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The Best Leaders Host Great Virtual Meetings – Dr. Steven Rogelberg Explains How

September 19, 2022 Deana LaFauci

The reality is clear: Virtual and remote meetings are here to stay—but research suggests that they are typically poorly run, not engaging and ineffective.

With burnout increasing, leaders have a unique challenge before them: How can they continue to meet their employees’ remote work desire with the ability to reach and engage them effectively in a virtual world?

Dr. Steven Rogelberg is Chancellor’s Professor at University of North Carolina Charlotte, best-selling author, and the world’s leading expert on meetings. He is focused on empowering leaders to leave bad virtual meetings behind and embrace a new approach to collaborating virtually. His latest book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, is a culmination of 15 years of research and thousands of surveys and interviews across the globe.

The Linkage team recently met with Dr. Rogelberg for a company-wide development session on how to host better virtual meetings. Dr. Rogelberg shared valuable tips that can be immediately applied—and now, we are bringing these tips directly to you! Check out “9 Quick Tips to Make Remote Meetings Work” below, and then follow Dr. Rogelberg on LinkedIn for more.

💡 TIP 1: Don’t over-invite. Quality plummets as the size of your attendee list increases. Let nonessential folks off the hook and let them access a recording on their own schedule. Dr. Rogelberg points out that you should give stakeholders the opportunity to attend future meetings to avoid making anyone feel excluded.

💡 TIP 2: Sharpen your agenda. “I’m a big fan of organizing the agenda as a set of questions to be answered,” said Dr. Rogelberg. “It creates focus. By framing [agenda items] as questions, you get a better sense of who needs to be there and whether the meeting has been successful.” So, how do the questions help you gauge overall meeting success? Well, when they have been answered, of course! And, if you just can’t think of any questions, it likely means you don’t need a meeting.

💡 TIP 3: Active facilitation is key. Your role as a leader is to empower the free exchange of ideas, and leaders cannot assume that every person in the virtual room will be able or willing to speak up unprompted. “Meeting leaders must embrace this active role,” said Dr. Rogelberg. “Avoid generically asking, ‘Any comments?’ Instead, call on people specifically. Draw virtual attendees in by name: ‘Hey, Sasha, love to hear your thoughts…’” Go beyond passive management of the meeting by keeping a tally of who you have heard from recently and seek out new perspectives.

💡 TIP 4: Realize that silence does NOT equal understanding or agreement. Every leader has experienced this: You have just finished sharing an important update or highlighting a new opportunity and… crickets. Any thoughts? No one speaks up, so everyone agrees, right? Wrong. Dr. Rogelberg points out leaders should never assume that silence is an indication of consensus, and he suggests that leaders seek out new and innovative ways to engage people in virtual meetings. One way? Use polling apps to get real-time consensus in the moment. Voting in the moment can help you determine if you’ve reached consensus—and it engages employees who may not be comfortable speaking up.

💡 TIP 5: Video On = Presence. “We need to create presence,” said Dr. Rogelberg. “We want attendees to be actively engaged and not multitasking.” In a time when many are reporting video fatigue or video call burnout, it’s important for leaders to determine when video is preferred and let teams know ahead of time when videos will be on. Brainstorming meetings and active collaboration meetings are a great fit for video, and when people know the expectations ahead of time, they can be present and engaged for the call. One of the most important things a leader can do when it comes to virtual meetings? Practice what you preach and use your video consistently for collaboration.  And, if you ask people to use video, be sure you run a top-notch meeting and don’t over-invite.

💡 TIP 6: Decide what makes for a good virtual meeting. “Talk about it!” said Dr. Rogelberg. “Get the expectations out there.” What could this look like?  What do we expect from each other and what do we want to avoid? For example, each attendee should commit to making space for other attendees to engage and should encourage it.

💡 TIP 7: Use the chat! We can’t all be speaking at the same time in a virtual meeting, and that can make it hard for employees to break through and get their comments heard. Dr. Rogelberg actively encourages everyone in the room to use the chat feature to add questions or comments as you are speaking, and then be sure to monitor the chat or designate someone to do this important work. Nothing is worse than prompting someone to ask questions in the chat and then ignoring them!

💡 TIP 8: End meetings well. The most important part of the meeting is the last few minutes, which means you should actively manage your meeting to make the most of this time. “With a few minutes left, be sure to clarify takeaways, and for each takeaway, identify the DRI—the directly responsible individual,” said Dr. Rogelberg. “Don’t let anyone leave your meeting wondering what was accomplished.”

💡 TIP 9: Ask for feedback. Leaders can’t assume that they are running good virtual meetings without asking the folks in the room—and in our virtual world, asking for feedback has never been easier. “Send out a quick survey every once in a while, where folks can indicate what’s going well, what’s going not so well, and areas for improvement,” said Dr. Rogelberg. This step can help you identify areas for improvement, new opportunities—or it may even help you identify a few meetings that can be removed from your calendar. And who wouldn’t love that?

Dr. Rogelberg’s latest book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, is filled with more great insights like these. Learn More: stevenrogelberg.com.

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