Virtual meetings have become an integral part of the workflow in modern workplaces. And while these play an essential role in work continuity and communication, it is still quite challenging to maximize the productivity and effectiveness of a remote meeting. Naturally, the approach to remote meetings is quite different from the regular in-person meetings, so naturally, people respond and interact in unique ways. However, remote meetings aren't ideal for all situations, so it is vital to know when and how to leverage this technology. Let's learn all that you need to know to conduct effective virtual meetings. How do virtual meetings work? Virtual meetings utilize technology that allows individuals to connect and collaborate via video and audio, using an internet connection. It is a real-time interaction between remotely located workers to accomplish a shared goal or plan. Interestingly enough, virtual meetings are relatively easier to plan and conduct than regular in-person ones. For many, it’s as easy as firing up their laptops and setting up a remote meeting app where everyone else can also ‘tune in.’ You’ll need to turn the camera so others can see you and a mic that lets other participants hear you. Additionally, getting a pair of headphones or a headset is also a good idea, so you can listen to what others have to say without disturbing everyone else around you. What are the benefits of remote meetings? Virtual team meetings provide countless opportunities to small and big businesses alike. Whether it is about engagement, communication across locations and departments, or other potential interactions, remote meetings are scalable and a cost-effective option. Here are some in-depth insights into the most common benefits of remote meetings: Reduces costs Let's be honest — operational and travel costs can quickly add to a company's expenditures. Virtual meetings can significantly reduce a company's overhead costs. With a click of remote sessions, you can conveniently engage with your team and coworkers in no time. Furthermore, you can communicate both internally and externally and maintain healthy relationships without the hassle of a commute. The operational expenses such as office supplies, utilities, materials also fall steadily when you conduct online meetings, saving the businesses time and money. A remote meeting lets you meet anyone, anywhere, and offer details about the attendees, duration, the discussion, etc. at the click of a button. It also streamlines conferences with automatic annotations, transcriptions and translations if need be — with in-person meetings, you have to take notes to keep track of the key points. Improves internal and external communications Virtual team meetings encourage explicit communication and better interactions. When everyone’s a square on the screen, people quickly learn to communicate directly to the person they need to and whenever they need to without having to go to their office physically. Furthermore, it also promotes a healthy working environment in a virtual setting. Employees can better connect and get to know each other through chat and messenger options. Communication prospers with remote working as it stimulates collaboration. As long as the moderator remains in control and discourages disruption and keeps people from talking on top of each other, a lot can be achieved in one sitting. With remote meetings, distance is no more an obstacle, and you can reach out to your clientele in various locations and develop and maintain a healthy connection with them virtually. Saves time There is no denying that remote meetings substantially save time for employees and employers alike. Commute hassle, finding parking spaces, stopping by a fuel station is no longer necessary — virtual meetings negate the need to travel and save you plenty of time that can be utilized elsewhere more effectively. Boosts productivity Productivity is critical to the growth of a company. A quick virtual meeting in the comfort of your home can stimulate greater efficiency and output. As a result, you can be more productive, which can help businesses yield more profit. Likewise, instant online meetings can be substantially more effective than the regular in-person meetings where everyone trails to the conference room, takes their time to settle and prolongs the meeting by 10–15 minutes at least. All in all, people get their jobs done more quickly and efficiently. You set your plan, schedule, manage your time accordingly, and optimize it to enhance productivity. Also, you can curate your environment and remove the things that are a distraction. Enhances cross-team collaboration Consolidated remote meetings can improve cross-team and overall collaboration. Since you don't have to rely on someone else in the company to connect you to the person you need to talk to, it fosters effective collaboration. Furthermore, the teams are managed centrally where every member can access, share, view, and exchange files with the relevant person. It promotes transparent, secure, and fast communication. Online platforms have several features that facilitate successful virtual collaboration among cross-functional teams. A remote workforce prioritizes agility, mobility, and seamless methods of communication that lets them effortlessly collaborate in real-time while remote working. While it can't entirely replace the human connection, virtual meetings best practices can foster healthy and balanced communication and collaboration among employees. Global talent pool Remote meetings are an impactful way to build connections with people across the globe that would not be possible otherwise. It allows you to quickly find, connect, and develop relationships with other people who are geographically distant. Furthermore, businesses have a broader choice when it comes to recruiting human capital. The new hires don't necessarily have to be local. They can reside anywhere in the world and provide the