By Eleanor O'Connor – On
Virtual meeting fatigue is real.
Finding the right timing, frequency, structures & channels for your meetings is the only way to avoid staying or becoming a victim.
Mollie Lannen is experienced in running effective virtual meetings from her multiple leadership roles at CW Print + Design & Eternity Web. She was able to share her seven strategies for doing so with us!
What Virtual Meeting Fatigue Looks Like [4:25]
Have you done or seen any of the following in your virtual meetings? If so, you or your team could be experiencing virtual meeting fatigue.
- Looking down (to check phone, etc.)
- Joining the meeting while driving
- Showing a blank expression
What Virtual Meeting Fatigue Sounds Like [5:00]
Do any of the phrases below sound familiar? These are also signs of virtual meeting fatigue.
- "Ugh, another one?"
- "I do not know how to keep my audience engaged over the screen."
- "How do I get my clients to pay to talk to me virtually when they are already online all day for work?"
- "I'm so over this."
7 Strategies for Running Effective Virtual Meetings
So, you've identified the symptoms above in yourself and/or team. The bad news: you're most likely suffering from virtual meeting fatigue and are having less effective meetings because of it. The good news: virtual meeting fatigue can be cured. In fact, there are seven ways you can go about correcting it. Check them out. 👇
#1: Adopt an "In-Person" Mindset [5:55]
Mollie says that the biggest mistake you're probably making with your virtual meetings is that you're treating them differently than you would an in-person meeting.
To run an effective virtual meeting, you need to adopt the same mindset that you once had during in-person meetings!
To get yourself in that mindset, Mollie recommends saying your intentions for the meeting out loud.
"I'm going to go meet with ___," or "I'm heading to this networking event." Mollie suggests saying something similar to these out loud to help yourself adopt an "in-person" mindset for the virtual meeting.
Additionally, Mollie says your space shouldn't feel like home to you (even if you are in fact working from home). Think of your space in the same way you'd think about your office or desk before holding an in-person meeting.
Think of turning your camera on as a way of inviting all of the meeting attendees into your space. Your space should look & feel comfortable, but also professional. Even though attendees aren't physically there, they are there virtually.
Being an active listener is the last piece of adopting an in-person mindset. Even if you're able to watch recordings of your meetings after they end, don't treat that them that way. Actively listen during the meeting in the same way you would if it wasn't being recorded.
#2: Prepare for Every Virtual Meeting [7:30]
Take adopting an in-person mindset a step further by preparing for your virtual meetings. "This is a lot more than just putting on a clean shirt and sitting down at your computer before 9 AM," says Mollie.
"Study the agenda ahead of time and be prepared to contribute to the meeting," Mollie says. This means printing out any documents or worksheets you might need.
"While it might not feel awkward in person to politely excuse yourself for a moment to use the restroom or refill your coffee, you probably wouldn't want to do it in a way that would disrupt the meeting," Mollie says. Unfortunately, it's hard to do that in a non-disruptive way during a virtual meeting.
Turning your camera off to excuse yourself during a meeting is like abruptly leaving an in-person meeting while someone is speaking. It's distracting and isn't polite.
Of course emergencies do happen, but you can better prepare yourself before the meeting by keeping anything you might need (water, snacks, coffee, tea, tissues, pen, paper, etc.) within your reach.
Making sure your video conferencing settings and technology are in order beforehand is the last piece of preparing yourself for a virtual meeting. Mollie suggests opening your camera up at the start of every day to make sure everything is in order. Here are some things to check:
- Background (stage with items that you want to spark conversation)
- Working camera
- Working microphone
- Software updates
"These 2 minutes at the beginning of every day saves me a ton of time later on knowing my technology is always going to work," Mollie says.
#3: Recreate Your Commute [9:55]
For those of us working remotely, gone are the days of "commuting" to meetings, whether it be walking to a conference room or driving to a networking event.
Don't underestimate the power of a commute! It gives you time to gather your thoughts, listen to music, get moving and get a breathe of fresh air before you walk into the meeting.
