In-person meetings are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Whether you work for a small or large business, the modern work meeting has become electronic. While these virtual vide meetings and video conferences can be more convenient, they do make it harder for people to pay attention. The more distracted people are in meetings, the less efficient the meeting. With that in mind, here are 7 effective tips to make your video conferences more efficient.

  1. Create a Culture of Effective Meetings

Meetings – much like other aspects of a business – are driven by the culture of the business. When everyone has an open calendar and they have meetings about everything – including where to have lunch – everyone gets trapped in these hour-long discussions that are mere facsimiles of meetings. It is up to the leader to set the tone and direct things. Instead of having a lot discussions and status updates, create a culture where meetings really matter. Handle small things over email and small conversations. When you need something more, that’s when you call a meeting. The first step to efficient video conferences is making them matter.

  • Have an Agenda

It doesn’t matter if participants are right there in the room or somewhere else in the world entirely, everyone in a meeting has to be on the same page if not the same place. The idea of the formal agenda has gone out of practice, but it’s one worth bringing back. Be sure to include the main topics of the meeting in the invite or in a document sent via email up to 48 hours before the start of the video conference. This means everyone has time to set their own expectations of what the meeting is about – and what it hopes to achieve. If you get a meeting agenda in the mail be sure to read through it. Even if you already understand the discussion points and topics, you could learn something about the concerns and perspectives being brought to the table by others.

  • Prepare Ps and Qs

Even if a meeting doesn’t have a set agenda it does need a goal. Be sure to go through notes and background information that you might have to reference. Also think about questions that you want to ask – or may be asked. Putting together a prepared set of bullet points and ideas will take away the pressure of having to think of questions on the spot. It also allows you to openly participate with the current discussion. If you have a paper agenda then feel free to put your questions on there or just prepare a notes document that has your thoughts and goals on it. No matter how you prepare for a meeting, preparing of any kind will mean that you have everything you need ahead of time.

  • Troubleshoot Technology

Technology is an important part of any video conference. Whether you’re holding your first or your fiftieth teleconference you should be aware of how the technology works. Make sure that the speakers are connected and your video conference camera (we can highly recommend the owl conference camera) is working. If you will need internet access for the meeting then make sure that everything is connected and working properly. One of the most common frustrations of video conferences is when someone needs a little longer to connect to the internet because it’s gotten slow. Get to the room early and dial in early so everyone is connected. Even if you have to mute other people – or yourself – it’s good to know that everyone is in place and ready ahead of time.

  • Share The Important Things

If you’re dealing with information that includes statistics, images, and other visual information – or you are going to reference external documents of any kind – make sure everyone has access to them. Put up a screen share so you have an easier time directing the audience and keeping everyone together on the same page. Taking this step can help to alleviate problems where people don’t know where they are or have to find the right page. Sharing your own screen eliminates the confusion and need to pause the meeting. Just be sure to clean up your screen and turn off email and messaging programs to prevent interruption.

  • Be Direct

One of the key challenges with online meetings is understanding who is speaking, who is about to speak, and who needs to start speaking. Based on the people involved in a meeting and their personalities, a virtual meeting can range between everyone talking over each other or people taking too long to start talking after someone else finishes. Take steps to avoid these jumbles and dead air by framing questions directly to other people. If people rely on other parts of the process to move forward or are working together then feel free to include them and ask them directly if they’ve got any questions or other things to add. Be direct with people to push the conversation forward and get the most out of a meeting.

  • Personality Perks

Another potential problem with video conferences is that they can be a drag, in particular when there’s no body language to pick up on. You can maintain focus by keeping your personality up and running. Be as personable in a video conference as you would be in a regular meeting. Keeping high energy will keep the audience engaged and ensure everyone is sticking to the topic at hand. You don’t want people to lose track any more than they themselves want to lose track. Make sure everyone brings their “A Game” to the meeting to cover more material in less time.

The format of the meeting doesn’t matter. You can avoid the problems of virtual meetings by being prepared and engaging other people in the meeting.