In the past weeks working as a Product Management Intern for Blizzard I have discovered the real art of planning and running meetings in a virtual working environment. So far, I have been in charge of directing internal meetings for sprint planning (preview, review, etc), backlog and bug grooming, and others. I have also planned and run meetings externally for cross-team collaboration such as weekly global publishing sync meetings, and several presentation and review sessions for my summer data organization project.
Remote work is tough for all of us for a variety of ways. Sometimes we’re distracted by house chores, social media, or our Amazon shopping cart. Other times we find it hard to focus or stay engaged with an image of someone on a screen, or sometimes only the sound of their voice.
Here are few things I found useful for learning, preparing, and running these meetings.
Video on, and look into the camera!
It is hard to read a room when you can’t get feedback from body language; smiles, gestures, eye contact all of this is critical when you’re leading a discussion or presentation. Even though most meeting participants will have themselves muted during a meeting, it’s good to see smiles if you made a funny or nods of approval if you’re asking for confirmation. With video enabled in meetings, things just feels more polite, genuine, and shows some proof of engagement. Silence is hard enough to handle virtually, going in blind too just doesn’t work well!
Have a clear agenda, take notes, and share them with attendees
Having a structured agenda helps participants know what to expect, it keeps you on track, and it ensures you will address all meetings goals without forgetting any details. Sending out meeting minutes or notes serves as a reference and reminder for those who may have been tasked with something. Give an extra few minutes for questions, “parking lots”, or comments at the end of a meeting; and include those in the notes too!
Attitude is everything
Learning how to lead a meeting is tough. For me, I learned to walk the walk. On top of knowing how to lead is also knowing how to keep an upbeat, engaging, and positive attitude. Luckily that second part wasn’t hard for me, but joining a team as an intern and being told to start leading everyone is rather intimidating. Having my agenda (point I made above) helped me a lot in getting used to the flow of leading meetings, and keep track of what topics I should be covering.
Those three things have helped me immensely this summer in being a successful leader for meetings with anywhere from 1-50 people! If you lead meetings, or participate in them, try implementing a new technique to keep your listeners engaged and on track.