company an opportunity to find and hire talented resources when a specific skill set is required. With virtual meetings, geographical barriers don't stop the companies from exploring the global talent pool and reach for the best resources to expand their business. Virtual meetings best practices Chances are that the idea of attending a virtual meeting is not foreign to you. You’ve attended plenty of online meetings and workshops to know what goes on. And it’s always the same. You find a room (ideally a quiet one) with decent internet connectivity, and fire up that virtual meeting software only to find out that not even half the attendees are online, the main speaker's mic is going in and out so you can’t understand a thing, and who’s making that annoying swishing sound? Let's face it: virtual meetings are rarely convenient. People are distracted, no one wants to turn on their video, and presentations are always longer than they need to be. According to our virtual meetings survey, only 30% of respondents say that most or all (80-100%) of their online meetings are productive. But virtual meetings aren't vanishing anytime soon. If you're suffering from this virtual collaboration slump, it's time for a refresher course on how to run an effective virtual meeting so your team will never check out when they dial in again. Virtual meetings vs. face-to-face There's no debate about which is more effective: face-to-face meetings are the clear winner, with 68% of survey takers saying they prefer in-person meetings over virtual. However, it's important to understand when it's appropriate to schedule virtual meetings vs. face-to-face ones. When meeting with someone face-to-face, you have their uninterrupted attention and can see their body language. Face-to-face interactions are best suited for meeting with potential or current clients and job interviews. However, when teams are remote, and there is no other option, virtual meetings are necessary for making big decisions and moving the business forward. Let's go over some tips for effective virtual meetings and hear from some of the pros on how they make their meetings more productive and engaging. Virtual meetings best practices Introduce yourself As obvious as this sounds, sometimes people need a reminder that not everyone may be acquainted with a virtual call. Especially with remote teams, it's good practice to kick a virtual meeting off by having everyone introduce themselves and share what they do (not what they're working on — save those for status updates). In addition to intros, spread positivity by having the attendees go around and share a victory or something positive that's happened since the last meeting. It can be anything from launching a big campaign, meeting with a potential client, or simply completing a task. You'll find that just one person doesn't do most accomplishments in an organization. Sharing these victories can help boost morale across the board — starting your meeting off on the right foot. Mind your manners When time differences are involved, there is always the possibility of having a virtual meeting scheduled in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. During this time, meeting etiquette and manners fall by the wayside, and all hope for a productive meeting goes out the window, and no amount of coffee can save it. Reminding yourself to practice proper meeting etiquette will keep you engaged and attentive, and it will show respect and consideration for those presenting. When doing this, you'll find that others will grant you the same respect when it's your turn to speak. Some meeting manners to keep in mind: Dress appropriately Arrive on time or early Close all irrelevant tabs or browsers Don't check your phone or email Mute your microphone while others are presenting Never carry on side conversations Save questions for the end of the presentation Thank everyone for their time Engage attendees It's so easy to log in, turn the video off, and mentally check out of a virtual meeting (in that order). However, turning off your video makes it easier to get distracted and leads to multitasking — which isn't doing you any favors. Even on the busiest days, multitasking during a virtual meeting doesn't benefit you in any way. Not only are you paying less attention to the meeting, but it takes you up to 40% longer to complete the same tasks while multitasking than if you were to tackle them separately. So no one wins. Turning your video on encourages attentiveness. Since everyone is looking at each other, it deters attendees from checking their phone or writing an email. Donna Dennis, president of Leadership Solutions Consulting, and creator and facilitator of the American Management Association's three-day seminar, "Leading Virtual and Remote Teams," recommends going around and having everyone share their role in the meeting before launching a discussion. She says, "Everything you can simulate from face to face encounters is good." Encourage problem-solving and opposing ideas. Listening to presentation after presentation can stunt outside thinking and idea-sharing and possibly lead to groupthink. Support sharing all questions and ideas (no matter how "out there" they are), and be willing to have an open discussion on big decisions; while leaving the judgments at the door. Maintain focus As the number of participants grows, the easier it is to jump off topic and derail the entire virtual meeting. This causes the meeting to drag on, participants to lose interest, and none of the meeting objectives get met. So how do we avoid jumping from topic to topic and stay on track? Roger Schwarz, author of "Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results," wrote a piece in Harvard Business Review that covers how you avoid meeting derailment: Agree on the track before going down it. Have everyone agree on the topic and goals of the meeting beforehand. Make sure you've covered everything before moving on. Instead