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Tips for more inclusive virtual meetings

Gone are the days of working at a company where everyone lived close to the office and worked in person five days a week while one or two colleagues worked remotely. When full-time face-to-face work was the norm, meetings and daily work styles were not inclusive or welcoming for these teleworkers.

When organizations shifted from working primarily in person to working fully remotely overnight, this created an opportunity to proactively create more inclusive work environments for teams that could not physically meet together. Technology can facilitate more inclusive meetings thanks to accessibility features, but we can all take extra steps to ensure our meetings are inclusive.

Here are some helpful tips so you can help others feel recognized, respected, and included in every meeting.

Recognize your colleagues immediately

Start a meeting by greeting your colleagues and asking how they should create a personal connection, even in a virtual environment. If someone logs in a few minutes later, quickly refresh them so everyone is on the same page. Acknowledging your colleagues can set a positive tone for the rest of the meeting.

Give remote workers the floor first

If you’re hosting a meeting where employees are in the office and connected remotely, let remote participants speak first so they feel recognized and included. When it’s time for an after-hours discussion, let remote workers respond first so they feel their input is valued and the meeting was worthwhile.

Not all meetings have to be serious

Meetings are not always serious and formal. It is sometimes a good idea to create an environment of cooperation, mutual help and empathy among all team members, so it is important to carry out group activities. These types of actions help everyone to integrate into the work environment faster and more effectively. It is very advisable to hold team building meetings where participants can be in a more informal way, having varied conversations, customizing themselves with funny zoom backgrounds or to play some games and activities that promote more proximity between everyone.

Allow privacy

Encourage the use of blurred or virtual backgrounds so that no one feels uncomfortable showing off their personal space. If it’s a special occasion, like a holiday or a new product launch, use the same virtual background as a team or company to recognize the event, thereby increasing feelings of togetherness, belonging and camaraderie.

Be an active listener and advocate

Whether in a one-on-one meeting or in a large group, give your colleagues verbal and non-verbal cues to show that they have your attention. Active listening gestures can take many forms, such as nodding your head, using emoji reactions, and sending a message via chat during the meeting. If you see a colleague turn the audio back on, but you can’t get your point across, tell them and give them the floor. You can also hide your own view to minimize distractions and focus on the person speaking.

Make it virtual, even if there are participants present at the venue

As hybrid environments become the norm, it can be more inclusive for all participants to participate in a meeting virtually, even if multiple people are in the same building. Let’s say your colleagues in the office want to hold a meeting with remote participants. In this case, Zoom’s Smart Gallery makes the meeting more equitable by creating individual video streams of participants in the room so that remote participants can see them clearly. Virtual meetings can level the playing field so no one feels left out.

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