Although many of us are now routinely going back to office to see our teams and colleagues in real life, the advent of hybrid working as ‘business as usual’ in 2023, twinned with the increasingly global nature of our teams means we are still on video a lot of the time. The challenge facing most companies today is keeping the attention of remote teams to have more productive and efficient video meetings when you have them. This is now the main priority for virtual teams is to get the best out of all the collaboration, creativity and communications platforms across the broader enterprise. So what can CMOs do to continue to adapt and improve their team meetings?
According to Jim Szafranski, CEO of Prezi, the presentation software company, although the pandemic saw all of us working with both our colleagues and external partners, but the reality is “we are only just starting to get comfortable with the notion of video meetings.”
On-screen is quickly becoming the primary meeting place across the enterprise, and Szafranski believes it has become clear that the best video meetings are where professionals have learned to hold their audience’s precious attention: “Our highest performing employees really focus on having onscreen content be engaging, and equally on ensuring that back and forth conversation is a key output of the meetings. For example, I’ve also seen our team master the art of sending recorded videos to review before meetings, or as follow-ups to meetings, to leverage asynchronous content as kick-offs or extensions to team meetings. We treat video meetings as a place for banter, for conversation, for steady attention.”
Szafranski believes video meeting content will soon look more like the other content we watch endlessly outside the workplace: “What’s true in consumer content, is also true in video meetings. Heavy use of visuals rather than just text is the key way to keep people’s attention – we’ve seen this from the likes of TikTok and Twitch, where on-screen, digestible content truly captures an audience. Creating an onscreen brand kit really brings legitimacy and professionalism to a remote attendee, regardless of where they are.”
For Ross Mayfield, Head of Product at Zoom Apps, the best meetings also involve participants who are clear on ‘why’ they are there in the first place: “Effective meetings depend upon what you do before, during, and after. Before the meeting, set the right participant list, inform them about each other and their roles during the meeting, and inform them of the content and what people are expected to know”.
James Micklethwait, VP, at game-based learning platform Kahoot! at work, believes that too many companies are still trying to replicate what they did before the advent of video calling believing virtual meetings are unique contexts, and come with unique opportunities that presenters should take more advantage of: “One of the most important points to keep in mind when you’re planning for remote meetings is that copy/pasting your standard in-person meeting format into a virtual context doesn’t cut it. First, because many people find typical in-person meetings boring too, and it’s not going to improve when people are at home and it’s even easier to tune out. Collaborative technology can help create meetings that engage through interactivity, different types of media, and even friendly competition.”
Evan Davies, Marketing, Partnerships and Growth, at interactive document provider Coda believes thriving in this “new normal,” of video only meetings mean leaders must adopt new ways to support interpersonal communication and collaboration, while simultaneously freeing employees from the limitations of an office: “Leaders must understand and adapt internal processes to align with employee preferences. Consider the time of day that team members feel most productive, their proclivity for brainstorming and the tools that will empower them to do their best work.”
Davies also believes it is key to focus on eliminating unnecessary stressors on remote teams – “Workplace communication has been a source of stress and anxiety for people long before the digital era, but with the rise of remote work, it has been further exacerbated. Beyond the constant interruptions of new emails and Slack pings, most workers frequently context-switch while hopping back and forth between digital tools, which hampers productivity and exacerbates burnout.”
Davies has seen his team adopt a lean approach to asynchronous communication to help build a high-performance workplace. Davies believes it’s important to remember that the role of human connection still matters: “Teams should prioritize in-person interactions, such as team off-sites and informal meetings, to build a strong culture, develop rapport and increase engagement. For example, we recently gathered in Denver, Colorado for company-wide event with the purpose of fostering connection–not producing work. Off-sites don’t have to be constant – in fact, the infrequent but memorable cadence can be even more impactful in our digital-first world.
So what practice can a high-performing CMO adjust for their next team video call to have a more efficient and productive meeting.
Mayfield believes that content drives conversation: “During a meeting, facilitate using a structured agenda and time tracking, log decisions made, and action items. After the meeting, distribute the summary, recording, and action items.” Adding new ways to engage and freshen things up is also crucial in video meetings: “there are powerful tools being put in the hands of creators. New ways to blend video, graphics, and content types. New ways to spark conversation and connect people. You’ll find if you enable the use of these tools by your team with a little learning content, their creativity will flourish.”
Szafranski added that “to be an effective communicator in virtual meetings, you need to have sticky, attentional content that aligns with your message, while maintaining a presence onscreen with your content. Maintaining presence with your content on video meetings gives your teammates a sustained purpose for looking at the video screen”.
Micklethwait believes developing your creativeness and communication is key: “To find what works best for your team, stay flexible, experiment, and be willing to iterate according to different needs and contexts. Take advantage of the technology available to go beyond trying to mimic sitting around the conference table and design an experience that makes use of all the creative things we can do in a virtual space. Finally, make it easy for everyone to share their feedback and ideas and be part of reimagining how we can work better together.”
Ultimately for Szafranski it is all about goal setting: “Make it clear what you hope to achieve out of the meeting, and how much you’d like each person to contribute. If it’s important to you that each person shares an idea, or responds to the ideas of others, establish this from the offset. If cross-functional partners are on the meeting, ask them for their outside perspective, even if the topic doesn’t necessarily relate to them. Show that you are all in the virtual room together, and that collaboration is even more important on a video meeting. Also – creating an onscreen company brand kit can really show that the video meeting is an important stage. Just like with decorating your office, branding your video meeting shows intentionality and investment in the experience.”
Sound advice. CMOs looking to uplevel their virtual team meeting management skills should consider the following in their next team video meeting:
1. Ensure there is a clear purpose for the meeting and all participants are clear on their own role.
2. Encourage every team member present to interact and contribute to the meeting once there with more interactive elements.
3. Go beyond just replicating the traditional board room environment and create a unique setting in your video calls.
4. Keep things fresh to ensure your audience remains engaged.