Consider a recent virtual meeting you couldn’t wait to get off of. What was it that drove you crazy? What made you feel irritated or uncomfortable? Strange background noise? People not paying attention? Participants talking over each other and not listening? View the video on this topic, here.
Without meeting norms, meetings can be unproductive and hard to get through. With agreements, you can pay more attention to the content, participate more freely, and enjoy the experience more.
I know this is an unusual statement, but I actually like meetings. Meetings are meant to bring out the best ideas from every participant. Meetings help us connect and build trust. Meetings move ideas into commitment and action. Having ground rules for meetings helps you do this efficiently.
When we were in meeting in person, I would always facilitate meeting agreements and expectations at the start of an event. I found this especially important if the meeting was large (more than 8 people), or long (more than an hour), or was being conducted in an unusual way (like retreats, training, or team building sessions). Establishing meeting norms are extra important when the participants are being required to think differently, because people can forget and pay less attention to acceptable behavior.
Virtual meetings have all of these features – they can be large (I think Zoom’s limit on my pro account is 100), they can feel long (an hour feels very long in a virtual environment if there is low engagement), and the very nature of a virtual environment is unusual. You are at home, you may lack privacy, the technology can be challenging, we are in stressful times…. I can go on, but you know the way we are interacting now is different.
Virtual meeting norms are the agreements made by the participants of a meeting about their code of conduct, it is their agreed upon behavior. Try establishing agreements for behavior from the start for your virtual meeting. By creating meeting ground rules, participants understand and respect what the gathering is meant to be. Agreements are essential for your meetings to run smoothly and on purpose.
Here are some great virtual meeting norms:
- Always have a purpose that everyone understands
- Pre-test the technology if it’s new
- Find a quiet space without interruptions and noise
- Show up on time and come prepared
- Use the mute button to prevent background noise in large meetings or, do not use the mute button for small meetings
- Speak up or raise your hand if you have something to say
- Turn your video on whenever possible and be camera ready
- Do not multitask during the meeting
- Listen actively and ask clarifying questions
- Stay on point and on time
Have the members of your next meeting add to this list so they are co-creating, agreeing, and owning the meeting norms. Better yet, have members of your team build the meeting agreements from scratch as a team building activity! I can confidently say that if people create them, they are much more likely to follow them.
Be sure to post your favorite meeting norms in the comments below!
Each kind of meeting can have its own norms. Allow the group to establish them at the beginning of the meeting and then be sure to send them out on the agenda for future meetings. Review and confirm often that they are still appropriate. Finally, be sure to reinforce positive behaviors like following norms which improve the experience for everyone involved.