Covid-19 has thrown us into a digital shift and, for many of us, the initial hurdles of online meeting struggles are gone. We have adjusted and accepted that this is the new normal and will be for some time now.
So, what is the best recipe for making sure we keep everyone engaged when running these online meetings?
With teams spread across several locations, adjustments are required and for online meetings, it is crucial that the techniques work and that the meeting has a good structure. To have active participation and progress, your meeting has to be well planned, and you must commit to engaging with the participants throughout the session.
In this article, we have put together advice that will hopefully help you succeed with your online meeting management and making sure you create inclusive and engaging meetings that deliver the value and outcome your team, group and/or organisation need.
Set an agenda
A common understanding of a meeting's purpose, framework and expectations become extra important when we are all remote. Some preparation is required and attaching an agenda to the meeting invite helps with setting a clear understanding of your goals. Having the agenda time-boxed helps with keeping the meeting on track and adding 'objectives/outcomes’ gives participants clarity on what you aim to achieve during the meeting and the importance of them.
Make sure to include any relevant pre-readings in the invite to assist participants in preparing, particularly if you will use or reference them during the meeting. This could be documents, slide packs, videos or links to other sources such as concepts and prototypes.
If significant preparation is required by the participants, make sure you allow adequate time to prepare and perhaps send out a reminder a few days ahead.
Reduce tech and other challenges
We have all had our hurdles when running online meetings; the video or sound not working; you can’t share your screen, or documents are not loading.
In your meeting invite, list any key issues you think participants may experience during the meeting so they can prepare.
Some things to keep in mind and address:
Code of Conduct
Having a loose guide or a ‘code of conduct’ set before, or at the beginning of a meeting can help establish some ground rules for collaborating and communicating. You might already have some in your organisation if so, see how you can apply these to your meeting.
If you are running a series of meetings or workshops, ask the group to write their own code of conduct during the very first meeting. This way you get broader consensus and the participants will feel more invested.
Examples that may help facilitate respectful discussions and collaboration in your meetings.
Try to find a private space so that you can concentrate on the meeting and not noises or people around you
We know life is still going on around you and you may be at home with distractions, if that’s the case just share that with the participants, so they are aware
Share your opinion, you are invited to a meeting or a workshop because your feedback is valuable, if you have something to say do so when opportunity presents itself
Try to be mindful and not to talk over people, let others have a chance to have their voice heard. Make sure to go around the group and ask for everyone’s feedback
Create social interaction
It’s not always easy to get everyone to contribute during online meetings and having some activities prepared might help in getting that social connection going between the participants, particularly if attendees are meeting for the first time;
Tasks to focus on during the meeting
There are a few things that you need to keep front of mind when you chair an online meeting. As the facilitator it is your responsibility to guide the meeting in the right direction, indicating what needs to be discussed and when participation is required in each part of the meeting
Show progress by going over the key objectives or goals at the start of the meeting. Refer back to these during the session when the goal has been achieved. This can be done verbally or visually by moving a card on your Kanban wall or reverting back to the agenda in your pack and ticking off items covered.
Keep the meeting on track by preparing with some strategies to ensure that people stay focused and engaged, e.g:
Allow time in your meeting to pause for questions and feedback, allowing everyone to contribute to the meeting. Ask participants to use the chat function throughout the meeting for any questions or comments and make sure you address these before your meeting ends.
Provide next steps & outcomes
Always end your meetings by agreeing on the way forward, who does what and when you will be meeting next, send out a summary of next steps and assign responsibilities to people in the session before signing off. This helps clarify roles and accountability in the next stages. Follow up with any further meeting bookings while the session is still fresh in everyone's mind and to maintain momentum.
It can be useful to get input from participants about how they felt the meeting went. Get feedback to improve the meeting format and yourself as an online meeting facilitator. Share your insights and experiences with your colleagues so that you all can become expert online meeting facilitators.
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