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The Facilitation Center at EKU Offers Tips to Improve Virtual Meetings

Facilitating Virtual Meetings | September 23, 2020

The demand and need for virtual meetings has become a double edged sword.  In this period of no or very limited travel, it has been our lifeline to professional connections and relationships, allowing teams and individuals to still connect.  However, virtual sessions are often described as very draining, on top of the technical issues so many experience, such as poor internet connections and unfamiliarity with the basic features of the platforms. 

Many businesses have declared remote work is the way of the future, thanks in great part to virtual platforms, however, many have shared how frustrating and ineffective these meetings can be because they are run so poorly. Ineffectiveness of meetings is not new.  During her 2014 Ted Talk, Emily Pidgeon shared most employees attend an average of 62 meetings per month and half of the attendees said their meetings were unproductive.  Pidgeon's research also found that 75 percent of people have received no formal training on how to conduct a meeting.  Fast forward to 2020 and forced virtual meetings – things have not improved. 

The Facilitation Center at EKU has been training meeting management and facilitation skills for over a decade and recently implemented a digital pivot to a virtual platform and specifically identified tools and techniques to improve engagement and productivity of these meetings.  Participants found these sessions to be highly effective and productive and the tips invaluable to their virtual meetings.  Stefanie Ashley, Director of the Facilitation Center at EKU, and Certified Virtual Facilitator, shares the following five tips to improve your virtual meetings:

  1. Planning for a meeting is critical.  Clearly and succinctly define the purpose of the meeting and outline the key outcomes you hope to leave the meeting with.  Once you know these key components, build your agenda around them.  A good rule of thumb for planning time is for every hour of a meeting, you should plan for an hour of planning time.

     
  2. When planning for your session, ensure you utilize engagement techniques for feedback and the exchange of ideas.  Utilize the Round Robin technique for responding, breakouts, and online collaboration software, such as Miro or Padlet, which allows everyone to write down their ideas for the group to see.

     
  3. Icebreakers and energizers are even more critical in virtual meetings.  Identify activities that get participants moving and engaging with each other, such as scavenger hunts or yoga stretches. 

     
  4. Break up longer meetings into shorter meetings that are held more often.  For example, instead of a four hour meeting, consider making it a two hour meeting, held over two days.

     
  5. Spend time getting everyone on the same page with the technology.  We email a best practices document before our meetings that outline technology requirements and helpful links, as well as, etiquette and expectations.  We offer to get on the call early with participants if they want to check their connections or schedule a separate meeting with them, so when the meeting rolls around, everyone is familiar with the basics of the platforms used. 

“The key is really around proper planning,” said Ashley. “It takes more time in an already fast pace environment, but the results are well worth it.” The Facilitation Center at EKU offers a workshop on virtual meeting facilitation. Workshop participants will develop strategies for engaging a remote audience, as well as basic and advanced functions in Zoom.

For more information about the Facilitation Center at EKU or their trainings, visit facilitation.eku.edu. 

Published on November 12, 2020

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