6 Ways to Reduce Distractions In Your Virtual Meetings

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virtual meetings

Staying focused during a virtual meeting has always been a challenge. As more people have shifted to an at-home work environment, the number of distractions has increased.

Interruptions from family members are common. Pets can demand their owner’s attention at any given moment. Even work-related activities, such as answering emails, vie for the attention of attendees.

With so many potential distractions out there, it’s wise to take steps to reduce the white noise as much as possible. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

1. Lay the Groundwork With Tech

In a world driven by technology, your best meeting experience can only be as good as the tools that you use. That’s why, before you start working out clever meeting management techniques, you need to start with the basics.

The tech that you use to host your meeting must be compatible and user-friendly. Make sure everyone knows what program you’re using and, if necessary, any specific versions or updates they might need. In addition, if you meet regularly, consider equipping your team with consistent, company-approved hardware such as headphones or microphones to help them engage easier.

2. Build an Immersive Meeting Experience

Along with consistency, there are tech tools that you can use to help create a more immersive experience. This may seem unnecessary, but the disconnected nature of virtual meetings gives it more clout.

Along with making sure that your team can connect seamlessly, look for ways to improve the overall experience of the meeting.

For instance, the Dolby.io Spatial Audio feature allows attendees to manipulate the digital location of each person attending a meeting. Using options like this can lead to a more realistic experience that captures the attention of your audience for an extended period of time.

3. Coordinate Times Thoughtfully

The timing of your meeting may feel irrelevant in a flexible, work-from-home environment. However, with so much flexibility, it’s easy to set up meetings that do your team a disservice.

If you set a hard time for a meeting, you might be forcing an employee to sit up and focus too early in the morning or at the end of a long day. Instead, use a good meeting app like Doodle to find the best times so that everyone can bring their A-game.

4. Educate Your Attendees

Once you have your tech in place and your meeting scheduled, it’s time to find ways to improve everyone’s focus during the actual event. One way to reduce distractions is by educating your meeting members. You can do this in multiple ways.

For instance, start by making sure that everyone in attendance is aware of why the incoming information is important for them. This helps in two ways. First, if anyone doesn’t need to be there, you can excuse them. Second, everyone who does stay knows why they should pay attention.

You can also educate your attendees in more general ways. One good option is to spend time sharing resources about how ineffective and unproductive multitasking is. This can help your team resists the temptation to split their attention during a meeting.

5. Set Expectations Up Front

Along with educating team members, consider what expectations may be worth communicating upfront.

If you have a larger group, explain the need for everyone to mute their microphones when they’re not talking. Detail how to use things like Zoom’s “raise hand” function if someone wants to talk. Basically, provide a sense of structure for how the meeting is going to go and then let everyone know about it.

It’s also a good idea to set clear time boundaries before the meeting starts. Even if you don’t stick to them perfectly, having these in place can help everyone focus “while the clock is ticking.”

Setting these kinds of expectations can help you maintain control of a meeting. It avoids wandering off topic and gives you the ability to help everyone stay engaged and interactive.

6. Embrace Asynchronous Meetings

As a final tip, remember to limit your in-person meetings whenever possible. Some meetings are essential. Others are extracurricular. With virtual meetings, it’s wise to avoid the latter as often as possible.

One way to do this is by utilizing asynchronous meetings. According to Associations Now, asynchronous meetings follow a format where instead of allotting a specific time for a live meeting, participants review materials, watch pre-recorded content, and answer questions on their own time.

An asynchronous meeting occurs over the course of hours, days, and even weeks. It doesn’t require consistent attendance and is a great way to answer less urgent or complicated agenda items.

While convenient, asynchronous meetings do require understanding and a steady hand at the tiller. Take the time to educate yourself and your team about how to use asynchronous meetings effectively.

There are many ways to reduce distractions in a virtual meeting setting. Start by getting the right tech to create a seamless, immersive experience.

From there, make sure to educate your attendees and set clear expectations. Use apps to coordinate and find times that work for everyone, as well. Do your best to eliminate unnecessary in-person meetings, too, by turning them into asynchronous alternatives.

If you can set the stage for your team to focus, you can find ways to have distraction-free meetings, even in a virtual environment.

Image Credit: Vlada Karpovich; Pexels; Thanks!

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Becca Williams is a writer, editor, and small business owner. She writes a column for Smallbiztechnology.com and many more major media outlets.