So how do we recreate this virtually?
Mollie suggests taking a 5 minute walk outside to get your body moving before the virtual meeting. She also suggests spacing out your meetings with at least 15-30 minutes in between, the same way you would if you were meeting in-person.
#4: Be Virtually Present [11:20]
Being virtually present by avoiding multitasking and limiting distractions can also help you run effective virtual meetings. This means clearing anything that isn't needed for the meeting off your desk and closing out any windows on your computer that are non-meeting related. You can even take it a step further by printing out any meeting related documents you'll be needing to reduce computer distractions. Turn off your phone, close and lock your door, and enable do not disturb mode on your computer if you have it!
The last piece of being virtually present during your virtual meetings involves selecting the right view for each type of meeting. Here's which view you should use for each type:
- If you're watching someone present or having a one to one meeting, use speaker view
- If you're having a group conversation, use gallery view
- If the presenter is sharing their screen, use side by side speaker view
And lastly, if you find yourself getting distracted by yourself (it happens to the best of us) right click on your video to hide the self view.
#5: Use Tools to Engage Your Audience [13:30]
You don't have to be giving a presentation to use an engaging slide deck! You can actually use these to keep the meeting focused on the task at hand and to keep the agenda moving. You can also supplement this with a visual timer and teleprompter.
Depending on the size of your meeting, utilizing any "breakout room" features you might have access to can be a good way to engage your audience. Use breakout rooms with 3-5 people in each whenever you have 12+ people attending the meeting.
The chat box is another underutilized feature of most video conferencing tools that can help you engage your audience. You can use it to spark conversation, ask questions, and brainstorm without disrupting the speaker.
If you're looking for an efficient way to implement an ice breaker or take a vote, try using a poll. A poll functionality allows respondents to select a response from a set of answers to a given question, making it easy for the audience to engage and easy for you to quickly gather their feelings and opinions.
Mollie suggests using Poll Everywhere for this. It integrates with your slide deck which enables you to engage your audience in different ways.
#6: Utilize Print [15:40]
Having printed materials available to yourself and attendees will elevate your virtual meeting in the same way that it would when you were meeting in-person for conferences, tradeshows, and networking events.
Before the Virtual Meeting
"If you're having a workshop or webinar where people are signed up in advance, try to get their mailing address and you can actually send them physical materials ahead of time," Mollie says. Branded merchandise, gift boxes, and workshop props are just some examples of things you can mail attendees ahead of time.
"There are also people that only really learn by physically writing things down; they need to jot and make notes. They don't learn by just watching and listening," Mollie says. Printed materials are perfect for these types of learners.
During the Virtual Meeting
If you're unable to send attendees physical materials beforehand, you can try sending materials via an electronic document and encourage them to print those materials before the meeting. You can also ask them to find items (party hat, coffee mug, etc.) around their house to be use as props during the virtual meeting.
After the Virtual Meeting
Try mailing out thank you cards, your business card, more details about the meeting, and/or branded swag. Your attendees will appreciate the extra effort!
#7: Assign "Homework" to Encourage Meaningful Action [17:25]
Keep everyone at the meeting accountable for completing "homework" or "action steps" to report back on during your next meeting. Additionally, send an email to attendees following up on what was discussed during the meeting. If you met with any new contacts, be sure to connect with them and their companies on LinkedIn or your favorite social media channel soon after.
3 Things You Can Do Today for More Effective Virtual Meetings [18:25]
- Establish a pre-meeting ritual using the above strategies.
- Set a visual timer on your screen for a mid-meeting check in with yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reset, close any distracting tabs you may have opened, or change your view.
- Create a follow-up checklist.
About the Speaker
Mollie Lannen is the President of CW Print + Design, a women-led digital print shop providing professional quick-turnaround printing and design services for small businesses and nonprofits. Concurrently, she also holds the role of Vice President & CFO at Eternity Web, a web development & design agency. Mollie is driven to reach goals and creatively overcome obstacles, finding deep satisfaction in developing genuine relationships by listening, being grounded, and staying positive.