Mastering the role of the virtual meeting host
The meeting host is not only responsible for sending invites, they are also responsible for establishing the meeting etiquette and strategy that are crucial to creating the best possible meeting experience and outcomes for the client.
A classical music symphony has many moving parts that are held together by the conductor’s direction. The role of a virtual meeting host is not too different. Now more than ever, firms are grappling with leading presentations and meetings with clients virtually. The meeting host is not only responsible for sending invites, they are also responsible for establishing the meeting etiquette and strategy that are crucial to creating the best possible meeting experience and outcomes for the client. To properly prepare, meeting hosts need to carefully review virtual meeting application capabilities, devise a strategy and establish guidelines for meeting etiquette, and rehearse formal presentations until all parties are comfortable with its delivery.
Learn your instruments
In today’s virtual world, meetings are conducted using a variety of applications, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, WebEx, and GoToMeeting, each of which has its own capabilities and functionality. Familiarizing the team with the meeting application includes understanding the communication features available, as well as how to easily switch presenter roles, share screens, mute and unmute mics, and turn webcams on and off.
Asking each team member before the meeting to perform a task using the chosen meeting application can help prevent issues during the meeting with the client. Time is precious and spending the majority of the meeting trying to fix logistical and technological issues is far from ideal.
Set the tone
Creating an agenda is a great first step to add structure to your meeting, but the host should also establish some rules of engagement at the beginning of each meeting. The host needs to decide whether chiming in while someone is presenting a topic is allowed or if all questions and comments should be left to the end.
One of the most effective meeting approaches I have encountered is the “round-robin” approach in which the meeting host addresses each person to give them the chance to offer his or her ideas or input into the topics at hand. This is also essential in driving engagement amongst all participants.
Another effective way of accomplishing this is by taking advantage of the chat function of your meeting application. For example, on Microsoft Teams, the chat feature can be used to collect questions—the speaker can choose to address a question being posted right away or wait until the end of the meeting, thereby keeping the presenter from being frequently interrupted.
Even the quietest instruments should be heard
Virtual meetings don’t give the benefit of reading body language, so they rely even more on the meeting host to solicit participant engagement. It’s helpful for the meeting host to share question prompts for participants both before the meeting via email and during the meeting to make sure that people are listening and aren’t multitasking. When you establish the round-robin approach or let participants know that they’ll be randomly called on at the onset of your meeting, attendees are likely going to stay more engaged knowing that they will be called on to share their thoughts and ideas. I’ve also found it’s helpful when conducting a virtual meeting to include a headshot of the presenter on each slide to help participants know who is speaking.