Eclectic Blog

Common Virtual Meeting Issues and How to Manage Them

As a general rule, take the time to email a meeting agenda ahead of time to all participants and include instructions on how to join the virtual meeting. Even with the proper preparation, there is no guarantee that every meeting will run perfectly. Here are a few common problems and how to manage them. 

Running out of time

Though virtual meetings can be as simple as walking from your couch to your desk, they don’t always start as smoothly as sitting down at a boardroom table. Make sure you take into consideration technology difficulties that may leave some stragglers struggling to join the video conference. Plan for the added time this may entail. Be careful not to keep the group longer than promised as it does not encourage trust and can interfere with everyone else’s day.

Work from home distractions

Set some ground rules before each meeting such as encouraging everyone to put phones on silent, avoiding using the keyboard to take notes (it’s very noisy) and setting up for the video call in a quiet room. Some distractions may be inevitable given the current circumstances, such as people juggling child care responsibilities, so be respectful of each participant’s unique situation.

If the group falls silent

Don’t panic. Let it be silent for a minute so the group has time to reflect on the idea or issue being discussed. Then acknowledge the silence and ask if anyone would like you to clarify anything. Speaking up in a virtual meeting can be intimidating as it’s harder to read body language or “feel out the room”. Sometimes a little encouragement is all that’s needed to get the group talking again.

 

 

Top Tips to Ensure Your Virtual Meeting Isn’t a Waste of Time

Nothing is more discouraging than logging out of a meeting wondering what was actually accomplished—and feeling like it was a waste of valuable work time. It can be frustrating for everyone but is easily avoided. Let’s take a look at some ways to ensure your next remote meeting stays on track.

Know why you’re meeting

The purpose of meetings is to solve problems, make decisions and build trust within the workplace. Before initiating a meeting, make sure you have a clear understanding of whether or not the issue at hand actually requires a meeting. Sometimes an email is all that’s needed for these discussions. 

You should call a meeting if:

  • The entire group needs to provide information or make a decision
  • Everyone needs to weigh in to solve a problem or clear up an issue
  • You need to assign responsibilities or roles to multiple people on a project, such as budget planning or preparing proposals  

Assign roles

Delegate key roles to participants in order to help your meeting run smoothly. These include a facilitator, note taker, timekeeper (often a role filled by the facilitator in smaller groups) and summarizer (often a role filled by the note taker in smaller groups).

Make an agenda

A little bit of prep can save hours of time, ensuring everyone knows their purpose in the meeting and what needs to be accomplished. List who is responsible for each agenda item and include the block timing of each item (e.g. 15 minutes) rather than a specific start time. This will keep the meeting on track without throwing everything off if one item takes longer than expected. Make sure to email the agenda to the group in advance so expectations are set and there is adequate time to prepare ideas.

Follow up

It can be helpful to send a follow-up email summarizing key points, decisions and action items to make sure everyone is on the same page, especially after virtual meetings. It also gives you the chance to request feedback or ideas that are often discussed in the aftermath of in-person meetings.

Tips for Email Etiquette During a Global Crisis

It seems few things have been left unscathed in the wake of Covid-19. Times are tough and it’s essential to adjust your language to reflect that. Here are a few quick tips you can incorporate into your daily email correspondence to maintain proper etiquette during a pandemic.

Be sympathetic

While it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening in the world right now, be aware that many of us are feeling pandemic fatigue and don’t need to be reminded of Covid-19 in the first sentence of every email. Proceed with caution when typing greetings and sign-offs that may be received as insensitive. For instance, while ending an email with “make it a great day” might work for some as a simple well-wish, it can cause anxiety for those who might be sick or close to someone who is. Try to put yourself in the receiver’s shoes and consider how you might feel if you got this email. It’s hard to know what the right thing to say is—try to find a balance between compassion and professionalism, trust your instinct and remember that many people are struggling.

Know your audience

Are you writing to an internal or external audience? If you’re emailing a colleague that you’re close with, light-hearted humour might elicit a smile and create a sense of teamwork that’s hard to grasp outside the office. An external audience will require a more formal tone, but it’s still possible to express empathy and add a bit of a personal touch that can go a long way in these times of limited contact with others. Striking the right tone of kindness and sincerity can build rapport and even create a sense of global comradery.

Adjust your expectations

Given the current climate, it may take longer for your reader to respond. There are countless ways the person on the other side of the screen might be affected by the pandemic, whether it’s adjusting to moving their career online or maybe even taking care of a vulnerable family member. Have patience and be considerate of others’ time—it’s just as important as your own. If you require an immediate response, it’s probably best to pick up the phone.

Tips for Editing Emails

Working remotely has many of us sending off dozens of emails a day to communicate with colleagues, customers and everyone in between. Due to the high volume, it can be easy to hit send in a hurry, forgetting to read through for any mistakes.

Your emails are a reflection of you—make sure they show off your best self! Let’s take a look at how you can make sure your emails are professional and mistake-proof in three simple steps.

Step 1

Let it sit. Take a sip of water and have a stretch before reading through your email. It’s much easier to spot inconsistencies and mistakes with fresh eyes.

Step 2

Read it out loud. Yes, this can feel silly—especially when sitting alone at your desk—but it works! If you’ve been staring at your computer for a while, it also helps to follow along with your curser to make sure nothing is missed.

Step 3

Looks are everything. Double-check for signs of poor formatting, such as lack of white space and multiple fonts. These are all things that can appear careless and deter people from reading your email.

  • Remember to start a new paragraph for each topic and idea.
  • Be careful not to overuse caps, bold and italic formatting for emphasis.
  • Stick to one font style.

 

 

Writing Effective Emails During Covid-19

Covid-19 has changed the way many of us work, constantly presenting new challenges as restrictions are put into effect. For many of us, this means working from home and relying on email as our core method of communication. As we navigate these unfamiliar work environments, it’s more important than ever to know how to write an effective email. Here are some ways you can do this.

Think first, write second

Whether initiating an email or responding, it’s important to know the “what, when, why and who” before you begin writing. Emails are typically seen as a more informal method of communication, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out on a writing process.

Chances are you’ve received an email that’s missing information or is structured so poorly you need to reread it to decipher the sender's purpose. Having a thoughtful writing process will ensure your message is clear, concise and specific, and it means you won’t have to waste valuable time responding to follow-up questions. Always ask yourself:

  •  What is the purpose of my email?
  • What does my reader need to do with this information? By when? Why?
  • Who are my readers and what do they want to know?

Your opening statement should identify the purpose of the email and grab your reader’s attention.

The following paragraph should then specify what your reader needs to do with the information given. Providing a deadline with a reason why will help motivate the reader to complete what you’ve requested.

The rest of your email can focus on the details your reader needs and wants to know. Keep in mind that some people receive dozens of emails a day and don’t have the time (or patience!) to read through long-winded content. It’s important that your message is succinct and that your subject line clearly states the purpose of your email.

Check it twice

Take your time to read through and edit your email to make sure all the information is right before hitting send. You’d be surprised how many spelling errors or unwanted autocorrects might be in there!

 

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