Tips for a successful online meeting

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, we are all forced to use the technologies of online meeting in our work a lot more than before. Although this phenomenon can sound quite cool in the beginning, after a few weeks of online meetings, lots of us are tired and fed up with it. This tiredness is due, among other things, to the technical issues we have to endure but also very often to a bad utilization of the online meeting technology.

As a result, some persons have to endure all day online meetings in bad conditions. This can happen to be quite unproductive and stressful. Indeed when the effort to listen to a meeting is too important to make, people tend to disconnect and lose their concentration. As a consequence, they can miss pieces of important information and they have to compensate by using other strategies in order to get to those pieces of information (asking colleagues, mailing, phone,..) or in the worst case, they compone without.

For these reasons, I believe that we could take care of each other by thinking about the next points when organizing online meetings and inviting lots of people to them:

Let’s start with a quite basic question:

Is this meeting truly necessary?

Online meeting is a rather time and energy-consuming activity for everyone. Therefore it can be very helpful to ask yourself before planning one: is this meeting truly necessary? Is there no way I could communicate through other channels of communication (e.g. mail, sending a recording, a simple call).

Define the purpose of the meeting

Is it only an informational meeting? Do you need to have the other’s opinion on some points? Is it a workgroup? Is there gonna be a discussion time? This first step is crucial in order to design the instructions you are going to give when sending the link to your collaborators but also to determinate who you are going to invite.

But also ask yourself: How many persons do you need to invite to this meeting, for what purpose do you need them to participate?

Define a clear way to operate:

In order to avoid frustrations due to the bad use of the technology you are using to propel your online meeting, it can always be useful to:

-Send the link of your meeting room well in advance in order to allow your participants to download the application and test it before the meeting

-Create (or find on Youtube by example) a short animation movie with the basic operating instructions. You can also create different animations: one for the main speaker, one for the participants by example.

-Communicate a link where people can test their internet connection in order eventually to move from the room before the meeting to avoid extra perturbations during the meeting

-Ask them to mention their name and eventually function (e.g Mark HR) when entering the meeting room, it’s way easier and more pleasant for everyone to know who is talking

-Include some instructions about the way you want the meeting to function: “please when arriving in the meeting, when possible activate your camera, and mute your micro”

Manage the time wisely

Keep it short and constructive. Online meetings tend to dure for hours without clear breaks but our focus can’t hold it that long. The temptation can be big to start doing something else. If a longer meeting is needed, plan break times.

Maintain the attention of your participants

Maintain the attention of your audience using different tricks:

-ask them to put their camera on;

-ask them to write from time to time in the chat;

-ask them to summarize what was just said, asking them if there are questions;

-switch between a screen share and your face;

-invite them to discuss in breaking rooms with a smaller amount of participants,..

Be creative in order to transform a boring online meeting in a dynamic and constructive experience!

Stay professional

Even if an online meeting can sound cool and your colleagues have a more relaxed clothing style, try to keep it professional.

Be careful on the environment you are going to show through your camera ( a messy kitchen or a stack of laundry won’t give a good impression).

Communicate to your family that you are now till… in an online meeting for your work and that you need to be focused and not to be disturbed. A good tip can be to put a colour code on your “office”s door. By example: red for occupated, please not disturb and green for ok you can come and ask me something.

When you are in a long meeting and you need to go to the toilet by e.g, if you take your device with you, don’t forget to mute yourself and to switch off your camera to avoid tricky situations (we have all seen very funny but also humiliating videos on Youtube!)

Let’s go!

When animating an online meeting make sure to:

carefully choose your meeting environment: calm, enough light,.. in order to provide a good experience to your participants. It’s also very important that you appear well on the camera. If you have a laptop you can for example put it on a staple of books in order to have the camera on the height of your face. This will make eye contact easier for your participants and they will have a better experience when looking at you. Avoid the “kin” or “ceiling” view… Also, be careful to the background you will appear on the video with.

ask a colleague to support you with the technicalities of the meeting: watching the chat, muting people, communicating in the chat so that it doesn’t cause you extra stress. This person can also keep an eye on a phone or mail, in case someone comes late or can’t connect.

connect with your co-animator about 10 to 15 min before the meeting in order to test all functions you will need during the meeting

put a welcome message in the chat and remind the participants the technical instructions: muting their micro, switching on their camera, how they should tell you when they want to interact

in the beginning in the meeting remind once again the technical instructions and mention that they are written in the chat. Announce also how the meeting is going to take place in order to let your participants know that there will eventually be time for questions, breaking rooms, breaks,…

Dealing with the unexpected

Lots of kids are already back to school but not all of them. How to react when by example a kid comes and jumps in the room where you are giving your meeting?

This can so to say happen to everyone at the moment. Give a good example to your colleagues or participants: use non-violent communication!

Express your surprise, communicate to your child that it’s not the right place to be at the moment, and try to take it easy. Apologize for this inconvenience, and go on. A small joke will help your colleagues forget this episode way quicker than if you react in a very negative way. The same idea applies when it’s your cat or dog disturbing the meeting, show some great humour and try to turn the situation in your favour!

Do you have other tips to share? Share them in the comments!