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Leading a Successful Online Meeting

Do you think leading an online meeting is difficult? According to a recent poll by the software company Slido, nine out of ten meeting organizers say virtual events are much more challenging than in-person meetings. In fact, when talking to many people who are leading virtual meetings, most express how difficult it is to lead a successful online meeting.

Take a moment to think about your own experience attending an online meeting. How easy is it to get distracted? One minute you’re looking at sales projections, and the next you’re wondering what’s for lunch. This might tempt you to take a quick peek at the carryout menu from the Greek restaurant in your neighborhood that delivers.

Having a Successful Online Meeting can Be Tough!

How can you keep a group engaged when everyone is logging in from separate locations? The following are a few ideas you can use to make your next online meeting a success.

Before Your Meeting:

1.    Have your meeting with video and require everyone to be present with his or her live image.

An audio meeting doesn’t have the same effect as a video conference. So, the first step to having a successful online meeting is to choose video.

Your attendees are more likely to pay attention when they’re on camera. Additionally, when participants can see facial expressions and body language, there’s a lot better discussion.

2.    Run a technology test.

The worst thing that can happen at a meeting is wasting time figuring out technology. You can safeguard precious meeting time and keep your attendees happier by checking your technology in advance. Test both video and audio quality. Have a spare microphone and other devices on hand as backups.

3.    Distribute your agenda before the meeting.

Have you ever been asked to attend a meeting but didn’t have any idea what it was all about? How did that make you feel?

Send an agenda to all your attendees and ask them to read it and the supporting materials in advance. This allows them to process their thoughts, plan appropriately for the meeting, and seek input from others if needed. This will result in a more successful online meeting for everyone.

4.    Practice in advance

Rehearsing what you want to say will increase your confidence and enhance your performance. You will be more engaging and people will look up to you for being prepared. If you’re just starting out, an easy technique is to record yourself in advance and the watch the recording, then make adjustments as needed.

5.    Be flexible.

While it would be ideal if everyone could log in from a quiet and private location, life doesn’t always allow for this. Remote work is new to lots of us, so try to accommodate those employees who are adjusting to remote work. This might mean allowing for a child who wants attention or reminding the group to stay on mute when they’re not speaking.

During Your Meeting:

1.    Allow time for greeting your teammates.

My friend Jonathan Sprinkles says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What he’s saying is to have a successful online meeting, you need to connect on a personal level with the other attendees.

Be sure to log in early so you can spend your first few minutes socializing with your teammates. If you are in a small group, ask for brief updates from each participant. If you are in a larger group, have everyone quickly introduce himself or herself. Knowing each other’s names and roles makes for better interactions.

2.    Assign roles.

Giving each attendee a specific role reduces the risk that they’ll zone out and call that Greek restaurant. If this is an ongoing meeting, rotate responsibility for taking minutes. Use an app to collect questions and make sure you answer them before ending the meeting. Another technique is to ask different meeting members to prepare brief presentations on subjects related to their responsibilities and expertise.

3.    Designate a facilitator.

This is another role that can be rotated for ongoing meetings. Put someone in charge of keeping the meeting flowing smoothly. Having a facilitator help with guiding the discussion and encouraging active participation. This is a great way to ensure you have a successful online meeting.

4.    Consider small group breakouts.

Assigning separate tasks to separate groups and then sending them to breakout rooms often leads to deeper conversation and greater inclusiveness. There are many video platforms with features that support this option.

5.    Change up the agenda.

Anyone who has ever watched a long speech online will testify that this isn’t an effective way to lead a successful online meeting. Attendees may start checking their Facebook page or checking out that Greek restaurant’s menu. Instead, you can grab their attention with fun activities like polls and quizzes, as well as regular breaks.

After Your Meeting:

1.    Wrap it up.

Since employees won’t be running into each other in the hallways afterwards for casual conversation, loose ends need to be tied up. Take a few minutes at the end of your meeting reviewing what you’ve accomplished. Also, make sure everyone is clear on what deliverables and next steps are due. Give each employee a chance to comment.

2.    Ask for feedback.

An easy way to get feedback is to send out a written evaluation survey. Simply ask each participant what they liked and what they would want to change to make the meeting better.

3.    Send a podcast.

Record your session. This allows you to send your team a podcast afterwards. It also is invaluable for anyone who had a schedule conflict or was unable to log in for any reason. This is also an easy way for attendees to refresh their memory or clear up potential misunderstandings. This can ensure that you have a successful online meeting, no matter what challenges the attendees had.

You Can Have Successful Online Meetings!

The secret to leading a successful online meeting is making your session valuable and fun for the participants. As you continue to have your meetings virtually, experiment with techniques that encourage interaction and collaboration. You’ll be able to accomplish your objectives while enjoying the safety and convenience of connecting online.