How to Make Virtual Meetings Effective, Efficient, and Engaging

With remote work growing in popularity, and uncertainty around COVID-19 variants continuing across the globe, the incorporation of virtual meetings has become the norm in nearly every industry. Many have experienced greater successes by shifting to virtual meetings to collaborate. In fact, nearly 9 in 10 employees state that video conferences reduce the time it takes to complete their projects, resulting in operational savings thanks to more efficient collaboration. But what changes can we expect to meetings and productivity in the near future, and how will virtual meetings impact the veterinary regulatory community? 

"Virtual meetings are definitely here to stay," says Liz Guthridge, managing director of Connect Consulting Group, who spoke on the topic of how to make virtual meetings effective, efficient, and engaging at the 2021 AAVSB Annual Meeting & Conference.

There are numerous benefits to virtual meetings including increased productivity and accessibility, which can positively impact how your Board conducts its meetings.

"Virtual meetings serve an important function by creating ease of attendance," says Liz. "There's no travel time or cost, you have the ability to record things more simply, and the tech keeps improving."

By hosting meetings virtually, it allows for a more democratic process to conduct business. "Everyone has the same square, the same space," says Liz. "You can get more people into the virtual room, which is great for the public."

Virtual meetings also increase accessibility for those with additional needs. "I recently attended a meeting where an attendee shared that they were finally able to fully participate. For the first time, she could take in all the information from a meeting because of closed captions," shares Liz. 

Making virtual meetings work for your Board starts at the preparation phase. Liz states, "Virtual meetings require a lot of preparation, and it's a different type of preparation than in-person meetings."

One method to increase productivity during your Board meetings is to prepare and implement consent agendas ahead of time. Liz explains, "They're a way to start with routine, standard, non-controversial items such as minutes, routine correspondence or reports, or other minor changes. If someone has a question about something on the consent agenda, they can ask for it to be removed without discussion, and it'll be put on the regular agenda for a vote. They're a really great way to give people a sense of accomplishment at the beginning of the meeting and save time on routine matters." 

Liz also recommends assigning roles to staff members to assist with pre-meeting planning and support during the live meeting. 

Some tips to prepare meeting leaders include:

  • Have a co-host to help manage the meeting

  • Send a meeting invite with the link in advance; reminders too

  • If voting, encourage participants to be on a computer (if they can't, ask them to notify you)

  • Provide an agenda and any documents to read and review

  • Open docs that you want to share; maybe highlight info

  • Check lighting

  • Have supplies near you

Assigning a co-host can help ensure a meeting goes smoothly. Some preparation duties for a co-host include:

  • Admit participants

  • Record

  • Handle chat and Q&A

  • Respond to any technical difficulties

  • Track time

  • Help with voting

Meeting preparation should also include attendee participation. Keeping attendees engaged not only maximizes meeting productivity, it's also crucial for virtual meeting success.

Once attendees begin joining your meeting, take the time to greet them. "Acknowledge the first few people as they enter, invite them to your conversation, or change the topic to be more inclusive," suggests Liz. 

Additionally, encourage greater participation by inviting all attendees to keep their video on. "It gives everyone else a better sense of who's in the room and builds more trust," explains Liz. "When we first moved to virtual meetings, I found a lot of people were pretty uncomfortable with being on camera. That has changed."

After your meeting, Liz suggests sharing the recording with participants, including the chat record. She also suggests noting in the meeting minutes whether it was held virtually or in-person, and taking notes with timestamps instead of relying solely on the recording. "The meeting minutes are a great record of what happened at the meeting, and over time you want to be able to go over them quickly rather than having to watch a video and search through it."

Of course, there are some drawbacks to virtual meetings. "When we're attending an in-person meeting, we can engage all five of our senses," Liz says. "Attending a virtual meeting only engages your sight and hearing, so it's a very limiting experience." 

However, with the right planning, virtual meetings can maximize the work your Board does for the veterinary medical community. To hear all of Liz's tips on how to make virtual meetings effective, efficient, and engaging, as well as questions and answers from the audience, watch the full recording of her presentation at the 2021 Annual Meeting & Conference in Denver, Colorado.