Virtual meetings are here to stay. Here’s how to make the best of them.

By Beth Caron Nilssen

Zoom. When you saw that word, chances are you didn’t think, “going fast.” Rather, you thought, “Work meeting—ugh.” Here’s how to make those virtual gatherings better, especially if you’re an introvert.

One thing is clear after working through a pandemic: Virtual meetings are here to stay. Even as many workplaces are having employees return to the office, either full-time or on a hybrid schedule, it’s clear that interacting with co-workers with the help of Zoom, Teams, Facetime, or any of the other virtual meeting tools is going to be part of our new work scenarios.

At Great Clips, Inc. we, too, have had our fair share of video connections over the last 16 months—from one-on-one updates, to virtual conventions with hundreds of franchisees, to happy hours with colleagues, and everything in between. We are more than ready to see each other in person, but those video skills we perfected over the last year are going to come in handy going forward.

One example is with the training program offered to Great Clips franchisees, who are responsible for making sure their staff is fully trained to deliver a great customer experience in their walk-in salons. Early in 2020, we pivoted several of those programs along with franchisee regional meetings from in-person to virtual, which resulted in such high participation rates that we decided to keep some of them virtual permanently.

So, how do we make these “get-togethers” more effective and productive—especially for employees who aren’t necessarily comfortable meeting on camera? Extroverts may have no trouble holding forth remotely, but the shy or self-conscious may be reluctant or even over-run by their more vocal colleagues.

The opposite can be true, too. Shy people may feel more comfortable on-camera than in person. When everyone is reduced to a tiny square on the screen, those big personalities might be less intimidating, according to a 2020 leadership research paper in the Journal of Business and Psychology. The very nature of a virtual meeting lends itself to a single speaker, allowing everyone to finish their thought.

Not that everyone has to speak for an equal amount of time during meetings, but, as leaders of the meeting, it’s one of our jobs to make sure everyone gets a chance to share ideas. I came across some suggestions in Fast Company for ensuring everyone is comfortable when the Zoom spotlight points in their direction.

 

Structure your meetings.

Set an agenda, with distinctive topics. Start with you biggest priority. Alert each employee, especially those liable to hold back, that their turn is coming. A simple, “Jane, you’re next…,” will prompt them to gather their thoughts. Set a time limit.

 

Encourage follow-up documentation.

For those with too much to say for one meeting, suggest they flesh out their thoughts and share them on a document-sharing site, such as Google Docs or Mailbox.

 

Follow up with the quiet people later, if necessary.

Email a few questions, asking for their input. Empower them by engaging them. Keep encouraging them to participate during the meetings—they need “face time” with the group, not just the boss.

 

Vary the format.

Rather than the Hollywood Squares grid display of everyone in the meeting, encourage participants to focus on the current speaker by selecting the “speaker view” on their conferencing app. Ask everyone to mute their microphones when not speaking. Of course, there should be exceptions—you don’t want a meeting like a morgue, but curbing crosstalk may keep the overly vocal from dominating.

“Overly vocal”? As an extrovert, I confess I might be in that category! But when we set up a few guardrails, we can make virtual meetings more accessible to introverts and more user-friendly for everyone.

 

Beth Nilssen

As Director of Franchise Development for Great Clips, my job is to help prospective franchisees figure out if investing in a salon franchise is a good match. I’d love to hear from you, wherever you are on this journey. Give me a call!