PF Michigan Group Knocks It out of the Park With Virtual Meetings
With COVID-19 causing a massive shift away from in-person events and activities, many businesses have had to adjust to hosting meetings and other events online. It can be a challenge to organize and facilitate an online meeting, particularly when there is a need to have a lot of people in attendance, but PF Michigan took that challenge in stride.
Though the group had utilized Zoom for online meetings before, they had to shift to conducting their usual in-person meetings online, which they’ve now been doing since March 2020. When states began to shut down, there was a pressing need to meet with different groups to make sure that concerns, strategy and other moving parts were being addressed. Before the pandemic, the group made an effort to do in-person meetings whenever they could, but now their meetings – from department or team meetings with only a few people to company meetings with over 100 attendees – are online.
Jess Mace, operations support specialist for PF Michigan, explained that the group uses Zoom to conduct their meetings, and they use screen sharing if there are presentations or visuals that need to be displayed. Of course, the switch to doing virtual meetings did not come without its obstacles. “The biggest challenge we faced was getting everyone on the same page as far as expectations,” Mace said. “An in-person meeting has etiquette that is widely understood, but on Zoom, it was challenging determining what we as a company expected out of the audience. For instance, cameras should be on, mics should be muted unless speaking, and as tempting as it may be, distractions such as computer work and phones should be avoided.”
To help with establishing etiquette for Zoom calls, Mace advises setting your expectations from the start, noting that creating a document with these expectations can be beneficial. Then the team has to be held accountable to those established standards, no matter if it’s a smaller, more informal meeting or a large meeting with many attendees. Mace explains that if these expectations are upheld during every meeting, “acceptable meeting behavior” will organically happen.
As far as facilitating the meetings goes, PF Michigan has created a strategy. “For large company meetings, we have department/region leaders check to make sure everyone on their team is in attendance,” Mace said. “We recommend that attendees test their technology and connection before the start of the meeting. Sharing a presentation with the audience and pausing for questions has worked well for our group.”
Mace also advises keeping the virtual meetings as similar in structure to an in-person meeting as possible. That might mean allowing for breaks during longer meetings (which she recommends) or, perhaps, still doing prizes or rewards for participation if that is something a group has done in the past. For example, small prizes like $5 or $10 gift cards to Starbucks or Amazon can be emailed rather than given in-person.
Though there are challenges to organizing virtual meetings, there are potential benefits, too. Cost-saving is one of them. Mace points out that while Zoom does have a price-tag, other expenses of meetings (a conference room, refreshments, etc.) are no longer in the picture. Along with that, employees don’t have to travel to the meeting – they can stay where they are and head back to work when the meeting wraps up. “While cost and efficiency are great benefits, the biggest benefit of all is the consideration of everyone’s health and safety,” Mace said. “In such uncertain times, we are so thankful to be able to leverage technology like Zoom to keep our team close together and efficient while not risking their health!”