7 Ways to Use Tech in Online, On-site and Hybrid Meetings
By Jolene Rutherford, Last updated: 2022-09-21 (originally published on 2021-04-30)
For most businesses, the workplace dynamics have changed during the pandemic, as more have turned to remote-based work, shifts with smaller group collaboration, and of course, a slew of tech tools. Some companies have had the time and the resources to adapt, as they’ve been moving towards greater digitalization prior to the COVID-19 crisis, but many have been left stumped for ideas on how to adapt quickly.
Something that seems simple and well-organized, like your ordinary Monday morning meeting suddenly turns into a catastrophe. The poor internet connection causes delays and cut-offs, the lack of a general agenda makes it impossible for people to prepare, and some might not have the needed tools like headphones to be able to follow.
Now, many businesses have managed to transition to some form of productive meetings online, but others are still struggling. Whether you’re going back to your normal routine and working at the office, or you’re going to stay true to virtual get-togethers, this guide will help you maximize the use of tech to your advantage. The following tools, ideas, and strategies can help your teams be more productive during your meetings, but they can also elevate the overall operational efficiency of your organization.
Simplify scheduling with a unified tech platform
When you don’t have meetings that are set in stone, like that regular Monday call, and you often need to assemble your employees to talk about a brand-new project in the pipeline, then you definitely need a unified scheduling system. A digital calendar that is available to all your employees and that gives you, their supervisor, an overview of everyone’s availability helps you organize meetings in which everyone can participate.
Scheduling software is useful for smaller meetings, too, which means that it makes it easier for different departments in your organization to collaborate, both on-site and remotely. Your SEO expert can see if your content writer is available for a quick call, and your customer support agent can ask a sales agent for advice when they’re available.
This approach helps reduce communication issues, which in turn makes all your meetings, both business-wide, and one-on-one more productive and purpose-driven.
Make your office meetings inclusive with tech
The pandemic has created a rift in organizations purely because employees are now having a hard time connecting and bonding while working remotely. At the same time, some businesses are slowly going back to the office, at least in shifts. So, how does this hybrid work environment enable employees to keep collaborating using tech and to feel included and valued?
First and foremost, you need to use high-quality video conferencing equipment to enable seamless communication, prevent lagging and delays, and provide optimal sound and video quality. Set up your conference room with the right screens and sound systems that will allow your remote teams to join in from home. They’ll feel like they’re there, and your in-office staff will have the same impression of sharing the room with their team members.
This makes it significantly easier for teams to work together even remotely, and from different teams. Make sure that your remote employees have access to optimal hardware, too, so that they can participate without issues.
Creative brainstorming with the right tech tools
Online meetings don’t just boil down to setting a weekly to-do list. In fact, with the help of various digital tools, you can transform your online meetings into collaborative, creative exchanges in real-time that help your employees connect even when working remotely.
- Use digital whiteboard tools that allow you to brainstorm and exchange creative ideas in a less traditional way.
- Learn how to maximize the use of these tools and their many features. For example, many come with playful and interactive functionalities, such as adding sticky notes, pins, and images, in addition to writing plain text.
- Start using these tools when you need to train and educate your employees remotely. There’s no need to stop teaching and advancing as an organization if you need to skip office-based collaboration.
- Create mind maps and wireframes, and set up visual boards that help your design team work together. Make your meetings fun, not just productive, as this will make them more engaging.
Remember that your employees often need a little more substance in their interactions. Technology and digital tools help make your online meetings more vibrant, so use them for all their worth.
Automate post-meeting surveys to improve
Automation has become quite trendy in recent years, but most companies use it for customer-facing processes and interactions in order to reduce employee effort and workload. Many rely on AI-based chatbots to provide better customer service, too. Yet, smart automation practices can easily be implemented in organizing your meetings and your post-meeting steps.
For example, enabling occasional surveys after a meeting can help you get a better understanding of the experience your employees are having during your video calls. Are they happy with the sound quality and video quality? Is their connection causing them trouble? What about file and screen-sharing features?
Getting to know your meeting processes a little better from their perspective can help you improve for the future. Automate these surveys from time to time, and you’ll learn how else you can leverage technology to make the most of your calls.
Ensure elevated cybersecurity for all participants
Another crucial element that technology provides for any type of meeting is, of course, cybersecurity. This has become one of the most prevalent topics for small businesses that have had to switch to remote video calls, and they’ve had to go through various selection processes to find the right tools for the job.
- Make sure that your video conferencing software is secure enough for your team to safely log in, exchange files via the built-in chat feature, and discuss sensitive topics related to your business or your clients.
- Keep track of the latest security patches and updates. Missing them might cause a security breach that can be extremely detrimental to your business.
- Add another layer of safety to your video calls by reinforcing your security in general. Use VPNs, but also comprehensive security software to prevent malware attacks.
- Empower the use of strong passwords for your teams, so that you can further reduce the risk of breaches. If possible, enable two-factor authentication for every meeting.
Create an etiquette policy for online meetings
When you start having virtual or hybrid meetings with your team without a dedicated digital etiquette, you risk losing track of the agenda and people might not behave the same as in your regular, office-based environment. It’s important that people know they shouldn’t text during virtual meetings or spend time scrolling on social media – even if they feel they can manage.
Distractions are too easy to come across, especially if part of your team is at the office and the rest of your employees are at home, joining you remotely. That’s why it’s essential to set up a document with the outlined etiquette. Make sure that everyone has access to it and that they’ve familiarized themselves with it before you kick-start your conferences.
For example, you might support casual dressing and you don’t mind one of your employees showing up in PJs during an early morning Monday meeting – but if there’s a client joining in or you’re about to invite an investor to join the call, you need to make sure people know to dress accordingly.
Leverage data, analytics, and project management
Even when combined, all the listed ideas for using technology to help your business be more productive, both in and outside of meetings cannot compensate for a lack of learning. That said, you need to keep your options open and listen to what your teams are saying.
If you have set up a feedback loop in your organization, your employees should have a say in how your meetings are organized. Maybe some of them are wasting valuable time merely to show up, while others don’t get enough time to cover their portion of tasks and reports.
- Use your PM tools to understand which projects need more of your attention, and which team members might need extra help. This way, you’ll be able to structure your meetings with more purpose in mind.
- Keep track of your meetings so that you can compare their duration, content, and employee participation. Perhaps you’re wasting too much precious time on irrelevant items on your agenda, while some of the more relevant, urgent tasks remain unattended.
- Take notes so that you can send follow-up emails to your attendees and make sure that everyone is accountable for their share of work.
Productivity issues are common in any office setting. However, they have been amplified for many companies due to the pandemic and the increase in remote collaboration, as so many businesses have not been prepared for this sudden change. Attempting to refine your meeting procedures, boost team productivity, and give genuine purpose to your meetings can start with the right tech-based tools and ideas. Thankfully, tech is rapidly evolving to meet the needs of a changing workforce, and we have the opportunity to take our meetings to the next level.
The most important thing to remember is that every organization has specific shortcomings and productivity-busters. Be prepared for more upcoming changes and give your best to recognize the solutions that match your brand, as opposed to selecting cookie-cutter options that everyone raves about. It’s more about finding what makes sense for your business and helping your teams make the most of every meeting in the future.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.