This year has seen an unprecedented increase in the use of online meetings. While the benefits are obvious in terms of remote working and efficient use of time for example, it has also posed many challenges for individuals, teams and organisations.
In this post, I outline some steps that you can take to ensure that your online meetings are both efficient and effective, leaving participants feeling more connected and motivated than before.
Choose the Right Online Meeting Tool
Choosing the right online tool is essential! Consider what is the key functionality for you, the team and organisation. If there’s a requirement to see others reactions, share presentations or to have recording capabilities then Zoom or Microsoft Teams may be appropriate. If there is more of a need to work on a report collaboratively then Google Docs may be needed. Consider too how many invitees are going to be involved. Some meeting software is more appropriate for larger or indeed smaller groups than others.
Creating a Positive Online Culture
Working traditionally in the workplace where people are physically present results in much of our communication and team building taking place through informal interaction and conversation. Therefore creating opportunities for virtual ‘coffee mornings’ or online ‘water cooler breaks’ where employees can get to know one another and connect is vital. These provide the space for people to build relationships and trust leading to a healthy organisational culture.
Be Clear in your Online Meeting Objectives
It is essential to have a clear and well communicated agenda. Share this with the invitees in advance as well as any required reading such as reports, financial figures, documents, etc. It is important to also inform each of the invitees why they have been invited to the meeting and what role you expect of them. This information needs to be sent at least 24 hours before the meeting commences. Allow invitees to suggest additional contributions that they would like to make. Ideally everyone should be engaged and clear on the contribution that they can make. Include all of the invitees in the online discussion even those that are naturally more introverted e.g. each invitee gets five minutes to share one success that they have had in the last week.
Online Meetings for Global Teams
Scheduling your online meeting needs to take into consideration the various time zones in which participants live and work. There is absolutely no point in arranging a meeting that is the mid-morning for you, late afternoon for some and the middle of the night for others. Using tools such as the ‘World Clock Meeting Planner’ can assist in selecting an appropriate time that works for everyone, something that invitees will very much appreciate. Consider the frequency of meetings also to ensure that this is appropriate for the objectives involved.
Setting Ground Rules
Having agreed ground rules can help your online meetings to go more smoothly. Such as whether everyone can speak freely or is the muting of microphones required. Should invitees have their cameras turned on or off and when or how can they contribute? Certain etiquette should be agreed such as not checking phones and not working on email while participants are speaking. Logging in on time and ensuring that you have already read the agenda and any material provided in advance. Finally testing the technology in advance e.g. knowing how to share your presentation.
Time is valuable: Use it wisely
Set strict timeframes for each of your meetings. This helps to focus minds and provides participants with certainty in terms of planning their day. Try not to ‘stack’ meetings back to back. Nobody can contribute in a meaningful and productive way hour after hour and meeting after meeting. Allow time too at the very beginning of each meeting for some friendly interaction and introductions before diving straight into the agenda.
Adjust your Content
The content that you would present in person is likely to be different to that which you might use online. This may include additional material or slides that prompt questions or contributions from others.
Reduce background noise, turn off notifications, ensure that the room is well lit (though not blinding!). It might be best to avoid wearing patterns or stripes. Make sure that your face is well lit and look at the person/team that you speaking to. You may also choose to use a virtual background if the room is cluttered or untidy.
Appoint a Chair or Moderator
Its very easy to go off on a tangent when online and lose track of time. Having an appointed chair or moderator will ensure that the discussion remains focused and that time is being used wisely. Rotate this role amongst the team so that responsibility is shared.
Remain Action Orientated
Finally, before concluding your online meeting, all participants should be absolutely clear in terms of what the agreed actions are, who is responsible and the timeframe involved. The strategy for communication around these actions should also be explained as well as a date/time for the next meeting. Don’t forget to check in with participants after the meeting by phone or email to ask how they feel that it went and if they have any suggestions as to how the next online meeting could be more effective.
Joe McDonald, Founder of create10 is a professional coach and trainer. Providing professional coaching to individuals and teams. So too, impactful workshops on leadership, team performance and innovation. create10 also offers great quality affordable online courses. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or see www.create10.ie