For a long time, face-to-face meetings were considered more productive and collaborative than the ones organized online. As technology continues to progress over time, this thinking has changed, especially as more and more companies have embraced remote working.
The coronavirus outbreak caused millions of workers around the world to be working from home. Due to this unique situation, it looks like online meetings are here to stay, and remote working will be the norm.
Preparing and running effective online meetings can be challenging, so I will share a few tips that have become part of my work routine.
1. Before Your Online Meetings: Prepare
Preparation is key! Especially when there are technical aspects involved in the process, like good internet connection and proper hardware equipment. Without it, you can’t be sure that communication is crystal clear.
Here are some things to consider during preparation:
- Define what’s the purpose of the meeting. It’s important to have a clear picture of what will be discussed, like project progress, product updates, or customer service issues. Know in advance what you want to achieve each meeting event before you schedule it.
- Choose the right participants who need to be there. The content should be relevant to the attendees; otherwise, they will be bored. Therefore, only invite people who are involved in the process. Keep the invite list relevant and small, if possible.
- Pick a time suitable for all participants. Scheduling the meeting is the easy part, but you need to take in consideration remote employees, for example, those that work in a different time zone.
- Test the equipment before the meeting. Technical issues cause delays which can hurt energy and productivity, so prepare everything in advance. You can research online and choose the best software, but make sure that the technical requirements are suitable for all participants, so they can be prepared too. Also, let everyone know to test the video and audio.
- Set a clear agenda, to avoid confusion and wasting time. By having a written list of discussion topics, attendees are more likely to stay focused and keep their attention during the meeting. It should include information like key issues, expected roles from each participant, or who will lead the discussion for each item on the list. You should always dedicate time for last-minute additions or questions.
- It’s important to send out this list at least 24 hours before the meeting and seek acknowledgement from all attendees. It will give people time to familiarize themselves with the topics so that they can come with their own ideas and questions.
- Allocate times to each section of the meeting. This is a great way to optimize the presentation length and give enough time for discussion of each topic. It will keep participants focused and on the same page.
- Prepare your space to limit distractions. Make sure you hold the meeting in a quiet environment with a plain background to avoid distractions. Also, it’s better to use headsets because they minimize background noise and prevent audio feedback.
2. Encourage the use of video
Video calls are the closest to physical meetings, and they can make a huge difference in communication and productivity. Choose software with both video and audio functionality and allow participants to express their thoughts through body languages, as well.
Vidthere is an online meetings software which allows you to have video conferencing with multiple presenters, screen sharing and recording. It’s browser-based, so you don’t have to worry about downloading and installing software, which makes it easier for everyone to come aboard.
3. Assign a facilitator
The biggest challenge we face in online meetings is talking over each other. This becomes a real issue when there are more attendees. Depending on the number of team members, it may be worth appointing someone as the moderator who will control the situation and ensure flawless communication.
This person will follow the list of topics and keep the conversation in the right direction, making sure the focus is on the priorities. To make sure that all voices are heard, and all issues resolved, set the rule that no one can speak without permission.
4. Promote collaborative problem-solving
Meetings are the best breeding ground for generating fresh ideas and alternative responses to certain situations. The collaborative problem-solving approach means that everyone will come prepared for topic discussion, and the team will work together towards the best solution for the challenges they are facing.
5. Assign someone to write Minutes meeting and encourage others to take notes
Minutes meeting report is very important in offline meetings, so why not use it in virtual meetings, as well. Appointing a person to keep track of what’s being discussed and put it in writing, can help to increase the efficiency and the value of these meetings. Also, taking notes is an activity that helps you stay focused and engaged in the topic which is being discussed at the moment.
6. Finish with action plan and tasks
A quick recap at the end of the meeting will ensure that it was productive and its goals were achieved. Let everyone round up the discussion, like what’s their responsibility and when they will finish the task. This will reassure you that everyone understands their assignments and what they are accountable for.
7. The end of the online meeting it doesn’t mean it’s over
Spare a few minutes, in the end, to collect feedback and share notes with the participants. Ask them their thoughts on how the meeting went and use their feedback on improving the next one.
As I mentioned before, it’s good to have a Minutes meeting report and make sure it includes a summary of all discussion points as well as the tasks and people assigned to them. Send it out to everyone and make sure everyone understands their role.
Overall, not being able to work together in the same room with colleagues may be a big challenge. However, once you master how to make virtual meetings work, then you are good to go.