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10 virtual meeting best practices for collaborative teams
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10 virtual meeting best practices for collaborative teams

Running collaborative virtual meetings can be challenging. Here are 10 virtual meeting best practices you can use to host better meetings.

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Some of the first superheroes, like Superman and Batman, date back to the late 1930s.* What made these characters a global sensation—and set them apart from other comic book regulars like Mickey Mouse—was their origin stories. These often involved the hero undergoing a life-changing experience that led to them gaining superpowers and adopting an alter ego.  

Just like superheroes’ mission is to use their powers to make a positive change in the world, you have the power to make more of your virtual meetings—and your people’s time. For example, by using virtual meeting best practices to run more collaborative, positive meetings where you can get more done together.

It’s true—most people have unnecessary meetings on their calendars. But, at the end of the day, some are essential. That’s why you need the right tools and best practices in place to inspire true remote and hybrid collaboration. 

That’s why, instead of trying to muddle through with a Clark Kent meeting platform that lacks key features, leaders of highly collaborative teams need to look for one that offers a multiplayer experience. This lets people get more done together—before, during, and after the meeting. 

In this article, we’ll dive into 10 virtual meeting best practices you can use to host engaging, collaborative meetings. We also show you how you can use Switchboard to unleash everyone’s unique superpower—and truly join forces with your team.

Want more collaborative remote and hybrid meetings? 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms are the superpower that puts the “team” in “teamwork.”
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*National Museum of American History

Before the meeting

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to improve your virtual meetings and boost productivity. Here’s how you can set yourself up to do just that before, during, and after the meeting. 

Choose the right virtual meeting platform 

Connected teams build stronger bonds and work better together. That means you need to create opportunities for spontaneous interactions and workplace connections. 

All the best superheroes have a home base (think Batcave or X-Mansion), and your teams need a virtual meeting software tool that acts as your home base and is built for doing, not just talking. 

A collaborative digital workspace like Switchboard lets you go beyond traditional video conferencing tools with superpowers features that let everyone work on files, documents, and apps at the same time. You can also organize and save all your work and share more than one thing–or screen–at a time. It acts as a permanent hub where your remote working heroes can find each other and get work done, async or in real time. 

For highly collaborative remote and hybrid teams that have been held back by single-player screen-sharing, it’s like Peter Parker gaining superhuman strength after being bitten by that spider. 

Set up your virtual meeting room beforehand 

Just as superheroes don’t become super until they put on their costume, unlocking the power of collaboration requires you to create the right conditions. That means you need to set up the meeting room in your virtual meeting platform so everyone can get to work as soon as the meeting starts. 

If you’re using traditional virtual meeting tools, this means the host needs to get all the tabs ready (usually a last-minute scramble before the meeting). However, if you're using Switchboard, everyone can go in and proactively add to the materials, which is a great way to share ownership of the meeting and easily prep ahead of time.

In Switchboard, you can also populate your persistent meeting room with your meeting agenda, pre-read document, project management tool, virtual games, and any relevant documents, apps, and files. The best part is, Switchboard saves all your work and materials in the meeting room, so you can always come back to them and pick up where you left off. 

When everyone knows where to go to find important meeting materials before the meeting, it saves time with setup. It also makes it easier for everyone to actively participate and contribute to the conversation during the meeting—and keep it going afterward.

A view of a Switchboard room
Switchboard’s persistent rooms mean people can always pick up where they left off and collaborate with ease. Source: Switchboard

Decline or cancel meetings without a clear agenda 

Your people are busy, busy, busy saving the world—or just trying to finish work in time for dinner—so it’s important to respect their time. Consider setting a rule or expectation that meetings without a clear agenda can be declined or canceled. This lets people know that each meeting should serve a purpose, and that they’ll never find themselves trying to figure out what it is or whether they even need to be there.  

In Switchboard, you can upload the meeting agenda as a file or create a sticky note and paste it in. That way, people can review it beforehand and decline if it’s not useful for them. And, of course, you should also have the confidence to cancel the meeting if you think it can be summarized in a voice note, loom, or Slack message.  

During the meeting

By now, you should be set up with a virtual meeting platform and ready to get on with the meeting. Let’s take a look at how to make virtual meetings more engaging once they’re underway.  

Take a team temperature check

To do your best collaborative work, you first need to understand how everyone on your team is doing. This helps you identify any stressors, brings visibility to current workloads, and shows everyone you care about their wellbeing. 

