It’s been over three months now that one has to establish one’s remote team, having one’s video conferencing platform in place and preparing for video meetings daily. However, one cannot deny the few glitches that keep showing up now and then.

A virtual meeting can be conducted either through a video conferencing platform where multiple participants can join in at the same time or through a dial-in via one’s mobile device. One aspect when it comes to video calls is that the lack of in-person communication can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Signals such as body language become harder to read. But with the right kind of tools and approach, these meetings can be as seamless as any other inperson meeting. Here are some tips on how to run virtual meetings effectively:

Being thoroughly prepared for video conference call

One’s video conferencing software isn’t all one needs. Before starting one’s virtual meetings, one must check the availability of good internet connection, a properly working earphone/ headphone and a webcam (most laptops have an inbuilt camera).

Make an agenda

Any meeting is more effective with an agenda that is prepared ahead of time. Draft an agenda before the call, so one must’nt miss any discussion point – and must not get too off track, saving everyone’s time.

Try and send this agenda much in advance, so that all participants have enough time to prepare prior to the meeting. This “pre-read” will allow one’s attendees to know what to expect from the meeting and prepare probable questions and comments. One may encourage them to send questions to one beforehand so one can address them during the call.

Set up icebreakers

Virtual meetings can get a little awkward, especially if attendees don’t know each other. Try starting off with a fun and short icebreaker, like getting your team to share a photo of the shoes they’re wearing (or not wearing) to understand everyone’s work-from-home personality. Over a period of time, icebreakers can help one get to know the others and add a layer of fun that helps the team bond in a very unique way. Suddenly “Nancy from the digital team is now “Nancy from the digital team whose favourite food is pizza”.

For more of a business-minded approach, it’s always a good idea to give each attendee an opportunity to introduce themselves and their roles, one by one. Add in a fun fact for a bit of personality-not all business needs to be boring and work-oriented!

Identify speakers and establish rules

Many know how frustrating it can be to be a part of a video call where everyone is talking over each other. ? It wastes a lot of time. One can work around this by setting up specific rules at the beginning of the call. Start by categorising who will be leading the call, what everybody’s roles should be and set a timeline for each speaker. It’s best to allocate a moderator to each meeting to interject if anybody is being interrupted.

Set up terms such as “raise your hand if you’d like to interject” or “once you’ve finished a point, hold for 30 seconds so anybody who wants can provide their inputs.” This will make the whole meeting run more smoothly minus the commotion and prevent anyone from feeling ignored or interrupted, and will also lead to saving a lot more time.

Visuals

Holding a fairly long video conference and keeping everyone attentive can be a little difficult. One can improve this by enhancing the visual elements of the call. One way to do this is by providing visual aids – tables, charts, photos, presentation decks – to keep attendees’ eyes on the meeting and prevent them from drifting off.

Another good visual element is your physical presence. During a video conference one must aim a place full of light. One can do this by sitting with one’s face towards a window or a desk lamp. It will not be a good idea to sit against light. One definitely does not need vloggerlevel lighting, a simple light will do.

Some other rules that one can consider implementing includes muting one’s microphone when not speaking to prevent background noise, but never to mute video – as others may want to know if one is still in the meeting. There should be complete focus while on a video conference. It is okay to encourage text chat during the meeting, so a smaller idea doesn’t get dropped, but doesn’t interrupt the flow of the entire meeting.

And, of course, make eye contact! When one is speaking, there’s no need for one’s eyes to be anywhere but aimed at the camera. This will give attendees a better sense of face-to-face intimacy, and grant a little extra bit of trust.

The writer is founder and CEO, Flock