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The last months of life during the coronavirus pandemic were a whirlwind of last minute activities and decisions. Countless employees were suddenly forced to work remotely and changed their calendars in no time at all, and many companies had to move personal meetings and conferences into virtual meetings.
For example, the United Nations – known for its formal meetings and conferences – started with mixed results conference calls, as Devex reported in late April 2020. United States employees were not used to working virtually, and had to recover from initial problems with online meetings.
A June 2020 Harvard Business Review article describes a similar situation for Adobe. The brand had to abruptly cancel its annual Nevada convention in the face of the pandemic. Instead of losing the chance to bring everyone together in one place, Adobe has put its conference online – and more than quintupled the guest list.
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Make online miracles out of potential chaos
Your company may not be as well known as the United States or Adobe, but you may have noticed that unscheduled, urgent virtual meetings are required to process time-sensitive information during COVID-19. It won't stop that quickly.
You will continue to be bombarded by all sorts of unexpected information. Budgets are lost and in some cases are found. The markets will shift. The government could issue regulations that affect your operations. These changing sands mean you can expect to arrange and conduct many last-minute meetings. This can be a big task, but it's not too big if you're prepared.
As an example, Salesforce had to switch its World Tour Sydney event in March 2020 from a face-to-face meeting to an online experience with a two-week deadline. Their leaders took up the challenge and switched everything to a livestream format. The result? The company exceeded expectations with a record 80,000 participants.
Treat last minute meetings with confidence
Of course, most of the event planning was done by Salesforce. The company could use talk tracks, sessions, and content to make the transition to a virtual stage a little less tedious. The organizers didn't have to start from scratch – they just had to redesign a live experience to adapt it to a digital format.
The next time you are in an urgent situation that requires immediate communication and collaboration across virtual channels, you may not be as happy or resource-bound. And that's fine. You can continue to successfully host meetings and events online using the following three techniques.
1. Plan a lint-free agenda and guidelines.
You just realized that you need to set up an online meeting. No panic. Instead, channel your nervous energy into creating and spreading an airtight agenda. A fixed schedule ensures that all topics remain relevant to the participants. You can also distribute the agenda in advance to encourage normally calm people to participate more fully by giving them time to think.
As you work on the agenda, consider the total length of your meeting to ensure that it doesn't get out of control or split into endless segments. 30 minutes is a good basis. Remember, virtual meet fatigue is real – real enough to justify BBC reporting. Keep the sessions tight and only allow priority elements to make the final cut. It is easier to schedule a follow-up meeting than to force people to stare at their screens for hours.
Finally, the guidelines for craft meetings on the expected protocol, e.g. B. When participants should unmute or whether everyone must appear on the video. Mention whether you archive and record the communication to share with others who cannot participate. If you are concerned about this, you can hire a digital producer to simplify the production aspects and focus on the content.
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2. Split the tasks and do a practice run.
Have you ever sat in a meeting with no clear guidance or intention? It is frustrating and often catastrophic. Even if you are pressed for time, you determine who is present and who needs to speak. Find out who takes care of the technical aspects and who is at the front and in the middle. Even when planning an apparently straightforward meeting, outline the role of everyone to prevent something important from being overlooked.
Release an event management document that contains specific tasks after you have finished it. The better prepared everyone is, the better the event will run. Oh, and make sure you practice everything from screen sharing to using interactive touchscreen software. Videos don't always look flawless when played on conference call platforms. Slide decks can freeze and screens can become pixelated. The technology was developed to make your meetings productive and convincing. However, it is always advisable to test everything before starting.
3. Answer questions openly and with empathy.
If you have asked questions in advance to participants, distribute them to all presenters to make the questions and answers more efficient. If you have not asked questions to the audience, try to anticipate the questions that participants may ask. Once you have a good idea of what people want to know, you can consider your answers and write down bullet points. When you lead the meeting, respond to the camera with conviction and honesty.
When Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg was faced with a video call of 25,000 unhappy workers in June 2020, he could have prepared and delivered a clear answer to concerns about the controversy surrounding the president's "shoot and loot" postings. According to Vox & # 39; reporting, he didn't. Instead, he spoke about the trust of the employees and used a language that made him look less like a colleague and more concerned than his boss. His words weren't eloquent, but they spoke volumes because they were authentic. Even though it's your job to schedule your meetings at the last minute, don't plan so much that you sound like a robot.
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It's difficult to put together an award-winning show without much notice, but it is quite possible. The next time you're faced with creating an online meeting, take a deep breath and apply the best practices above. Over time, you will have a reputation for hosting every spontaneous event as well as you would have personally.