If anything could make meetings worse, it's having to travel across the country to attend one. Here's how to hold productive online meetings.
- All business meetings are essential, including remote meetings with your team. Keep meetings structured to avoid productivity delays.
- Plan ice breakers and team-building exercises before the start of the meeting as a way to keep all participants engaged and break some of the awkwardness of connecting online.
- Take notes and remain present throughout the online meeting. Multitasking shows that you don't value participants' time.
Business meetings are an integral part of any organization's daily schedule. According to Harvard Business Review, senior decision-makers spend almost 65% of their time meeting with different functional heads to gather updates on work progress. But anyone who's worked in a corporate set up knows that business meetings can often eat up a lot of unnecessary time as well.
This is particularly true if you're holding an online meeting and the participants are based in different locations. Despite the advancements in communication and technology, it's still a challenge to conduct effective online meetings, because participants can experience connectivity problems and communication delays. They can also face problems in holding the discussion in a structured manner and multiple people can start speaking at the same time.
Ideas on how to make an online meeting fun
Before planning an online meeting, brainstorm ways to keep your remote workers engaged. Listening to a manager read from a cue card won't stimulate the energy needed to reinvigorate your team. Potential fun ways to liven up an online meeting include:
- Make introductions. Go around the virtual meeting room and ask everyone to introduce themselves. This acts as an ice breaker and sets the tone for everyone contributing to the call.
- Introduce brainteasers. Start with a team-building exercise before getting into the point of the meeting. Make it a contest on who can build the most creative object out of Lego bricks or time the team to finish a puzzle. A funny interactive quiz could also break the ice between online meeting attendees.
- Play a guessing game. Another ice breaker is to play an I Spy game before your online meeting starts. Ask each participant to describe a unique item in their remote work area and have team members guess the object.
But with remote employment on the rise, even conventional businesses will see an increase in online meetings in the coming years. So to help you conduct more productive online meetings, here are seven tips that can be implemented immediately.
Have a clear and well-communicated agenda.
A meeting with a vague purpose often leads to confusion and a lot of wasted time. Never hold an online meeting without a clear agenda. To make things easy for everyone, prepare a formal agenda with all the key issues to be discussed in the meeting and sort them according to your business needs. Also clearly mention what role you expect from each participant in the meeting. Send this agenda at least 24 hours before the meeting, and seek acknowledgment from all the participants. Also, set automated meeting reminders using Google Calendar.
Appoint a meeting moderator.
A meeting without a moderator is almost certain to go off-track. By appointing a moderator, you give him or her the authority to control proceedings. No one can speak without the moderator's permission, and the moderator is the one keeping everyone focused on the topic. This is particularly important in online meetings since there's a high chance of miscommunication because of internet connectivity and audio/video quality.
Prepare your system in advance.
Ask all the participants to restart their computers at least 20 minutes before the meeting gets underway. Make sure your camera and microphone are working fine, and your meeting software supports multiple participants. For one-on-one meetings, you can go for a standard video calling service like Skype. But if there are multiple participants, I'd recommend using a specialized application like ClickMeeting, which gives you the ability to conduct online meetings much more professionally.
Set time limits.
Time-capping your meetings can significantly boost your productivity and help you extract a lot more value in the limited time you have. For example, you can set the meeting duration to 30 minutes and assign 10 minutes to each of the agenda points. This way the participants will stay focused and the meeting will not go off-track.
Distractions can easily cause miscommunication in online meetings. To avoid them, make sure all your participants are sitting in a closed and well-illuminated room with a clear background. Also, it's better to use headphones and a collar mic instead of your laptop's mic to ensure clear communication.
Conclude with clear action items.
Many corporate meetings end with vague promises and assurances from the participants. It is the responsibility of the moderator to extract action items for each of the agenda points and get acknowledgment from all the participants. The key rule is to identify an action item, assign it to one individual and agree on a deadline. Without these three things, no action item can be tracked effectively.
Share meeting notes.
Once your online meeting concludes, make sure a summary of all the meeting notes is sent to the participants. List the action points identified for each agenda item along with the name of the person responsible for its delivery. Ask all the participants to acknowledge the meeting notes and confirm their understanding.
Conducting online meetings with people from different locations can be difficult to manage. If you prepare in advance, and ensure that your meetings are well structured, moderated and well communicated, online meetings can not only become an extremely effective platform for connecting your company stakeholders and employees, but they also can help save on other travel and communication costs.