Remote Working: How to run effective Online Meetings

Remote Working: How to run effective Online Meetings

Date

October 15, 2020

Author

Hannah Gatland, Cata Bonavia, Wriddhi Banerjee, Justin Chin & Jason Remen

Category

News

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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.


PREPARATION

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.


Meeting agenda example



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:

  • Video: Set up the meeting in your preferred Video conferencing tool; e.g. GoTo Meeting, Zoom, we use Teams which integrates with our Outlook Calendar and adds a Teams meeting link to the invite. If you plan to record the session for future reference let your participants know upfront.
  • Audio: outline, when to mute/, unmute (E.g. Everyone is on mute unless speaking) and suggest the use of headphones to reduce listening fatigue. As the host of the meeting you also have the power to set all participants to mute.
  • Camera: state if the camera on is a requirement so participants can be prepared. 
  • Software update: recommend participants check their software is up to date and to perform the necessary updates if required.
  • Power connection: Make sure the computer being used is connected to a power source or is fully charged before you start a session. Keep in mind that for longer meetings a full battery won’t get you through, particularly if you are using video.
  • Dry run: If you are using new tech or software, make sure you do a ‘dry run’ of the session to iron out any issues you may encounter. If you are doing this for the first time, run through some tutorials so you are across all the tips and tricks.
  • Have a plan B; if everything fails what is your backup? This depends on what you have at hand. If you use Teams can you quickly switch to Zoom or WebEx or fall back to mobile if the meeting has only a few participants?
  • Distractions: Try to avoid a room where you have background noise and set your phone to silent. Or better yet, put it away, so you don’t get distracted.
  • Light: Make sure your room is well lit but avoid direct sunlight. You get the very best light if you have daylight falling on your face. 
  • Clothing:  Be aware of your clothing choices- it's always best to wear plain clothes. Patterns and the like could become distracting.
  • Clutter: Clear away papers, books, everyday clutter or anything else that might catch too much attention during a video call.


RUNNING THE ACTIVITY

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.

Be present

Try to find a private space so that you can concentrate on the meeting and not noises or people around you

Be transparent

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

Be open

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

Be inclusive

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;

  • Get everyone to introduce themselves; who they are and what they do
  • Add an extra agenda point to the meeting where you get participants to share something: e.g. “Share what’s the last thing you made with your hands” or “Share a brief story of your name


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:

  • Politely interrupt an off-topic conversation to bring it back on track
  • Have a sign or code word to alert the meeting that the conversation has strayed off track
  • Or simply mute all participants if you need to

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.


Do you have any useful tips you want to share with us, do you want to hear more about our experience with online meetings or do you need input on how to improve your online meetings? Get in touch- we'd love to hear from you!


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