Virtual meetings can be hit or miss. Sometimes they flow smoothly, and everyone is happy. Other times—and it can feel like most of the time—they are full of technical issues, awkward stalemates, rambling, and people verbally stumbling over each other. Conference calls are essential for communicating across vast distances when multiple people are involved, though. The trouble happens when you have more than just a handful. How can you help your coworkers and clients to make virtual meetings as successful as possible? Here are a few tips for calls that have ten or more participants:
1. Have an agenda
You should always have an agenda in place. Knowing the purpose of the call and winging it will only ensure that the conversation goes off in irrelevant directions and no one accomplishes anything. Your agenda should be adaptable, of course, but plan a loose outline of how you want and expect the meeting to go. Send it to everyone beforehand so that everyone has it in the back of their minds when the session begins. This way, you have a structure to serve as a life raft if the discussion starts sinking.
2. Only invite necessary people
Many businesses succumb to the temptation of inviting too many people to a conference call. The more, the merrier, right? And even if the subject matter does not pertain to everyone, at least they’ll know it.
No, actually. Having too many people is where things start to go wrong. Look at your invite list and narrow it down to people who would benefit most from participating, and let everyone else continue about their days. If a meeting is not particularly relevant to someone, sitting through it is a waste of time, and you might waste even more time trying to catch them up. The more people that are present, the more voices there are that might interrupt one another and make the meeting last longer.
3. Keep track of time
Everyone has a busy schedule, so lengthy conference calls are not what they want to spend their time doing. If the meeting is scheduled to be half an hour, then it should be half an hour. Extending too much is disrespectful of people’s time, and the more people you have gathered, the more people who grow frustrated when nothing is accomplished on time. Pay attention to the clock so that everyone can disconnect when they were promised. Also, avoid discussing lengthy reports and schedule multiple, smaller meetings about particular subjects if necessary.
4. Make sure everyone shows up prepared
The meeting will proceed smoothly when everyone arrives prepared. Communicate your expectations beforehand: what do you want everyone to have read or researched? What do you want someone to present, and how long do they have to do it? What materials do you hope someone will share? The conference will stall if someone is unfamiliar with something they are expected to know about. Yes, it’s awkward for everyone involved—especially the individuals who came unprepared—but the conversation loses momentum, and everyone needs to recollect their thoughts before resuming.
5. Have someone act as “host”
A virtual meeting will be more efficient if someone acts as its host or facilitator. This individual will most likely be the call’s organizer unless someone amongst the group volunteers. The host will announce the meeting’s agenda when it begins and keep everyone on track. Should the conversation start to drift toward unproductive subjects (small talk is more acceptable in smaller meetings, but you’ll be there for a while with ten or more people), the facilitator can reign everybody back in and redirect their attention to the matter at hand. The host can also watch the clock, manage the question and answer portion, and clarify any confusion when people do not know whose turn it is to speak.
6. Use a service that can host everybody
There are many platforms available that can host conference calls, but they might fall short if there are too many people participating for it to handle. Opt for specialized software that can host over ten attendees without shorting out or dropping the connection if you are going to host online meetings. The best services are also capable of recording calls (which you should do so that everyone can reference it later) and may even offer operator assistance. Operator-assisted calls are advantageous for critically important meetings and high-volume calls that necessitate a higher level of professionalism.
Meetings with ten or more people can be chaotic, but well-designed web conference platforms and preparedness can make your large virtual gatherings more successful. How do you handle meetings with a higher number of participants?
Article Submitted By Community Writer