Virtual meetings have become an essential part of our professional lives. While they serve as a convenient way to connect and collaborate with colleagues across geographical boundaries, virtual meetings can also be challenging to conduct efficiently and engagingly.
With different time zones, languages, cultures, and communication styles in play, it’s easy for virtual meetings to lose their effectiveness or fail altogether. That said, there are ways to ensure that your multicultural team’s virtual gatherings remain productive and enjoyable.
Use this checklist to conduct effective virtual meetings across cultures. Learn how to lead better discussions and build stronger connections with your teams.
71% of senior managers think meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
– Harvard Business Review
1. Prepare before a meeting
Proper preparation is key to ensuring productive and successful meetings, regardless of whether you are the organizer or a participant. By setting clear objectives, reviewing essential materials, and implementing other effective strategies, you can maximize your time and get the most out of your meetings. If you have a meeting with teams from different cultures joining, follow these steps to prepare and set it up for success.
🎯 Ask “why”
Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself, “Why are we having this meeting?” If there isn’t a clear goal, that meeting should probably not happen.
If you’re scheduling a meeting with people in different time zones…
Express the suggested times in their time zone (e.g. Can we meet tomorrow at 9 AM ET / 3 PM CET?).
- Tip: If you work with people in different time zones, this Time Zone Converter is a game changer.
If it is a recurring meeting, be mindful of other people’s working hours. Consider rotating the time so it is more convenient for participants.
Use software that offers real-time captions. Captions can help bridge language barriers by offering the transcription of the discussion in real time.
📝 Agenda and materials
Providing meeting materials in advance, such as an agenda or presentation slides, can help participants prepare and familiarize themselves with the topic. This can help ensure that everyone has a baseline understanding of the discussion.
One effective way to prepare for a meeting is by gathering data and visuals that support your talking points. This will not only make your presentation more engaging but will also provide concrete evidence to back up your statements. Make sure that any visuals you use are clear and easy to understand.
Additionally, it can be helpful to look up difficult words or industry jargon that may be unfamiliar to you or to some meeting participants.
One of the keys to a successful meeting is setting clear expectations from the start. Create protocols and establish norms that will guide the conversation and help everyone stay on track. Outline the agenda and any ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, to make sure that all participants are on the same page and know what to expect.
Clearly communicate how the meeting will be run and any expectations you have for participant behavior. This can include things like taking turns speaking, staying on topic, and refraining from interrupting others. This will help you foster a positive and productive meeting environment that is focused on achieving the desired outcomes.
2. Better collaboration during the meeting
Strong openings are the key to productive meetings. Starting a meeting effectively helps you set the tone, introduce the main topic, set expectations, and make a good first impression.
Learn more: Opening A Meeting Effectively In 7 Easy Steps
👂🏻 Active listening
Active listening is much more than nodding and repeating the last words of others. It involves paying attention, fully, with all your senses. It’s about understanding, connecting, and providing feedback.
Providing feedback during and after a meeting is an essential part of the process and can help ensure that the meeting objectives are met. To be effective, feedback should be helpful, specific, timely, and direct. This means offering concrete suggestions for improvement and providing praise for things done well. Avoid vague statements that can be difficult to act on, and deliver your feedback in a timely manner, so that it can be used to improve future meetings. Learn more about how to give peer feedback here or check out the video below.
❓ Open-ended questions
Avoid questions that can be answered with Yes or No. Instead, start questions with a “WH-word” (what, where, who, when, why…). For example:
Here’s a Quick Guide To Asking Better Questions.
🙂 Leave on a positive note
Focus on solutions and what can be done. 1:1 meetings are a great way to foster engagement and make your teams hopeful for the future. This helps shift the conversation from problems to possibilities and can leave participants feeling energized and hopeful for the future.
⏭️ Action items
Clarify action items and next steps before wrapping up. A highly effective tip is to write down the action items on a board that everybody can see (or have the screen shared). Having all the meeting participants actively look at the action items in writing will make it much easier for everyone to fully understand. This simple action will help avoid confusion and misunderstandings and it will make your meetings more productive.
3. Best practices after a meeting
☑️ Summary and action items
One of the best ways to make your meetings count is to have a follow-up in mind. Make sending a summary and action items a habit. Your team member can be responsible for it so it doesn’t add to your plate.
- Action item 1. @Personincharge / timeline
- Action item 2. @Personincharge / timeline
- Action item 3. @Personincharge / timeline
🚪 Leave your “door open”
Encourage ongoing communication and promote information flow. Make yourself accessible in case your team member needs your help between meetings.
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