Hold better meetings with virtual collaboration tools

Did you know you can still improve the way you hold meetings using virtual collaboration tools? Here's are three ways you can do it

April 27, 2020
Darpan Keswani

Virtual collaboration is an efficient alternative to time-sink, in-person meetings. However, few recognize its value, which is unfortunate, for a third of all meetings aren’t productive.

Other shocking statistics on meetings:

  • An estimated $37 billion is lost every year to unproductive meetings.
  • A whopping 37% of meetings start late, mostly because someone attending it was late.
  • 948 execs and managers say 44.8% of meetings they attend accomplish nothing.

Fortunately, we live in an era where we don’t need to meet to work productively since virtual collaboration tools can help us connect and make the most of our time at the office.

Listed below are a few virtual collaboration tactics to help you reduce the number of meetings, execute tasks and projects efficiently, and some best practices you can use to bring out the best in your employees in a virtual setting.

What is virtual collaboration?

Virtual collaboration means working together as a team using digital tools. Originally used to communicate with remote and mobile-first works, these applications and platforms are now used with in-house teams across all companies and industries. Examples include communication platforms, project management tools, and digital whiteboards.

Virtual Collaboration Strategies

1. To replace or reduce meetings

According to former Professor at Drexel University, Robert Keidel, there are only three reasons to hold a meeting — both online and in-person:

Information sharing

This is an opportunity for individuals with different values, cultures, and ideas to share their experiences.

Strategy: Consider turning what you’re about to share into an email, blog post, or a message in the group chat. Presenting information in written form allows people to read what’s relevant to them, make comments where applicable, and filter out the ‘white noise.’

Information sharing sessions often get detailed, causing people to zone out and lose concentration. By sending a written update people get all the valuable information in one place that they can revise and revisit as per their convenience.

Make decisions

“A decision-making meeting produces direction for the organization or unit. The subject of such a meeting may range from strategy formulation to tactical problem-solving,” explains Keidel.

Strategy: Studies show that larger meetings cause social loafing, a phenomenon where people don’t put in as much effort solving a problem as they would when on their own.

Consider converting the meeting into a task with a deadline (“Please review this project timeline by Thursday 4 pm”). Doing so helps team members prioritise your request and give it their complete attention when they feel most inspired.

As an added bonus, converting meetings into tasks helps introverts feel more comfortable sharing their ideas, too.


A team-building meeting has to do with developing capabilities, developing bonds, and consequently organizational culture as a collective.

Strategy: Virtual collaboration cannot completely replace team-building activities and meetings, but it can help with some aspects of it, most notably, building interpersonal bonds.

Here’s an in-depth article we wrote on developing stronger bonds with your team through communication platforms.

2. To take action

When you’re using virtual collaboration, consider having explicit to-do lists in your shared workspaces or project management programs.

Strategy: Virtual workspaces are a great place to get things done because of how easy it is to keep track of tasks on your project management tools and shared workspaces.

However, be sure to create a culture of accountability around assignments and deadlines. If you don’t mention when a deadline is missed, teams might assume it’s the norm and projects can get off track. There are several ways to remind your employees, either through video conferencing, a quick voice call, or a message in a chat room — features built into most communication platforms of today.

3. Best practices

Collaboration tools and features are only a part of holding conducive virtual meetings, but to bring out the best in your employees and standardise proceedings, consider agreeing upon key guidelines.

Example guidelines:

  • Language: If you’re holding a video conference or voice call, it is easy to be unintentionally dismissive or abrupt because your team is not in front of you. Ensure that insensitive or belittling language will not be tolerated.
  • Assigning tasks: One of the reasons meetings feel ineffective is because they lack clear action items. Once a meeting ends, ensure that you assign the corresponding task to the right person, ending the virtual collaboration with a plan.

Strategy: Create a ‘Best Practices’ document and share it with your team in the chatroom each time you hold a meeting. Re-reading the document helps reinforce the idea and allows participants to be more mindful about what they say or do.

Summing Up

Virtual collaboration is now applicable to your in-house and remote teams. Its numerous features can help participants save time and effort, and structure your meeting in a way that is productive and efficient. The strategies we’ve detailed are a good starting point, but to fully utilize virtual collaboration tools you need to assess what works for your team and business and adapt as needed!

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