We use the term “rules of engagement” as part of our setup protocol. Before each meeting starts, you want to make sure that all participants are in agreement as to how the structure of the virtual meeting will unfold. While similar to how we advise a regular meeting to be setup, there are some specific virtual meeting additions.
9. More so than for regular meetings, establishing an agenda ahead of time is imperative. Participants cannot arrive at a virtual meeting and benefit from the “feel” of the room and other attendees body language. This means canvassing participants ahead of time before establishing the agenda. To make up for the lack of social interaction you will need to ensure that both the agenda and the amount of time allocated to each item is clearly outlined.
10. Communicate to participants that they need to be ready and signed in to the waiting room (if applicable to your virtual application) 5 minutes ahead of scheduled starting time. Begin and end your meetings promptly.
11. Establish a time-keeper at each meeting. If it is a one-on-one ask the other participant to be a co-timekeeper with you. The timekeeper should be able to interrupt the flow at each time milestone (i.e. at 30 minutes, with 15 minutes left etc).
12. For longer virtual meetings gain consensus that you will follow the 90/30 rule. For every 90 minutes of screen time, make sure you (and the other participants in the virtual meeting) agree to take at least a 30 minute break before reconvening.
13. Gain consensus on muting and unmuting. If you have the ability to control participants sound on/off then agree how this will be used. Otherwise, request attendees to always keep muted unless speaking (Zoom users can press the spacebar to temporarily unmute). For the Jabra 75 headset mentioned above, lifting the boom arm automatically mutes the microphone.
14. Direct the flow of contribution. Unlike in a regular meeting when you can more easily determine when to speak up and contribute, in a virtual meeting this can be challenging and so we recommend that whoever is the meeting chair should direct whose input is being sought. This avoids delays with multiple participants wanting to contribute simultaneously and is particularly important with brainstorming type activities.
15. Agree on a 60 second time limit for each turn. It is easy to miss out on the social cues when online and “pass the buy line”. Overselling an idea or concept is a common problem at the best of times, during an online meeting it has to be addressed consciously.
16. Gain consensus that if an agenda item runs behind or is not dealt with it can be put in the “parking lot” for either further group discussion or break out meetings.