Business meetings are an integral part of healthy communication and strategizing for any organization. However, glitches and virtual limitations can make conducting effective online meetings challenging despite tech advancements.
Fortunately, there’s much you can do to streamline your online meetings and set them up for success and productive results. We’ll share seven tips to make your online meetings more effective and highlight popular online meeting platforms that can help you streamline conferences and virtual get-togethers.
Today, more businesses than ever are creating remote work plans and accommodating telecommuting and workplace flexibility. These arrangements make online meetings a necessity. Consider the following tips and best practices any business can implement to make virtual meetings and communication more effective and productive.
Whether in-person or virtual, meetings can kill productivity when they meander and keep team members from crucial tasks. Online meetings are particularly vulnerable to confusion and wasted time.
A clear agenda can prevent an unproductive online meeting and help keep everyone on topic. Here are some tips for creating an effective agenda:
A meeting without a moderator can quickly go off track. When you appoint a moderator, an authority figure can control the proceedings, stick to the agenda, help everyone stay focused and keep things running smoothly. Participants need the moderator’s permission to contribute to the discussion, eliminating the problem of people speaking out of turn.
While moderators are essential for all meeting types, they’re crucial for online meetings and video conference calls because internet connectivity and audio or video quality issues can lead to miscommunications. A moderator can set the record straight, clarify issues and recap the proceedings.
Ask all participants to restart their computers at least 20 minutes before the meeting. Instruct everyone to ensure their cameras and microphones are working correctly. Ask them to test their equipment beforehand.
Additionally, ensure your meeting platform supports multiple participants and has been updated to the latest version. If participants’ meeting software downloads updates as your meeting begins, confusion, delays and panic can ensue.
Time-capping your meetings can significantly increase business productivity and help you extract more value in less time. For example, you can set the meeting duration to 30 minutes and earmark 10 minutes for each agenda point. This way, the participants will stay focused and the meeting will not go off track. Your participants understand you respect their time and don’t want to impact their workday. If additional discussions are needed, you can schedule them for after the group meeting.
Distractions can cause miscommunication in online meetings. To avoid distractions, ensure all participants sit in private rooms with proper lighting. Additionally, consider asking participants to use headphones and a collar microphone instead of their computer’s speakers and mic to ensure clear communication and minimize ambient noise.
Many meetings end with vague promises and assurances from attendees. The moderators are responsible for extracting action items for various agenda points and getting acknowledgment from all participants.
The moderator should do the following to ensure the meeting’s purpose is met and that all action items are effectively tracked:
Once your online meeting concludes, send all participants a summary of the meeting notes. List the action item for each agenda point, along with the name of the person or group responsible for its delivery. Ask all participants to confirm receipt of the summary and ensure they understand everything discussed and agreed upon.
Many cloud-based phone systems and meeting platforms can provide post-meeting notes to all attendees automatically, freeing them from taking notes during the meeting and boosting in-meeting engagement.
Before planning an online meeting, brainstorm ways to keep remote workers engaged. Listening to a manager read from a cue card won’t reinvigorate your team. Here are some fun ways to liven up an online meeting:
Selecting a meeting platform is a crucial decision. Many online meeting technologies can help you host effective virtual conferences, calls and meetings. Consider your team size, meeting needs and budget when selecting the best platform for your online meetings. Here are a few options to consider.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of all online meeting platforms, Zoom is excellent for gathering hundreds of people in a time-unlimited virtual setting with a user-friendly interface. Zoom is exceptionally well known for its chat tool, hand-raising tool and flexible meeting formats (webinars, panel presentations, breakout rooms, traditional meetings and more).
The generous Zoom free plan includes up to 40-minute meetings with 100 participants. Pro and Business plan options start at $15.99 per user, per month, and include extended meeting capabilities and artificial intelligence functionality.
Google Meet is an online meeting platform that’s part of Google Workspace. It offers 4K video, noise cancellation, subtitles and recording capabilities, among many other features.
Google Meet seamlessly integrates with Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, making it an excellent option for companies steeped in the Google ecosystem. For example, when you add an event to your Google Calendar and invite people to it, Google will generate a Meet link automatically to use on the meeting day.
Google Meet has a 14-day free trial, so you can test the platform. After the trial, plans start at $6 per month, per user, with 100-plus participant video meetings, cloud storage, support and more.
GoToMeeting is an excellent communication tool geared toward small businesses. It includes diagnostic reports, cloud recording and meeting transcriptions and has a handy “commuter mode” for mobile meetings. The feature can turn your phone screen into a color-coded audio/mute button and uses 90 percent less bandwidth.
Plans start at $14 per organizer, per month. Available add-ons include toll-free numbers and GoToWebinar integration.
Microsoft Teams stores files and chat histories in the same interface where you start calls. Since Teams is a Microsoft product, you can edit Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets collaboratively with other meeting attendees.
On the Microsoft Teams free tier, meetings can last no longer than 60 minutes; paid plans start at $4 per user, per month, and include broader options. Teams is a great choice for small businesses on a budget.
Webex Meetings has a robust free plan that includes meetings of up to 40 minutes with up to 100 attendees, local meeting recordings, screen sharing and unlimited whiteboard usage for continuous collaboration. Paid plans start at $14.50 per license, per month, and include noise cancellation, cloud storage, closed captions, a secure lobby to keep out uninvited guests, conference calling and much more.
Max Freedman contributed to this article.