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By Kirsten Jelinek

September 21, 2021

The pandemic has forced companies to rethink how they connect with their workforce by making the transition from face-to-face interactions to the virtual world.

The new culture of working from home has pushed meetings from the boardroom to the living room, but the changes have led to people making virtual meeting mistakes.

Founder of Inventium and organisational psychologist Dr Amantha Imber said one thing that trips people up is failing to have a clear purpose for online meetings which can leave employees feeling disconnected and disengaged.

“Don’t set a meeting unless you’ve got a P.A.O. which stands for purpose, agenda and outcome,” she said.

“Too often we find ourselves in meetings where we have no idea what the meeting is about, no idea what we’re trying to get to and no idea what our role is [in the meeting].”

Instead, Dr Imber recommends the organiser be proactive in planning prior to the meeting to ensure everyone can join with a ‘really clear focus’.

“In the calendar invite the organiser can specify the purpose for the meeting, the agenda, the plan of attack and what outcomes we’re trying to get from gathering together,” she said.

While online meetings can bring large groups of people together, Dr Imber discourages inviting more people than necessary.

“If you want everyone’s input in a half-hour meeting, don’t invite 10 people as not everyone is going to have much of a voice in the time frame,” she said.

“I find the bigger the meeting, the greater the chance of people disengaging and in a sense wasting everyone’s time.”

Dr Imber advises people to be realistic with what they want from attendees in terms of interactions and engagement to avoid ‘online fatigue’.

“If it’s a large meeting, using the chat box is a great way to ensure everyone is heard … or send a Google Doc so everyone provides a status update on where they’re at,” she added.

During online meetings, it’s also important to set ground rules and common expectations in terms of ‘virtual etiquette’.

“Decide whether to have your video on because it can be disconcerting when running a meeting and half the people have their videos off and you don’t know if they’re engaged,” Dr Imber said.

“Make sure to switch off notifications on all your other devices as there’s nothing worse than presenting in a meeting and seeing people receive an email while you’re talking,” Dr Imber said.

As workplaces continue to transition into a ‘hybrid’ of working from home and the office, Dr Imber also recommends investing in a good quality tech set up.

“There are so many meetings where you’re looking up someone’s nose or half their head is off screen,” she said.

“By finding a decent quality web camera and microphone and positioning the camera at eye level will make the experience people have when meeting with you a far better one.”