of saying, "OK, let's move on," say something like, "I think we've covered everything for topic A. Is everyone ready to move on to topic B?" Test your assumption that the meeting is getting derailed. If someone is choosing to bring up an outside topic, question the relationship between the two issues by saying something like, "Mike, I'm not sure how your point about X is related to topic B. Can you explain how the two are related?" Once you've covered all your meeting objectives, end the meeting! Don't feel like you need to take up the entire hour you blocked off on the calendar. Celebrate a job well done by completing your meeting early so everyone can get a few minutes back to grab a coffee or catch up on some tasks. Review next steps It's important to remember that in a virtual meeting, you must chart a course for the future. A productive meeting spends time focusing on moving forward rather than looking back. When in-person, you can end a meeting with a powerful, motivational speaker and grab everyone's attention for the remaining minutes. However, it's harder to convey the same message online. By the time a meeting is over, most attendees have their fingers on the "end meeting" button. Instead of a moving speech or asking the ambiguous "Anything else we should cover?", end the meeting by reviewing what you've accomplished and what will happen next. Sum up big decisions and call out individuals who are tasked with action items to make sure it's top of mind. Agree on due dates and lock them in by creating and assigning tasks in your work management tool. Save the speeches for in-person. When you end a virtual meeting with everyone in agreement on what happens next, you'll start to see your meetings become more productive and effective. It's your turn! Time to put your learnings to practice. Although in-person meetings are ideal, there are ways to upgrade your virtual meetings, so they're just as productive. Some key points to remember: Always introduce yourself and share big wins Dress appropriately and be respectful of speakers Ask engaging questions and avoid multitasking Stay on track and refocus Always go over action items How to make virtual meetings fun Whether it's a quick call, collaboration session, client-related meeting, or for some other reason, all discussions have the intended purpose of serving crucial organizational needs. However, virtual meetings can sometimes get boring because the human connection can go missing — it can be quite overwhelming to sit through one, especially for new hires. At times, shyness takes away the opportunity from employees to bond with the other team members. This, in turn, hinders effective collaboration and decision making. It's about time we consider some unique approaches that let the remote team get along well with each other. It only takes a bit of extra effort to develop a foundation of trust and belonging. Apart from the standard practices, it is imperative to engage and include everybody in remote meetings to energize the participants and keep them engaged. Here are a few ways to improve virtual meetings and make them more productive and inclusive: One of the most useful ways to make your meetings more interactive and engaging is to start it off with an icebreaker session or an activity. It will make everyone feel inclusive, and once they get involved; they'll remain engaged throughout the conference. You can incorporate simple games that have closed-ended questions or have a limited number of options to choose from. The “two truths and a lie” game can also liven up the meeting environment gearing up the team to participate. Test the intellectual understanding of your team with “word association.” It’s a great way to get people into thinking out-of-the-box and keeps going until the players can't add any more words to the chain. Pets always brighten up the day. Bring along your pets to the meetings and introduce your fur babies to your coworkers. Let everybody's pet share the screen for the first five minutes in the next meeting. Display your artistic side and upload a visually appealing background on your next remote meeting Arrange a virtual happy hour. It's a beautiful way to connect the employees and gives them a break from stressful work hours. What information do you put in a virtual meeting invite? Hosting a meeting requires proper etiquette in order to send business meeting invites to your intended participants. For starters, make sure your meeting invitations look formal and professional. Virtual meetings have a different invite as compared to the regular ones. When you send out a meeting invitation, it's enticing to mail the invites quickly to ensure the guests don't schedule or accept another meeting's invitation at the decided time. If you think of what meeting invitations should look like, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about meeting invites. Concise subject line Start off the invitation with a subject line and make sure to keep it short, simple, and easy to understand. Also, it should have the date, meeting name, and a clue about the type of invite you are sending. That way, people know at what time you are scheduling the meeting and get an idea about what the meeting agenda will revolve around without reading the entire email. Personal introduction (optional) If you have a meeting with a different group of people than the usual, a brief personal note should be added at the top of the invitation email to let them know about who is requesting a meeting. For instance, a quick note like "Hi everybody, I look forward to seeing you all at the project initiation!" or "Here's an invitation email for our upcoming presentation." These can help people recall from whom they are receiving the email and for what intended purpose. Preparation requirements (optional) If you need the participants to come prepared with some report, review design in advance, or gather information regarding some topic beforehand, make