technical issues will happen. But try to start the meeting on time and end at the designated time as well.
This restricted time limit will help you get to the point. And the virtual meeting will not suffer from disengagement.
If you are hosting the meeting, make sure to arrive early. Arrange the online space accordingly and go over the agenda for the conference.
Everyone appreciates the feeling that their time is being respected. So virtual meetings that stick to their time allotment demonstrate a level of respect.
That being said, make sure that there is still time for some social interaction. Participants still need to feel connected to one another. And remote teams need that time to develop a positive and professional rapport.
Within an office setting, employees may bond over coffee in the break room. But remote teams require an extra level of purposeful bonding time.
All meetings are best when kept on track. But a little leeway here and there for interactions to take place is just as important. And don’t be afraid to throw in a little virtual fun and entertainment to keep it loose and strengthen team building.
#4. Use icebreakers to break things up
Communication makes the world go round. But it has to start small enough for team members to feel confident and comfortable with each other.
Try incorporating some icebreakers to start the virtual meeting. This will inspire the group to get to know one another.
And the work relations will only flourish from these group activities. Below are some examples of icebreakers to improve teams’ communication overall:
- What did you have for breakfast today?
- What is one secret talent that you can share with us?
- If you had only an hour to change the world, what would you do?
- What is the weirdest interview experience you have ever had?
- What was your first job like and how has it impacted your work performance today?
- How do you think we can work best as a remote team?
- What is the best tip you have received about work and professionalism?
- What secret tips do you have for perfecting project management?
- During a crisis, what are you most likely to do?
- What is something in life you want to experience?
- What message would you like to impart to everyone here?
These icebreaker questions are simply meant to connect people. They should only take up a small part of virtual meetings. But a team can greatly benefit from understanding their colleagues a little better.
#5. Don’t try to multitask
Once the meeting has started, be all there. Trying to get multiple things done at once only serves as a distraction.
Multitasking can fool us into feeling more productive. But when drawing our focus in different directions, our brain only processes selective information.
Instead, focus on maintaining eye contact during your virtual interactions. Ensure that your body language remains professional and engaged.
Video conferencing can already feel impersonal. So make the most of these check-ins by listening actively and supporting all attendees.
Additionally, try hiding distractions on your computer browser. Make the virtual conference room the only visible part of your screen.
And don’t try to surf the internet or social media just because you’re not at the offices. If you feel like it would be inappropriate at work, don’t do it when virtual work comes home.
#6. Actively listen
During some meetings, it feels impossible to get your words out. But sometimes, the body language of others can greatly impact our ability to share ideas.
Work on your own eye contact and tone. Be sure to listen actively to your colleagues and virtual teams.
If you show them the same respect you want to receive, they will reciprocate. So focus on ensuring that everyone feels your support.
Virtual meetings are likely the one place other than email that you may connect with other workers. So use the video to your advantage and physically demonstrate your interest.
Communication is much more than words. It is body language, eye contact, and positive reinforcement.
Additionally, if you notice one person dominating the virtual meeting, encourage everyone to speak up. Open up a discussion where more than one point of view can come across.
Sometimes, participants need to be coaxed into sharing their ideas. So make sure that everyone listens in ways that support all participants to speak.
#7. Dress the part
It’s easy to feel like you can roll into a virtual meeting in your sweatpants. But try to dress like you would in an office setting.
Video communication is a great way to demonstrate your professionalism. People can finally put your face to your email address.
But if you look too relaxed, you’ll appear unprofessional. And others on the team might feel that something is missing.
View virtual meetings as your place to shine. Besides, dressing up can help you mentally get in the zone as well.
Remote teams provide a certain kind of flexibility. But show up to virtual meetings like you would in any other professional setting.
The people you work with will take the same cue. And all will start to feel a sense of reverence for the work that is being done.
#8. Arrange your space
Having a neutral background is best for virtual meetings. If possible, arrange your space to match your intention.
Get rid of any other distractions that you can. Try turning off unnecessary notifications so as not to disturb the meeting in progress.
And be sure to mute your microphone when you are not speaking. These small adjustments help to focus the meeting overall.
And they can even help you focus on the work at hand better. Additionally, try to sit somewhere with proper lighting.
This may sound like a menial detail for meetings. But having people be able to see you clearly is essential for effective communication.
#9. Record meetings
Virtual teams may have team members across different time zones. And this can make for a frustrating experience while scheduling.
Instead, try recording meetings. This way, if distractions arise or connectivity cuts off, the meeting will remain intact.
And the team will still receive the beneficial information disseminated. This may also help the meeting become more efficient and time-effective.
Recording a meeting encourages participants to stay on task. Any additional banter like telling jokes for comic relief will be mitigated as conversations will need to remain focused on the material at hand.
A recorded meeting also means that team members can go back for more information. Rewatching might help them answer any questions that come up. And this can help to keep everything transparent and straightforward.
#10. Always end with a takeaway
By the time your meeting ends, team members should have an actionable takeaway. Managers should be clear about the next steps going forward.
And having a takeaway will make the meeting as a whole feel worthwhile. Additionally, one should create a summary of the meeting itself.
This summary can include the key points that the meeting discussed. It can also include any additional points and tips that may have been overlooked.
Having the opportunity to solidify communication in this way is crucial. This keeps the team focused on the task at hand. And it keeps everyone communicating about what was discussed.
Being on a virtual team can feel isolating at times. But having a clear takeaway from meetings helps to motivate workers further.
Final thoughts on virtual communication
Communication can be hard. And virtual communication can be even harder. But developing the tools to remain informed can further enhance one’s confidence.
As virtual teams become more and more prevalent, virtual communication etiquette will become even more crucial. So maintaining a professional work standard will help to bridge the gap between virtual and real-life meetings.
Hopefully, these tips can help you organize your next business meeting. As a general rule, these video calls should be thought of as a positive opportunity.
Here, you can demonstrate your passion for the work at hand. And interactions can be had with colleagues from all over the world.
Don’t be afraid of the virtual conference room. It has a lot more to offer if only you utilize the tools.
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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speakers for hire.