Tune into how your people are feeling by asking them if it’s a “red, yellow, or green” day: 

  • Red: feeling stressed and need support
  • Yellow: okay, but could be better/or have a lot going on
  • Green: feeling energized and able to lend a helping hand 

This way, it’s easier to build relationships rooted in trust and empathy, which encourages collaboration. It also lets your team know they have support when they need it, which can help reduce remote work burnout.

Pro tip: Use Switchboard’s polling feature to ask your team how they’re feeling before or at the start of each meeting. This way, you can get a sense of your team's overall mood and adjust the tone of the meeting accordingly. For instance, if many people select "red," you'll know not to assign more work or deliver bad news. Instead, consider starting with a fun warmer to lighten the mood.
A Switchboard room with a poll asking people how they’re feeling
Switchboard makes it easy to understand team sentiments and stressors before, during, and after the meeting. Source: Switchboard

Encourage ownership 

You’ll never catch Batman trying to pin the blame on Robin if they fail to catch the criminal. Strong leaders and teams take ownership of their actions, which means each team member is responsible for their contributions, ideas, and decisions. 

As mentioned above, it’s crucial to get people thinking about how they can contribute before the meeting starts. This way, everyone will feel more like they own the meeting while they’re participating. 

Depending on the virtual meeting platform you choose, this is often easier said than done. 

It can be difficult to encourage everyone to contribute and take ownership with traditional meeting tools like Google Meet or Zoom that don’t save your work. People can’t enter the meeting beforehand to prepare and upload their materials—or pick up where they left off next time. And, of course, you’re limited to one-way presenting. This can lead to people being less invested in the meeting itself and switching off while one person shares their screen. 

In Switchboard, everyone owns the meeting because they can all get involved and take responsibility for their part of the agenda and group work. Working side-by-side on the same browser-based apps, documents, and files also creates more opportunities for spontaneous brainstorming and collaboration. Like giving Robin a chance to co-pilot the Batcar instead of always riding shotgun.

Switchboard meeting room populated with files and apps
Switchboard gives your team everything they need to confidently participate—all in one place. Source: Switchboard

Get people actively involved  

Just as the X-men debate important decisions in the Quiet Council, you need to get your people participating in meetings. This involves following virtual meeting etiquette so your whole team feels psychologically safe and respected. This ensures everyone’s voices and ideas are heard, which helps foster a culture of inclusivity and openness—and collaboration. It also helps keep people invested in the outcome of the meeting—and more likely to feed off each other’s energy and ideas. 

To get people actively involved from the start, mix up your meeting format with a game or team-building activity like a virtual scavenger hunt or icebreaker questions. You can also offer prizes like virtual gift cards to spark interest, healthy competition, and engagement. In addition, change who’s leading your meetings and assign a new meeting host before each one.

Another way to encourage full, focused participation in meetings is by giving people all the tools they need and minimizing distractions. For example, instead of assigning roles to team members like note taker and timekeeper, upload your meeting notes and digital timer directly into your permanent Switchboard meeting room. This way, nobody needs to pay attention to anything except the topic under discussion. 

Finally, pairing members of the leadership team with junior employees can also build team camaraderie and give them a chance to do things differently. For example, you can ask pairs to lead presentations, brainstorming sessions, and breakout sessions together, which helps them form closer connections. 

Add content to communicate ideas 

Adding content like documents and files to your meetings can help reinforce important concepts and information or illustrate a point. This can make it easier to digest information quickly, and better communicate ideas in real-time with your team.

Visual content like videos, images, PDFs, and gifs can also make your virtual meetings more dynamic, inspire new approaches and perspectives, and promote active participation. Also, it can be easier to digest information when words are accompanied by visuals or other content, which caters to different learning styles and ways of working. 

Let’s say you’re a small remote ecommerce company that holds bi-weekly merchandise reviews. If you’re using Switchboard, you can upload key product pages, suppliers’ information, expense spreadsheets, and current orders directly to your meeting room. These help you visualize merchandising needs and forecasts during meetings—and make them more productive.

Open URL functionality in Switchboard
Switchboard takes collaboration to the next level by enabling your team with crucial content and tools. Source: Switchboard

Work together side-by-side

High-performing remote or hybrid teams need to be able to work together in real time, so everyone can pool their strengths and feel supported. 

Digital collaboration platforms like Switchboard let you work side-by-side on any type of project and create meeting rooms to suit your specific needs. For example, you can create permanent rooms for design and creative reviews, sprint planning meetings, or client meetings. You can also segment all your files in each dedicated room, so you know where to find everything and get up to speed quickly next time.  

