Identify what your business needs to thrive and excel by following these four tips to host a successful virtual strategy meeting.
The foundation of every robust strategy plan consists of a well facilitated cross-functional strategy meeting. This is a great way to bring different departments and teams together to align around common goals and define success metrics. But how do you run a successful virtual strategy meeting?
Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, you’d block out your schedule for several hours to dive deep into planning. Meeting participants would throw out ideas to be jotted on a white board or flip chart. The process was collaborative and exciting – leading to an efficient way to gather and synthesize insights from all team members.
Now that many businesses have switched to remote work arrangements, teams have had to adjust their strategy sessions to a virtual setting. There are pros and cons to this new way of working. When it comes to lengthy meetings, we’re now up against more distractions from our home environments, internet connectivity issues and the absence of social interaction.
Here are four tips for preparing for a virtual strategy meeting to help in overcoming these challenges:
1. Set a clear strategy meeting agenda
Since things will be different in an online setting, you need to create a thoughtful and realistic agenda.
You need to be mindful of time zones and, perhaps, break the meeting over two days to accommodate all participants. To avoid distractions by participants who need to tend to other responsibilities, build in short breaks into the meeting flow. Also, designate a presenter for each agenda topic. This makes it clear who is presenting what, avoids those potentially awkward transitions and limits speaking over one another.
2. Utilize interactive tools
In a virtual strategy meeting, you should recreate a shared space to brainstorm and ideate. Luckily, there are some great tools out there to simulate the spontaneity of throwing ideas out there. Here are several tools that enable you to gather feedback and share ideas:
Mentimeter: an interactive platform that allows you to poll the group using open-ended questions and word clouds to collect ideas or multiple-choice questions and scale/rank functions to prioritize ideas.
Mural: a visual, digital platform that lets you recreate traditional whiteboard or flipchart use online. You can brainstorm with teammates by posting and moving notes around, as well as using other collaborative features.
Miro: similar to Mural, Miro is another online platform that encourages teams to effectively collaborate with various whiteboard features.
Zoom: a video conferencing platform that has skyrocketed in popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has become a source for hosting team meetings and webinars.
Microsoft Teams: a collaborative software allowing you to call, video chat and screenshare with team members, as well as share quick messages and documents throughout the workday.
3. Engage your audience
Keeping participants engaged throughout a long meeting is hard work, but in a virtual setting it becomes even harder (and more critical).
When you’re together in-person, it’s easier to notice when someone isn’t speaking up or to read facial cues. A virtual strategy meeting makes this more challenging. Some people may not feel as comfortable interjecting their opinion. It helps to have someone other than the facilitator keeping an eye on this and calling on people to share, if they haven’t had an opportunity to speak.
Another great way to keep people engaged is to mimic the social interactions that would have typically happened in a normal office setting. Try recreating a “lunch break” by having lunch delivered to everyone’s homes. Or, encourage people to use the chat function, fun virtual backgrounds or the embedded emoji and “reaction” features to express how they feel.
4. Embrace the pros and cons of a virtual strategy meeting
This “new normal” is lasting longer than anyone anticipated, making it crucial for organizations to re-evaluate strategic plans sooner rather than later. Virtually meetings provide some advantages, like the ability to record the sessions, which can help you onboard new team members faster or update anyone who couldn’t make it. Embrace the pros and cons that come from virtual collaboration. Strategy, alignment and action plans can’t wait. Leverage these four tips to avoid disruptions in your strategic planning process.
Standing Partnership has experience helping clients hold successful strategy meetings in the virtual environment. Contact us if you need help with planning or facilitation of your next virtual strategy session: firstname.lastname@example.org.