To find a date where all participants of a meeting have time to be at the same place, takes sometimes weeks or months to plan. It is also cost-intensive: If they travel from another city or even country, you need to book a train and a hotel. Maybe you also need to book a conference room for a bigger group or even a catering. This results in a lot of costs and time management.
So, it is obvious why online meetings are a good alternative to live meetings. It saves money and people will find 1 hour for an online session more easily in their fully booked calendar, than to block a whole day to travel to another place. It also supports the work-life balance of your employees as they don’t need to spend a long time on travelling.
Here are 5 tips to help you run effective online team meetings:
1. Check the IT
Choice of chat programme: In times of digitalisation a lot of companies have already used video chat programmes like Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco WebEx, etc. But do they also teach their employees how to use them efficiently? If you want to hold an online team meeting, check with your company first, which kind of programme they are experienced in. Then a(n IT) colleague could help you to install it or show you how to use the programme efficiently. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
At the same time check with your meeting participants (if they don’t work for the same company as you), if they have access to the same programme. Help them how to set up or inform them who they can contact, if they need help. Ask them to set up a name and a photo, especially if they don’t want to join via video chat. The meeting will be less anonymous, and you will know who is still missing in the meeting like you can check it in a live meeting.
Turn on your camera: If the meeting group is less than 10 people (and your Wi-Fi is strong enough) and you won’t share your screen for a presentation, we would recommend turning on the camera. This gives the meeting more personality and you get more the feeling of a F2F meeting. Prepare your meeting participants by mentioning it already when you send out the invitation. This way employees, who are working remotely can change from their pyjama to suitable clothes. But give them the freedom to choose, if they would like to turn on the camera or not. Some people are not feeling confident in front of a camera. You as organizer should always be the role model and turn on his camera to encourage others to do the same.
Start with one to one meetings: Before you run an online team meeting, try an one to one meeting first so both parties get a feeling of the programme and to check the IT. Worse case scenario is, if the programme doesn’t work and you need to postpone your meeting.
2. Structure and target group
Majority of people will find it difficult to concentrate for a long period of time. Break down your topics over a few meetings rather than to one long session.
While preparing the meeting content try to implement tools that motivates the others to participate actively during the online session. The temptation is big for your participants to read emails, work further on other projects or even check social media during an online meeting.
Tips to create an active meeting:
- Do some small talk or make some jokes before you start your meeting to create a relaxed meeting atmosphere.
- If the meeting participants don’t know each other, the group is not too big and you have time, you could ask for everyone to introduce themselves.
- Prepare questions during the meeting, share your screen to show your presentation and insert some funny slides at the end of it.
- Plan also time for personal exchange and share inspiration.
Prepare also an agenda, which you can send out to all participants in advance. That shows the structure, highlights the importance of the meeting and they can prepare for it, e.g. by thinking about questions or discussion topics they might have.
In the end think about who need to attend to your meeting and for who it is only a nice to have. It is easier to create an interactive meeting within a small group as people are less shy to speak in front of less people.
3. Be on time:
Like with in person meetings not everyone is punctual. But as organizer it is even more important to be on time. We recommend being at least 5 minutes earlier online to check the IT is working and welcoming everyone.
When you realise there are a lot of people late for the meeting and still missing, wait for 1-2 minutes, but then start and stick to your time schedule as other people maybe have further meetings after this one. Before you start ask the others to put themselves on mute to avoid any sound distractions. Some programmes allow the organizer to put everyone on mute. Check this function in advance.
Summarize the results, if you don’t have a presentation prepared and send it to all attendees. That highlights the importance of all discussed topics and everyone knows what to do next. Even people who missed the meeting will know what was discussed.
5. Don’t put yourself under pressure
In the end don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s important to prepare everything well, maybe also have a back-up plan, e.g. if the wifi doesn’t work, use the hotspot on your mobile device. It's about working together productive and ending the meeting with a good feeling.
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