Current coronavirus situation has impacted people’s lives around the world. For many of you, including us, it affects when, how, and where we work. Just because we are not in the same room, we do not stop working together. To keep the wheels of the economy spinning, the constant dialogue should continue. Let’s stay safe and healthy, but still productive during our online meetings.
The most challenging aspects of a virtual meeting is keeping people’s attention. However, we all know that having everyone engaged is the key to a successful meeting just like a face-to-face meeting. Here is a list of tips we gathered that might help.
1. Involve the right participants
Inviting the right participants is one of the business meeting basics. For online meetings, it is definitely more challenging for everyone to contribute to the conversation when it’s conducted with a large number of people. Keep the number below 10 and make sure everyone understands the role during the call. It could be a facilitator role for a specific topic on the agenda, or keeping time or writing minutes. This helps everyone feel responsible and increase engagement during the meeting.
2. Agree on the tool. Make sure everyone is comfortable with it
There are many free or more affordable video-conferencing services available now for a limited time to help make life easier during the pandemic. For example, Microsoft is offering a new 6month free trial period for Microsoft Teams which includes meetings, collaboration features. There are webinar tools available such as Zoom, which you can hold free webinars/meetings for up to 100 people (with a time limit), and GoToWebinar.
3. Send out the agenda in advance and stick to them
Share an agenda before the online meeting takes place. Have everyone agree on the topic and goals of the meeting beforehand. Pay extra attention to the ‘pre-work,’ so that you do not waste your time listening to someone reading out the numbers from a report, which could have been shared in advance for others to review. This gives the participants time to digest the information beforehand.
Use the time during the online meeting for topics or issues that requires group discussion. Allocate a person responsible leading the discussion for each item, and set the time.
4. Keep the video on!
Many might opt for having the camera off for different reasons; maybe you are not alone at home and worried your background will distract people or you don’t have optimal lighting, or just more comfortable without it. However, turning off the video makes it easier for one to get distracted and leads to multitasking. Instead of focusing on your meeting, you start cleaning your desk or writing another email etc.
Keeping your camera on will contribute directly to the more engaging meeting. It will allow one to see others’ facial expressions, reactions, and ‘feel’ the non-verbal cues. Having an online meeting instead of physically being in a room together does not mean that you are no longer working together as a team. So, in the next meeting, leave the camera on – and it’s okay, even if you’re at home in more casual clothes and without makeup!
5. Check everyone’s opinions. Use their names
In a virtual meeting, you need to stop regularly to take everyone’s temperature. And I do mean everyone. Go right around the list, asking each person for input. –Nick Morgan
Facilitator’s role is very important. Make sure to check with your participants before moving on to the next item on the agenda. For example, a facilitator asks “Evon, does this make sense to you?” and repeats the same for other participants “What about Aino?”.
It may sound unnecessary and time-consuming, but it will increase the feeling of inclusion. Under no circumstances do you want everyone talking on top of each other, but you also want to make sure, that everyone is engaged. If you have technical difficulty, you can also encourage to use the chat feature of your tool to answer or ask additional questions.
6. Have ground rules
Just like a face-to-face meeting, a set of ground rules help increase the engagement and the focus. The baseline is this: be respectful of others’ time and be present.
- Test your technology beforehand (e.g. download the software, test the microphones, etc.)
- Make sure your connection is good before the starting time. The actual meeting time should not be used for testing or adjusting someone’s internet connection.
- Keep meetings short. It is harder to focus for a long time. Consider dividing the topics into several shorter meetings.
- No sidebar conversations (Do it before the meeting officially starts. It’s a good idea to be there early so you can catch up with your colleagues)
- No multi-tasking. Be respectful of the other’s time.
- Say your name first before you speak.
- Mute the microphones to eliminate background noises (please make it clear that it does not mean that you can ‘check-out’ from the meeting)
- Keep your comments short and make sure the previous speaker has spoken before you start
7. Debrief at the end of the online meeting.
Take the last 5-10 minutes of your meeting to wrap up. It’s an opportunity to have everyone aligned with the agreed points and followup actions. Also, it can be used for raising any last-minute questions. It is a good idea to have the agenda as well as the minutes visible via screen sharing, so everyone stays on the same page. Agree on the next meeting if necessary.
If you have more tips for making online meetings more impactful. Please share with us! HUONE is committed to maintaining the highest customer service and your safety remains our highest priority. Read more by clicking the box below.