Team Building Tools for Effective Virtual Meetings

As the 9-5 goes the way of the typewriter, and cubicles transform into Ikea couches in our living rooms, everything about business as usual has changed. Even if your team is still functioning in the traditional office setting, your clients, customers, partners and vendors are always going to be scattered.

The tech boom has made virtual meetings very commonplace in business today, but they do come with their own intrinsic downfalls. These team building tools will make your virtual offices feel like one big happy conference room.

Virtual meetings can often inhibit interaction or dialogue.

When people in a virtual meeting aren’t talking over one another, it is far too easy for one person to take the lead and run with it, leaving no opportunity for dialogue or interaction. Newsflash: that’s not a meeting.

Stop expecting participation that will never come without facilitation. Remember that the focus of a good virtual meeting isn’t to simply deliver information. You have to use tools in order to get people engaged, adding to the conversation and asking questions. Inc. contributor and workplace leadership pro, Alison Davis (@alisonbdavis) suggests the following:

  • Polls – A simple one-question poll is an effective icebreaker.
  • Chat – Allow everyone to ask questions or make comments throughout the meeting.
  • Whiteboards/note pads – Yes, you can brainstorm virtually. Ask participants to share challenges or opportunities and record them on the whiteboard.
  • Around the table. – This is more of a technique than a tool. At some point, you may want to hear from everyone. So use the participant list to “go around the table” and ask each person to share his/her viewpoint.

Once they have engaged, always acknowledge participation and show appreciation for their contribution. Going from one-way to a dialogue can make people feel uneasy about participating – encourage it.

Virtual meetings aren’t great for captivating an audience.

This is the 30-60 minutes of the day when most virtual meeting attendees catch-up on email, do a little shopping, review their to-do list and get unrelated work done.  How much attention do you really believe your virtual meeting team is paying? If their phone is on mute, there’s a reason.

You have to realize that virtual meetings are going to take more structure and planning than face-to-face meetings. Leaders in training and leadership, Dale Carnegie offers some advice on virtual meetings:

“Use visuals and interactive tools. Visuals help to illustrate your points and keep your presentation from becoming monotonous, while interactive tools can introduce some fun into your meeting, keeping your team engaged and on their toes.”

They also recommend sending the agenda or all necessary information for the meeting at least 24 hours in advance. Scrapping up and sharing information just hours before the meeting might be enough physical time for attendees to get through it, but you don’t know what everyone has on their plate. Attendees can only be as engaged with the meeting as you let them. Visual team building tools keep all eyes and ears where they should be.

Virtual meetings don’t always have a real purpose.

Face it, we have all gotten a little meeting-happy. About 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings; this percentage has increased every year since 2008, as revealed in a Bain & Co. study.

Meetings aren’t for sharing information; we have a myriad of other, more effective tools for that. Meetings are for discussion, problem solving, brainstorming or collaboration. Define what constitutes a meeting, and what can be handled without one.

“While it’s unlikely that meeting virtually will completely replace the need for entrepreneurs to meet in person, its ease of adoption and convenience can serve to enhance your business’s productivity. However, virtual meetings aren’t ideal for every situation, so knowing when and how to utilize this technology is vital.” – Faith Thomas

Everyone in business is interested in two things –making the most of their time, and their money. Virtual meetings can do both, if they are run effectively. The same issues that we encountered with traditional work meetings haven’t gone anywhere; in fact, they are more prevalent in virtual meetings. In order for organizations to actually benefit from the implementation of virtual meetings, they must learn how to use team building tools strategically.

Bio: Ryan Mead, CEO/Partner

Vitru is an online application that provides tools to evaluate and build better teams. Powered by science yet practical and easy to use for a variety of teams. From students and nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies Vitru works!

Great organizations, regardless of size or mission, understand that powerful team chemistry is impossible to force; but when it happens, it’s magic.

Vitru allows team leaders to create and assess teams virtually and in doing so helps quantify what makes an outstanding team outstanding.

Want more? Visit our blog and sign up to automatically receive our fresh-weekly articles.

Tweet me at @GoVitru

Views: 324

Comment by Daniel Fogel on May 13, 2015 at 10:40am

Great post Ryan!   I may be outnumbered here, but I like to have the occasional meeting as a video chat (as long as the meeting stays focused)  For teams it helps to be able to see each other and stay connected.  For clients you can pick up on some body language that you might have missed with just a phone call.   Also, I think we have to remember Jeff Bezos' 2 pizza rule for meetings "Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group."


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