For example, let’s say you’re part of a remote sales team. You can create a dedicated room for sales meetings and populate it with your customer relationship management (CRM) dashboard, sales scripts, sales specs, and monthly or weekly targets. This way, everyone can come ready to dive into each meeting and work better together. 

After the meeting

Once the meeting’s over, everyone needs to know where they can access the key action items or the next steps they decided on during the meeting. This keeps them on the same page and knowing what they need to do. Here’s how you can get your team (or superhero league) working better together, even after the meeting. 

Share materials discussed in the meeting

It’s vital to equip your team with the information and resources they need to be independent and keep things moving along after the meeting. Highly collaborative teams shouldn’t need to waste time asking each other where they can find important documents or files—or wait around for teammates to share the most up-to-date version. 

Teams using traditional virtual meeting platforms may need to manually type a meeting summary and share it via email or Slack update to keep people aligned. You’ll likely also need a dedicated Intranet or drive to store important documents and files—and clear instructions as to where to find materials. 

However, if you’re using Switchboard, you can simply leave your meeting room and everything will stay in place. Anyone can hop back in whenever they need to find something, refresh their memory, and continue working. You can also record your meeting and upload it into your shared room, so anyone who missed it can easily catch up.

Switchboard meeting room with apps, files, and documents
Switchboard makes sure you and your team can always find each other—and all the files you need. Source: Switchboard

Ask the team how you could do better next time 

Feedback is like turning on X-ray vision in your meetings. It helps you spot any areas where you excelled and where you still need to address virtual meeting challenges like lack of spontaneity or opportunities for side conversations. Asking for–and acting on–feedback also helps foster psychological safety as it lets everyone know you appreciate their input and value their time. 

For example, you can use a Switchboard poll and add it to your meeting room to rate the productivity and collaboration opportunities of your previous meeting. This lets you get instant feedback that stays fresh in your mind for next time–and it only takes seconds for your team to provide. 

By understanding how you can improve, you can make conscious changes to your behavior, meeting structure, and approach—and improve team performance

Switchboard: Your superpower for more collaborative team meetings

You wouldn’t make the Silver Surfer zip halfway across the universe to sit in a meeting where he isn’t needed or doesn’t get to contribute. And you shouldn’t do it to your people either, especially when their calendars are so full already.

Meetings themselves aren’t the problem, though—it’s the fact that some of them are un-engaging and unproductive. And it takes more than a meeting agenda and a few emoji reactions to change that. 

Instead of trying to achieve more collaborative meetings using a platform that lacks key features, leaders of highly collaborative teams need to look for one that offers a multiplayer experience. This gives your people collaboration superpowers by letting them get more done together—before, during, and after the meeting. For example, by sharing files in your permanent Switchboard meeting room so everyone can access, view, and work together on them in real time and async. 

With Switchboard as your home base, every team member becomes a hero, driving the action and collaborating like a true team.  

Want more collaborative remote and hybrid meetings? 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms are the superpower that puts the “team” back in “teamwork.”
Sign up for free

Frequently asked questions about virtual meeting best practices

What makes a virtual meeting engaging?

A virtual meeting is engaging when it feels like you’re working together and collaborating in-person. This means you need to empower remote teams with the tools that make async and real-time working possible, which results in productive meetings and follow-on work. This can mean using features like polls, multimedia file-sharing, or preparing a persistent meeting room with all the materials you need before your next meeting and leaving them there afterward. 

What are the top tips to help you elevate your presence in a virtual meeting?

To help elevate your presence in a virtual meeting, you need to: 

  • Use the right virtual meeting platform that allows everyone to contribute and work together 
  • Have positive facial expressions
  • Maintain neutral body language
  • Check-in and follow-up with meeting attendees 
  • Stick to virtual meeting etiquette 
  • Set ground rules for collaboration and communication
  • Reduce any background noise
  • Have a stable internet connection 
  • Resolve any technical issues before the meeting

What are the three steps for successful virtual meetings?

Here are some steps to host more successful virtual meetings: 

  1. Choose the right virtual meeting tools
  2. Get people actively involved and encourage ownership over the meeting and progress 
  3. Create opportunities for side-by-side working

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Want more collaborative remote and hybrid meetings?

Switchboard’s persistent rooms are the superpower that puts the “team” in “teamwork.”