5 ways to make your meetings more professional
One of the challenges businesses face as we shift into a post-lockdown mix of remote and office working is that the boardroom is no longer one room - with meetings held on screens, split between multiple views of living rooms, kitchens and team members in office meeting rooms.
Along with the potential tech hiccups as users get to grips with remote working software (cat face lawyer, anyone?) and unexpected domestic interruptions (e.g. kids gatecrash interview), there's now the additional challenge of making sure that teams in the office and teams working remotely have the tech to make sure everyone is seen and heard clearly. For businesses that rely on face to face meetings with customers or suppliers, it can be easy to feel like you’re losing your professional edge or being shown up by the work your business hasn’t done to make hybrid meetings a reliable option.
In this blog, we’ll explore the steps you can take to get back that professional feeling to help restore your confidence and keep meetings productive during these ever changing times:
1. Get comfortable videoconferencing
It might seem obvious, but a huge part of creating a professional experience comes with feeling confident being onscreen. Most traditional office-based work has been happening remotely and we’ve changed our processes including the way we hold meetings; we need to embrace the reality that we’re unlikely to go back to working exactly as we did before Covid-19.
Many remote teams have regular scheduled catch-up meetings which gives everyone a sense of collaboration and camaraderie that they miss from being in a physical office. This is a great opportunity to work on getting comfortable onscreen in a friendly space. And of course, even if you are in the office the likelihood is that you're also still on screen so colleagues working remotely can join.
When it comes to customers and suppliers good meeting practice is more important than ever in hybrid meetings because you’re not always relying on the social cues and body language you usually would. Taking time to communicate clearly each point you want to make, agreeing clear actions and timings is more important than ever so everyone’s expectations are set.
2. Make sure you have the right equipment
Now this one sounds obvious but it's a little more tricky as there are many elements at play. Hosting virtual meetings is almost impossible when attendees drop out due to poor connections or overloaded networks, can barely hear each other thanks to poor quality microphones, or can’t see how you’ve made the effort to brush your hair and put in a shirt, because of bad quality cameras.
- Wireless Notworking? - For home wireless issues, consider equipping team members with a home mesh Wi-Fi system or Wi-Fi range extender to boost range, speed and coverage throughout the home - we can’t all sit next to the router! For remote workers out and about consider LTE devices that allow them to securely connect to the internet without relying on unsecured public wifi. If your organisation's meeting spaces are struggling, consider a free wireless site survey to help identify and solve the problem.
- Home-working attendees - A device with a high-quality camera and microphone is the minimum for home videoconferencing, but for day-to-day meetings the humble headset can make a huge difference to quality of communications. For remote workers who have important meetings where a professional appearance is essential, choose a high quality set-up with separate microphone, speakers and web camera to make sure the focus is on the meeting and not worrying about the technology.
- Connected office meeting rooms - Upgrades for meeting rooms should be considered to ensure that hybrid meetings can keep up the 'click and meet' culture that remote working over the past year has created. You should assess if existing sound and video quality is up to the job, adapting tech to the size of room and how your office attendees will be using the it, as well as considering whether you require additional functionality, for example an interactive display, so that everyone in the meeting can collaborate in real time. For more information take a look at our guide to choosing the right solution for professionalising post-lockdown hybrid meetings.
- Collaboration software - It’s also important for everyone to have access to good collaboration software if they haven't already. Tools like Microsoft Teams make communication simple for remote teams, helping them stay on the same page while they collaborate on work, and work alongside all of the classic Microsoft office tools that we’re all used to using.
3. Set an agenda
Meetings without an agenda tend to be unproductive because they’re unfocused. For a productive and professional meeting that makes the most of everyone’s time, write an agenda that covers each talking point, any expectations about actions people should take beforehand, and sum up objectives that you want to achieve by the end of the meeting.
Send relevant documents attached to a meeting invite with the agenda so attendees can easily access them and are aware of the context of the meeting. The more you can prepare for a meeting, the better the chances that you’ll achieve the objectives you set.
4. Encourage contributions
Losing focus during meetings is not a new problem, but for home workers there are now additional challenges to staying engaged including domestic distractions, emails popping up on your second screen, and the nature of meeting through a screen that creates an additional layer of distance that can leave attendees feeling less involved. These can undermine the meeting entirely when attendees come away feeling like they don’t understand what’s been discussed or the next steps to be taken.
To help overcome these problems it’s important to think a bit differently about the way you run meetings, and look at maximising the way the way that every member can contribute during the meeting, to help everyone stay focussed. This is where cloud-powered technology is an essential investment.
Tools like the Microsoft Whiteboard are the modern answer to the classic brainstorming session, allowing meeting participants to annotate on a shared digital whiteboard via pen tool, keyboard or screen. And don’t forget that by using OneDrive teams can edit live in documents at the same time, giving you lots of opportunity for creative collaboration that gets things done more quickly, and keeps everyone engaged.
Solutions like these that encourage clients to engage with your work will prove to them that you’ve adapted to the current circumstances and present a modern, professional image for anyone outside your business.
5. Find out what works for everyone
Just like employees have different accessibility needs and working preferences in the office, they have them at home too, so it’s important to consider how you can support them whilst working remotely.
This can be simple things like recognising the time differences where people are working, or knowing that after 3pm one of your colleagues will have children in the family space they work in, and might not be able to engage as well.
Another example is attendees who have auditory or sensory processing issues who may find making traditional video calls difficult. If that’s the case for them, investing in a videoconferencing solution like Microsoft Teams that auto-caption videos and provide transcripts could be one option for making meetings more accessible and inclusive, and ensure you get involvement from everyone on the call to make your meeting as productive as possible.
Of course, this extends to working with clients. Being able to run a professional and accessible meeting that accommodates different peoples’ situations during these challenging times will go a long way and speak to your business’s integrity and ability to thrive during COVID-19.
An intelligent solution
So, where should you go from here? If you know you’ll be heading back to the office and need to make sure your meetings are the most professional they can be then consider a free design and planning consultation from our team who've been helping public and private sector get their huddles, meeting rooms, conference spaces and even lecture theatres ready to deliver high quality hybrid meetings.
You might also find helpful:
- Professionalising meetings post-lockdown guide which covers the main types of meeting room AV solution, tech considerations for different sizes of meeting space, and the process we go through to build a bespoke solution.
- Arden University case study - The university worked quickly to put in place a solution to deliver a high-quality learning experience for students whether on-campus or attending remotely, and with ease of use that meant lecturers could focus on teaching rather than the tech.