Are you experiencing an overdose of online meetings and video conferencing? Join the club. With so many virtual meetings, we need remote meetings to not only serve their objective, hold people’s attention, be efficient, and maybe even be fun. Here at Brighter Strategies, a fully-remote organizational development firm, we are well practiced in succeeding in our mission through significant remote engagement. These are our favorite tips for a successful online meeting:
Evaluate the Need for the Meeting
This is especially relevant for our current environment—be flexible with your regular meetings and cancel ones you don’t need. Nobody likes to meet for the sake of meeting, especially not online.
Keep Meetings Short, Focused and Efficient
This past weekend my large extended family tried to have a party on Zoom. I hear it was an epic fail teetering between everyone talking over each other and silence. It reminded me that what works when you’re face to face with people doesn’t have the same effect online. Similarly, while a full-day board of directors meeting with creative facilitation strategies and built-in networking breaks can be engaging, it doesn’t translate well to the virtual world. There is a cap on how long people can sit and engage through a computer–we think the maximum is about two hours. This means reworking your day-long meeting to several sessions over a few days, and ultimately spending less time in the virtual meeting than you would have in-person. Don’t forget to have a clear-cut meeting objective. While always important—clear meeting objectives and agenda are even more essential in a remote setting where efficiency is king. Our downloadable meeting planner can help keep things on track.
Facilitate and Engage More
Within your meeting, we recommend facilitating more than you would in-person and engaging participants early and often. We like to start meetings with a kick-off question—to help participants get used to talking, whether the content is an ice-breaker or central to your agenda. If you are giving a talk, pause to engage other participants at least every 15 minutes–it could be as simple as asking questions. For larger meetings, use the platform’s polling feature to get input. Your online platform likely has some great engagement features to explore. For meetings with 12-50 people, We love that Zoom offers a “breakout rooms” feature that allows participants to meet in smaller groups to discuss and idea, and then rejoin the larger meeting and report out.
Use Visuals or Turn on the Camera
We also recommend you share your active screen or ask people to turn on their camera and use the view that allows you to see everyone at the same size (gallery view in Zoom). Either way, the screen itself should be engaging from a people or content perspective. Using your platform’s whiteboarding feature or another collaborative tool such as google docs can allow for creative and efficient ways to share ideas.
Try to Have Fun
As someone who works from home full-time, I always crave some level of connection during the work-day. With many more people working from home right now, more people are feeling this way. Balance the need for efficiency with time at the beginning of the meeting to allow people to connect. Use an ice-breaker to facilitate the fun and engage less outspoken team members—just don’t over do it.
Recognize this Isn’t Business as Usual
Finally, in today’s environment, validate that people have distractions. My kids, who used to be at daycare, are home now, always threatening to escape from dad and throw a tantrum at the edge of my office door in the middle of a meeting. This isn’t business as usual and using time in the beginning of the meeting to recognize this by letting people know you accept their distractions lets everyone relax and focus on the agenda instead of what could go wrong.
Running an efficient and effective online meeting can be challenging in the best of times. Above all, be patient with yourself and your staff as you learn the best ways to function today.