Online meetings and video conferencing have been an important part of business for years. However, during the pandemic, these became the only way for people in a company to communicate with one another.
These types of meetings might have also become common in a hybrid work setting, but do we know how to manage them properly? From constant interruptions, background noise and forgetting to mute or unmute ourselves, using online video conferencing software requires us to communicate in more deliberate and effective ways.
In this post, we’ll discuss how online meetings have grown and changed and what often goes wrong. We’ll also share some important tips for how to conduct constructive virtual meetings without any technical hiccups or miscommunication.
How online meetings have evolved
Online meetings have become a default way to communicate within an organisation, which has led to an increase in digital intensity and a lot of stress. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index has done a lot of research into the effect that back-to-back meetings have on the brain, with startling results.
Participants in the study wore electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment that monitored their brain activity. The data collected shows that jumping immediately from one meeting causes a cumulative build-up of stress. In contrast, taking just a ten-minute break between meetings can help to reset the brain before the next session.
The study also showed that having meetings back-to-back led to less focus and engagement, which is counterintuitive. This shows how much constant virtual conversations have become an accepted part of a workday, especially when working remotely, but also how ineffective they can be if they are not planned or executed productively.
What goes wrong in online meetings
Apart from the cumulative stress that builds up from having too many meetings in one day, and the subsequent lack of focus and engagement, technical issues and poor planning can also take away from the positive potential of bringing people together to discuss an important topic.
We’re all familiar with technical issues like being on or off mute at the wrong time, choppy internet connections and constant interruptions, which all show how challenging it can be to communicate virtually.
We might have all gotten better at learning basic virtual conferencing etiquette but are we truly using this type of technology to its full potential? If not, how do we do that? Chat functions and hand-raising buttons have helped to regulate the flow of communication better. However, using technology has highlighted interpersonal communication issues that can be addressed alongside enhanced technological features.
For example, Microsoft has also done a lot of research into analysing patterns of disruption during meetings. We all know how annoying and frustrating it is when conversations overlap or people interject at the wrong time and the meeting becomes disjointed. With access to so much data through their various software programmes, researchers are hoping to be able to identify patterns of behaviour that can help them come up with recommendations on how to manage meetings better.
However, while identifying patterns could be useful, would we all not benefit from learning how to communicate better with each other in the first place, instead of only relying on software and data to make it easier?
Tips for conducting online meetings effectively
With that in mind, here are some tips that can help you and your team conduct more effective virtual gatherings:
1. Build a culture that supports good communication
There are many ways to address a breakdown of communication or overwhelm in a company, but no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Some ideas include creating more dynamic interaction between groups of people. For example, use a workflow software interface that allows people to update one another virtually. This reduces the need to always take time out to chat.
2. Be hyper-focused and intentional about meetings
When setting up a meeting, be clear about the purpose of the meeting, and who needs to attend. Preparation is also key, so make sure to focus people’s time and energy more effectively by sharing key information beforehand. It’s also important to know who is running the meeting, and to have someone in charge of managing the agenda so that no one goes off track.
3. Learn better interpersonal communication skills
One of the basic ways to have better virtual interactions, and improve communication in your organisation is to improve your basic interpersonal skills. These include emotional awareness, listening, conflict management and cultural awareness.
Improve your interpersonal skills with SACAP Global
Are you struggling with back-to-back meetings and looking for a way to create a more productive culture in your organisation? SACAP Global’s range of short online courses can help you to develop the skills you need to thrive.
Our Effective Interpersonal Communication Skills and Advanced Interpersonal Communication Skills micro-credentials will help you to improve how to manage your own emotions and communicate better with others, which can go a long way to facilitating better interactions both virtually and in-person.
For more information, browse our list of courses or contact us directly for more information.