6 Tips to Run Better Online Meetings

With 32% of Canadian employees now working most of their hours from home (versus just 4% in 2016), online meetings have become the default for many organizations. Whether you’re relatively new to virtual conferencing, or you’re looking to improve your team’s remote collaboration, these 6 tips to run better online meetings will help you navigate your digital gatherings more efficiently.

Tip #1. Prepare with intention

Creating and sharing a detailed meeting agenda in advance will ultimately save time by making it easier for everyone to attend well-prepared.

It will also give you the opportunity to:

  • Reassess how necessary the meeting you’re about to call is, or isn’t
  • Determine who really needs to be there, and who doesn’t

Your agenda should clearly outline your meeting objective, the steps you’ll be following to reach it, and how long it’s going to take.

Tip #2. Strive for engagement

Starting each meeting with some brief, casual chat can help relax the mood and create an environment that’s more conducive to idea-sharing.

To keep your virtual team engaged once your meeting’s underway:

  • DON’T simply lecture or talk at your group
  • DO engage multiple speakers and take advantage of visual aids (like screen-sharing or an online whiteboarding tool, for example)

It’s also worth building extra time into meeting schedules for a brief Q&A session whenever you can.

Tip #3. Stay on track

Sticking fast to your agenda is the best way to keep online meetings from straying off track. Remember: the more clear-cut the purpose and timetable for your gathering, the more efficiently you can expect it to run.

To that end, you may want to:

  • Assign a facilitator (unless that will be you) to oversee every meeting
  • Ask a timekeeper to help them stay on schedule by announcing the number of minutes remaining at regular intervals

It’s also good practice to remind attendees to hold their questions until the Q&A (or email them after the meeting) so they can all be addressed at once.

Tip #4. Follow an etiquette policy

Unnecessary meetings interrupt employee focus and workflow—so try to stay mindful of your team members’ time by establishing an etiquette policy.

For example:

  • Ask team members to turn off their phones and close out personal work during meetings
  • Minimize disruptions by having participants mute their microphones when others are speaking

Rather than accommodating stragglers meanwhile, try to enforce a strict punctuality policy by starting and ending every meeting on time.

Tip #5. Promote individual involvement

Since it’s often harder to hold attention during virtual encounters than in-person meetings, the more you can involve individual participants, the better.

  • Make a plan to solicit input from everyone in turn
  • Assign individual in-meeting tasks that will also increase efficiency (like time-keeping, note-taking, online file-sharing, or Q&A compilation)

You should also wrap up every meeting by discussing next steps, so everyone can leave with a plan.

Tip #6. Take meeting minutes

It’s easy to record online meetings. But that can leave your team having to wade through entire discussions a second time to find the information they need.

By taking meeting minutes in addition to recording, you can summarize and share key points, ideas, and outcomes that will make it easier to:

  • Provide direction for follow-up tasks
  • Create project timelines and milestones
  • Jumpstart subsequent meetings without the need to recap where you left off

Finally, although today’s communication technologies make it a quick and easy matter to assemble remote team members in the same virtual space, you’ll do a better job combatting the effects of ‘Zoom fatigue’ if you avoid running online meetings that aren’t strictly necessary.