Guidance for Chairs of virtual meetings
What is this?
A guide to aid proper preparation and effective chairing of virtual meetings for ESCC staff
Why do I need it?
As Chair you are responsible for ensuring time in virtual meetings is used as effectively as possible to:
Prepare: Know the tech
The chair, or a second, should have a good understanding of how Teams works and support any attendees with any issues they are having.
If some technical problems seem irresolvable, switch over to Skype as a workable solution.
Prepare: design a timely and valuable agenda
During Teams meetings, if people are not included they are at risk of switching off and working on something else – this is disruptive. Avoid this by keeping the meeting well-paced and of genuine interest to all.
Work out an agenda order that allows attendees to leave if there are more than a couple of elements that are not value to them.
It is naturally harder to hold attention for much more than 1 hour in an online meeting. If possible, it is better to have a series of shorter meetings regularly than infrequent multi-element meetings.
Prepare: look the part
Working from home is not always ideal and colleagues have needed to find the best place they can to work from – this is often out of people’s control. But in terms of presentation, what is in your control is:
- Lighting – don’t sit in front of a bright window (if this is unavoidable consider using a lamp to light yourself from the front as well)
- Using your webcam well – don’t sit too close or too far from it, and ideally find a way to elevate your laptop so it isn’t looking up at you
Prepare: be aware of data security
If you share your screen:
Close any unnecessary tabs from your browser window and anything you
have been working on, before the meeting
Avoid sharing your full desktop
Chair: make a deliberate start
- Acknowledge everyone at beginning of meeting
- Consider including an activity where every attendee says something, for example a quick round responding to a question. It helps participation if people have engaged at the beginning
- Make "rules" of the meeting explicit at the beginning:
Mute yourself if not speaking
Turn phones to silent
Have videos turned on (see below)
Use the raised hand facility to ask questions
Turn off notifications (e.g. email notifications) so they are not distracting
Remind people about data security if screen sharing
You could send attendees this document (include link here) explaining virtual meeting etiquette prior to the meeting.
Chair: videos on
Make this explicit at the beginning of the meeting. Many organisations have a ‘video-on policy’, for the following reasons:
- Communication is more effective when you have non-verbal clues
- Facial expressions humanise a meeting
- Seeing people helps to forge relationships
- It reduces temptation to multi-task
Chair: be an active facilitator
Virtual meetings do not always flow as naturally as in-person meetings, so monitor contributions and the direction of discussion:
- Be attentive to people who clearly want to make a point, or who have had not contributed yet
- Encourage use of the ‘raised hand’ facility in Teams to avoid interruptions
- Check in at appropriates as you may not always pick up if someone is confused or looks like they want to ask something
- Techniques that can be helpful:
- Give everyone 2 minutes uninterrupted to give their opinion on something
- Ask each attendee to raise one question on a matter of interest
- At the end of the meeting, do a ‘roll-call’ - check in to see if everyone has taken away what they need
Chair: make good use of Teams functionality
Teams has a host of features and the better a Chair understands them the more opportunity for quality meetings. This includes:
- Sharing your screen
- Using the Whiteboard
- Using chat – this is useful for people to feed in questions and comments to avoid interrupting the flow of the meeting. It be helpful if the chair nominates someone to monitor the chat for the chair and feed this into them.
Chair: Take care during hybrid/blended meetings
If you have a meeting where some people are together in meeting rooms and others are at home, be aware that in-person meetings and home meetings have subtly different approaches and it can be easy for the attendees at home to be left out (particularly things like humour). Try the following:
Even if in the office, hold a purely Teams meeting, with office-based attendees sitting separately on their laptops
Check in with home attendees at the start that they can hear and reasonably see other delegates (regular Chairs might want to consider an external microphone or wide angle webcam, or using the Surface Hub rooms)
Chair the meeting much more like you would a Teams meeting than an in-person meeting – don’t allow local attendees to talk amongst themselves or talk too quietly for home attendees to hear (if necessary,repeat key points as they are made so everyone can hear them)
Keep checking in with the attendees at home:
Did they hear everything?
Did they catch the actions?
Are they happy at the end of the meeting?