sure you provide clear instructions on precisely what you expect so it doesn't get missed. Meeting date and time (required) It's imperative to mention the date and time in the email content of your meeting invite. It is preferable to spell out months while writing dates to make it convenient for people in different locations to understand the simple date format. Also, include the time zone and figure out the correct timings for invitees. Location/medium: in-person or online (required) If it's a physical meeting, you need to mention the physical place where the meeting will take place, for example, a conference room. In virtual meetings, the link to join the remote discussion will be the location field, audio guidelines, or any specific system requirements. Also, add a phone number for virtual meetings as it makes it easier for people who'll join on the go from their mobile phones. Meeting objective (required) The reason for scheduling the meeting, what it aims to achieve. You can include the purpose of the meeting in a brief line in the email invitation. The outcomes or targets meeting will accomplish. Agenda (optional) The meeting agenda needs to be included to let the participants know the topics for discussion in the meeting or any instructions related to it that they need to prepare for. Furthermore, if your meeting will revolve around reviewing documents, reports, proposals, or some research findings, it is good to attach the documents in the same invite email prior. Also, attach a link to these documents in case the participants are unable to access and review them through email. Invitee list (optional) Finally, include the names of all participants who will attend the meeting at the end of your email invite, so everybody knows who they have their discussion with. How to make the best meeting notes (that people will actually use) The whole point of meetings is to gather the key takeaways that you can share with others and refer to in the future. If you don't take notes during a virtual meeting, you will not deduce the outcomes. The initial step to taking good notes is to realize that meetings are crucial, and it helps you gain valuable insights for the way ahead. Here are a few tips that can help you take great meeting minutes. Start with the basics It's essential to start with the necessary information, so at the top, do mention the location, time, and date. You also need to note down the purpose of the meeting and the matters of discussion. Although this information is quite apparent, it is vital to document everything in writing to be clear when the meeting took place. Verbatim transcript One of the most useful techniques is to transcribe the exact words and record the speaker's name to their statements. However, for that kind of precision, you need to be an active listener to write what you hear. Document the insights that can help you in the future. Furthermore, if it's a high priority meeting, you need to ensure that you pay more attention to the details, so you don't miss out on important stuff. Filter down to key points Think about future readers or the non-attendees who want to grasp the crucial details of the meeting. Make sure you narrow down the notes and make a key takeaways section to help absentees understand the meeting minutes. Honestly, a long transcript that lacks a direction will not entice the readers. Ensure that your notes are easily readable, and people can comprehend it so that they know about the main topics discussed in the meeting and the subsequent course of action. Need a little help making your meeting notes? Our actionable meeting notes template has you covered. Online meeting tools you can't go without Naturally, you can't run successful virtual meetings without using the essential tools. The online meeting tools allow you to set up a virtual appointment and seamlessly connect with people over the internet in no time. That said, it is imperative to choose the right tools that fit your unique business needs and can help you effortlessly engage with your team virtually. To help you get started, here are some of the useful online meeting tools that can optimize your remote meetings. Zoom Zoom is one of the platforms that facilitate video conferencing. It offers tons of features and is scalable to specific business requirements. Also, it's a user-friendly tool that supports small and large enterprises alike. Furthermore, it works on multiple devices, from your desktop computer to your smartphones. It delivers quality service and is a highly reliable platform to utilize. GoToMeeting GoToMeeting is a convenient online meeting tool that allows users to conduct video sessions and offers plenty of features. It lets you change the video and audio, share your screen, create a personal virtual meeting room link with an easy-to-use interface. Furthermore, you can easily send out the meeting invite link to the participants, and they can simply join the meeting with the URL without having the need to have an ID and password. Google Meet Google Meet is yet another tool for online meetings. As a host, you need a personal G Suite account to schedule an appointment on Google Meet, but the participants don't need one. Furthermore, Google Meet is a user-friendly platform offering various features and usability options to its users. Go Agile with Wrike Without a doubt, remote meetings are critical for businesses to succeed. However, these meetings can't be productive if your employees are not aligned with other team members. In order to get your team on the same page, it's imperative to deploy a work management software like Wrike that lets your team collaborate and interact from anywhere, at any time. Create your virtual workplace, customize your workflows, access reports, real-time updates, and gain valuable insights — Wrike lets you do it all. Explore the future of remote working with Wrike's work management software. Try out our remote working template here!