How to lead and facilitate a virtual meeting

The world as we know it has changed and it seems like this change might be permanent.

What started out as being as a temporary measure to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus has prompted a change in the way the world works.

As a Business Analyst you have to be adaptable to change, you have to be able to make changes that are necessary to enable you to do your job.

The change may be as simple as switching from using an excel spreadsheet to using a specialized software or as complex as learning how to write a completely new programming language.

Whatever the situation, you have to be flexible enough to adapt to that situation.

In the current world that we are living in, most of us are working virtually.

Our living rooms, kitchen, dining rooms and bedrooms have become our offices. Our kids have become our unwitting assistants and our workdays have expanded to include weekends and holidays.

So what are some of the tools that can help you work effectively as a Business Analyst ?

Virtual communication tools have been around for a while. Even before we were all forced to work virtually, I have been using various tools to facilitate communication.

When you are member of a project team, chances are that some of the team members might be in different geological locations.

In order to effectively communicate with these team members you would have to use various communication tools.

Some of these tools are free while other are based on a paid subscription plan.

Some of the common virtual tools available include Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google meet/hangout and WebEx.

Regardless of the tool that you use, you have to be able to use them effectively in order to get the necessary information from the stakeholders.

So what are some tips that can help you effectively facilitate a meeting ?

  1. Keep your meetings small : while it might seem easier to gather all the stakeholders into a single meeting, when that meeting is virtual, it is very difficult to manage too many people at once. If there are too many meeting participants in the meeting, it can get rowdy very fast, so try to keep the participant numbers small and manageable.
  2. Send the meeting agenda with the meeting invite : It is always a good idea to include a summary of the topics to be discussed in the meeting invite. This would give the meeting Participants time to ask any questions and clarify any misconceptions before the meeting.
  3. Keep the meeting short : Nobody likes a long meeting and it is especially worse when it is a virtual meeting. So ensure that the meeting is kept short and sweet and if it has to be long, include frequent break and brain teasers to keep the participants interested.
  4. Start the meeting early : Start the meeting a little early so that you can test the internet connection and allow the meeting invitees time to join in and settle down.
  5. Turn on your camera : As a facilitator, you should turn on your camera so that the participant can see you. While most people might prefer to use only their audio for virtual meetings, the stakeholders would understand you better if they can see you and read your body language.
  6. Test your audio and video : Another advantage to starting the meeting early is that it gives you time to test your audio and video with the attendees. You have to make sure that the attendees can hear and view you well enough to effectively facilitate the meeting.
  7. Welcome the attendees : Give a warm welcome to the attendees, encourage them to participate and ask everybody to introduce themselves. A popular method of doing this is for the facilitator the start the introduction and pick the next person on the list to introduce themselves. That person introduces themselves and picks the next person on the list and so on until all the introductions are made.
  8. Encourage the attendees to enable their videos if they can : it is very easy to become distracted in a meeting especially when you know the other participants cant see you. So you should encourage the participants to turn on their cameras, this would improve their concentration and participation.
  9. Stay on track : it would be very easy to become distracted especially when the topic is one that the participants are passionate about. So the facilitator has to ensure that they can keep the participants on topic and table any side discussions.
  10. Invite a moderator : While the Business Analyst might want to facilitate and moderate the meeting alone, they should invite a moderator. The moderator would be in charge of taking the meeting notes and keeping track of the participants questions. This would allow the Business Analyst to focus on effectively facilitating the meeting.
  11. Allow enough time for questions and answers : build in extra time to be able to answer any questions that the participants might have. This would enable the participants to understand the meetings purpose and clear any confusions.

In conclusion, while virtual work comes with its unique set of challenges, there are ways in which you can manage those challenges to effectively do your job.