How to survive virtual meetings

Tin can phone from

Following on from yesterday’s post, about the art of chairing meetings, I’ve moved on to virtual meetings today. Over the last 5 years I’ve been in countless virtual meetings, as 2014 President of an international professional association, Special Libraries Association (SLA), I chaired over 15 such meetings and participated in another 20 meetings. I like to think I’ve got a good idea of what works for chairing and participating in virtual meetings. I’m this year’s CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) President (I like being President of professional associations, but that’s another story and content for a later post) and am keen that CILIP starts to hold more  virtual Board and committee meetings. So with that in mind here are my tips for successful virtual meetings.

  • It’ll feel odd for the first few virtual meetings, but it does get easier; practice is the key to success;
  • Be prepared for technology to be a problem, so have a back up plan;
  • If unfamiliar with these calls do a practice run, particularly important for webinars or meetings with 20+ participants;
  • Preparation is key: make sure papers are sent out well in advance and everyone has a chance to read them. Make sure the agenda is clear about action and decisions;
  • Ground rules for the meeting are clearly understood. If necessary clarify these in advance of the meeting. It can be useful to ensure everyone calls in 5 minutes before the start time;
  • Just as with in person meetings make sure to allocate people to support logistics of the meeting eg monitor chat box, take notes and manage display of slides;
  • Get everyone to introduce themselves and then to mute until they have something to say. There’s nothing worse than feedback and background noise to disrupt a meeting;
  • If you’re chair make sure to have a list of participants so you can tick off speakers and check in on those who have been silent;
  • As chair it’s also good to remember to summarise discussion and decisions made before moving on to another item;
  • As chair get in the habit of silently counting to 10 in your head when asking for feedback or comments, this helps to overcome the fact you can’t see the participants;
  • It’s ok for people in the same office to join from their desk, rather than in person all in a room, around a speaker phone. This ensures parity amongst all users;
  • Remember to get in the habit of saying your name before speaking ‘this is Kate & my point is ..’;
  • Be conscious of timings for calls – thankfully in the UK this isn’t as much of a problem as we have one time zone. If you’re involved in any international teleconference calls you do need to think about the time of day for all participants.
  • Avoid multi-tasking, particularly email, while attending the meeting, this is especially important if 4318854698_7d8df10ff4_myou forget to mute yourself.

That last one is very important, avoid any multi-tasking, particularly email – that’s my best piece of advice.

I’d be curious to hear from others about their experience of well run virtual meetings.

Other sources of good advice
Life Hack tips for having great virtual meetings

8 tips on running great meetings from Huffington Post advice on running virtual meeting















2 thoughts on “How to survive virtual meetings

  1. These are great tips. I find it even harder to participate in or chair a virtual meeting when some of the participants are together in one physical space, so I definitely support the point about people joining from their own desks. If some people are in the same physical room, it can be really hard for the online participants to break into the conversation.

    1. I’m glad you found the tips helpful. You are so right about the difficulties cause by having some people online and some face to face. We have to strive to get everyone participating in the same way to have a level playing field.

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