Tips for effective online meetings

  • Published: Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020

All over the world, organizations are learning how to conduct business, work productively, and collaborate effectively during remote working arrangements. More business is being conducted on-line than ever before. But it is not without challenges.

Here are a few tips to make on-line meetings effective, and as appealing and productive as possible:

  1. Set up your space. Ensure your room has good lighting, a door that closes, and enough room to set up your computer or laptop. Your cell phone is not an ideal vehicle device for online meetings. Joining with a laptop will allow you to take notes, share documents, and project a more stable image and higher quality sound. If using a webcam, set it eye level or slightly higher.  Your image should not be looking down on other participants, nor should they be forced to look up your nostrils. If you are using your laptop camera, place your laptop on a box or lower your chair, if needed.
  2. Prepare, in order to avoid technical issues. Whether chairing a meeting, or joining as an attendee – realize that any technical issues you might have will affect the experience for everyone in attendance. Prepare by testing your connection, camera and audio well before the meeting starts, and become familiar with the technology being used. Before you use a meeting platform for the first time, most will require you to set up audio access, webcam permissions, screen sharing, and other technical aspects.
  3. Create an agenda. Send it out beforehand, and stick to it during the meeting. If possible, set an approximate amount of time needed for each topic. Schedule in breaks. Delegate jobs like note-taking and time-keeping, so everyone feels engaged. Let everyone know of their role beforehand, so that they are prepared when they log in to the meeting.
  4. Use a calendar invitation which allows participants to easily populate their schedule, and also quickly send back an RSVP. Make sure everyone knows the purpose of the meeting, how to join, and what technology will be supported via the on-line platform used.
  5. Use video. Facial expressions and body language convey a large part of good communication. If everyone will use their video, the meeting will be more personal, discussion will be easier, and participants will be more engaged.
  6. Provide an audio dial-in option. While video is essential to good engagement, not everyone will have a strong internet connection or video capability. Ensure they can be included and participate with at least their audio if this is the case.
  7. Set up clear meeting protocols such as asking everyone to: mute their microphone unless they are speaking; silence their phones; start their video; and to participate fully.  Start the meeting on time and clearly communicate the rules and protocols for everybody. Summarize the agenda quickly as you begin.
  8. Have someone other than the speaker manage the technical aspects of the meeting – like helping people join, monitoring the chat box, starting the video, etc. Prepare to share documents or PowerPoint presentations by using the screen sharing feature. All documents and slides shared should be simple, with limited graphics so that they are easy to read. They should have been sent out before-hand with the agenda, if at all possible.
  9. Ensure everyone is engaged. Greet each person by name as they join the meeting. During the meeting, ask for feedback, and encourage participation. Manage discussions by having participants raise their (virtual) hands when they wish to speak, or have the facilitator call on individuals to encourage discussion. Consider using an icebreaker. Even taking a quick poll or asking everyone to introduce themselves will encourage interaction and engagement.
  10. Move the meeting along at a good pace. Nothing is worse than a slow or long presentation when the meeting is virtual.
  11. Take notes, and ensure they include action items which designate those responsible. Before the meeting ends, recap the discussion, any votes taken, and the action items. Send out the notes promptly after the meeting. Build a reputation for running meetings that produce results and create action.
  12. Whether you are running the meeting or just participating, avoid multitasking.  Anything you are doing that is not related to the meeting should be shelved – just as if you were physically sitting in a meeting room.
  13. Don’t table conversations until “we are able to get back together in-person”.  Meeting virtually may be the norm of the future. The more we practice, the better we will become with this format.

Conducting business while not face-to-face can be a challenge. Let’s invest in making the on-line alternatives better and more meaningful.

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Community development specialists with MU Extension help people create communities of the future by tapping into local strengths and university resources. The Community Development Program works collaboratively with communities to foster economic development, leadership development, community decision making, community emergency preparedness and inclusive communities. For more information, contact any of these MU Extension community development specialists working in southwest Missouri: Pam Duitsman in Christian County, (417) 581-3558; David Burton in Greene County, (417) 881-8909 or Maria E. Rodriguez-Alcalá in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158.

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University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians to improve lives, communities and economies by providing relevant, responsive and reliable educational solutions. MU Extension programs are open to all. More information on this topic is available online at https://extension2.missouri.edu or call the local Christian County office at 417-581-3558.

Writer: Pamela Duitsman

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