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5 Tips for Improving Your Online Meetings

Even before 2020 and COVID, the number of meetings taking place online was increasing as more and more people choose to work at home, freelance or collaborate with people elsewhere in the world. But now are we're faced with at least another few months of living life virtually it's time to solve, once and for all, the pain of online meetings.

You know the feeling. Meetings that are too long, meetings where people are talking over one another. Meetings where someone forgets to mute their microphone.

The fact of the matter is: not everyone feels comfortable holding or attending meetings that take place in front of a screen.

So just how can you make sure that you hold good and inclusive video meetings?

Why are virtual meetings more taxing than face-to-face meetings?

Holding good distance meetings is important for everyone involved. When the meeting takes place at a distance, the lack of people's body language and facial expressions as well as technical glitches can create misunderstandings and confusion. But don’t let that scare you.

All that you need to do to keep meetings at a distance successful is a little structure. 

Each meeting benefits from having a meeting leader who ensures that everyone is allowed to speak and that information is shared properly.

That's why we've rounded up 5 tips to help you run efficient, effective virtual meetings.

presentation

1. Include Everyone

In video meetings with several people, the dialogue does not flow in the same way as it does with face to face meetings. You will have noticed this - people accidentally interrupt each other because we miss the social cue, that intake of breath before someone is about to speak - that means we end up stepping on our colleagues toes more often than we would normally. 

In order to combat this, you will need to make more of an active effort to give everyone the space and time to speak.

One way you can do this effectively is by using the ‘popcorn’ technique, whereby the meeting organiser chooses someone to speak, and that person chooses the next person until everyone in the meeting has spoken. This kind of technique is perfect if you run a daily check-in meeting, need an update on a project status or simply want to make sure you hear from everyone 'in the room'.

If you are running something more casual, try using direct questions. Instead of “So, what does everyone think?” Pinpoint someone. “What do you think, Sarah? Do you agree, Michael?” That way people know there is space for them in the conversation. 

Towards the end of the meetings, ask everyone attending the meeting to contribute one suggestion or piece of feedback about the topic of the meeting. That way, you can make sure that everyone has contributed and has felt included during the meeting.

2. Start with Small Talk

Begin each meeting with a short informal chat with everyone participating, to ensure that everyone feels involved from the start. It can make it easier to talk later, for those who are unfamiliar with distance meetings.

Don’t forget to check in with people - how they are feeling, how their morning is going. At the moment, we don’t get to run into one another in the kitchen or over the water cooler. Many people are missing these small, normally inconsequential interactions. 

By starting your meetings with a simple “how are you all”, you can ensure that that small talk is recreated to the fullest possible extent. In these trying times, it’s the little things that matter. 

structure

3. Have a Clear Meeting Structure

Have a clear agenda and hand it out before the meeting so that everyone can prepare. Give the word to one person at a time so you avoid talking over one another and missing important information. This is probably what you did before you had to begin working remotely, but this is where remote meetings do have an advantage. They make maintaining a clear meeting structure easier than ever before. 

When someone is not speaking, or there is background noise at their end, you can make good use of the mute button. The little disruptions and background noises that can be irritating during meetings can easily be eliminated during virtual meetings.

This helps you to have a smoother, more structured, more productive meetings

4. Ask for Clear Answers

When you cannot read people's body language, it’s important to have clear answers to questions. As it’s more difficult to read people online, make sure that you use language that’s as clear, concise and approachable as possible so that you avoid misunderstandings. 

If someone who’s in the meeting has said something that isn’t entirely clear, ask for clarification. People generally understand that, during these difficult times, things might get a little lost in translation in the online world. Removing the possibility of misunderstandings will help you to have a better meeting.

remote working

5. Share Documents and Chat

Have you planned a workshop where the participants are expected to work? Share and work on the same document, or have the meeting running in the background and tune in along the way.

By having a live document that everyone can add to, or at the least read, throughout the meeting you'll help encourage and even boost engagement in your meeting. 

The current situation doesn’t mean that your meetings should be any less interactive. Sharing documents and using the chat function can allow for as real-world an experience as possible. 

By following these tips, you can have more successful online meetings. More successful online meetings are great for everyone involved! Of course if you have too many meetings back-to-back, your meetings run too long or you don't get ample time between meetings to actually do your work, you may find that your problem is not so much bad meetings as screen fatigue - which we'll help you avoid in our next article!

Want to avoid screen fatigue?

Click the button below to read our article on screen fatigue. It tells everything you need to know about the condition, what causes it and what you can do to minimise it.

Click here

Last updated: 11 Nov 2021

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