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Online meetings 101 – The ultimate guide to virtual meetingsOPINION REAL ESTATE
by Ivan Smiljanic, January 28, 2021
In today’s situation with the Coronavirus pandemic, many companies around the world are embracing remote working environments. Distributed teams are having to consider how to build good working relationships with remote colleagues and how to collaborate effectively, including via online meetings.
With some preparation and a game plan, your team can have online meetings that are just as productive and collaborative as getting everyone in the same room.
Preparing for Online Meetings
As the saying goes, “to be prepared is half the victory.” If you go into an online meeting with a gameplan, you’ll see better results during and after you meet. The best online meetings include three essentials you need to remember:
Maintaining these essentials you will make participants feel more engaged while keeping the meeting productive.
1. Create An Agenda And Share It In Advance
One key part of meeting preparation is creating an agenda, which will help everyone come to the meeting on the same page and keep participants focused on priorities.
A good agenda is less about your ability to lead an online meeting and more about fostering understanding for participants, especially people who aren’t in the same room.
They have no access to your nonverbal cues, so if there’s no agenda, they’re more likely to lose their place, lose focus and attention to the meeting.
Gathering together data for a remote meeting takes effort, so do not waste time during the meeting. Have a plan with specific items to cover and stick to that plan. It is better to share the agenda ahead of time with those who participate so that everyone can prepare.
2. Prepare Your Space
Whether it’s a cat walking in front of your camera or a garbage truck coming down your street, distractions during remote meetings do happen. You can’t prevent every mishap, but preparing your space beforehand can go a long way.
Before the meeting, find a quiet environment where you can limit distractions. Use headphones to minimize background noise and prevent audio feedback. If you’re working with new conferencing software, do a test run before the online meeting begins.
Prepare A Shared Space
What is the biggest benefit of an actual meeting? It is face-to-face interaction, which is a result of sharing a certain space. But a shared space is not equal to a meeting room. Also, it includes shared flip charts, chats, shared screens, or shared online whiteboard. A combination of different shared spaces positively influences remote employees’ presence in a meeting.
3. Invite The Right People
It’s difficult to hold a remote meeting with a large number of participants, due to the capabilities of the technology and everyone’s ability to contribute to the conversation. Start practicing it with smaller groups of people and increase the number when you achieve remote management success.
Participating Like A Pro
The video camera doesn’t show every speaker throughout the meeting. Some software shows an icon or picture of who is involved in the meeting, but it is good practice to introduce everyone attending because people are more willing to participate and are more open when they know who’s on the call.
You’re all prepared and it’s meeting time. Here are a few tips to make sure your online meeting goes smoothly.
1. Keep It Slow And Steady
Keep the pace of your online meeting a bit slower than in-person meetings. Video-conference meetings should actually move at a slightly slower pace than a typical meeting due to a two to three-second delay for most systems to communicate.
If you’re leading the meeting, make sure there are sufficient pauses after asking a question. If you are a participant, bring attention to yourself before addressing the group by signaling with your hand or saying “question” or “comment” and then waiting a couple of seconds before continuing.
Don’t miss a chance to connect with remote colleagues and help them make their presence felt in the room. Having small talk helps to feel people connected.
2. Use your words
If you’re not sharing your screen and need to describe something remote participants can’t see, try to be extra descriptive. This will help you communicate clearly and effectively.
We describe all of our visual designs using words, and although this might seem intuitive when your coworkers can’t see your computer screen, it’s particularly important to make sure you’re describing what you see.
3. Take great notes
Good note-taking is something all meetings can benefit from, and there are lots of ways to take useful notes. If you want to take shared notes during an in-person meeting, you may well turn to a whiteboard.
For online meetings, you can get a similar effect with online mind maps, which allow everyone to see and add to the notes as new ideas come up, in real-time. It’s a great way to keep everyone engaged, create more clarity, and get input from all team members involved.
After the Meeting
You did it! The meeting adjourned…almost. Here are a few things you can do at the end of an online meeting (and beyond) to maintain clear communication from everyone involved.
1. Recap before you’re done
When the meeting’s about to end, have everyone recap the action items that they’re responsible for. This is a way to make sure everyone understands who’s tackling what and ensure accountability. That extra clarity is especially helpful when you can’t see facial expressions or body language.
2. Save your debrief for later
Especially if you just finished a high-stakes meeting, often our first reaction is to immediately debrief with colleagues. Hold off until you’re out of the room, though.
You’d never want remote attendees to overhear something you didn’t mean to share because they hadn’t left the video conference yet. As a general rule, wait until you’re out of the room to discuss anything that occurred.
3. Share notes and ask people to contribute
Remember those great notes you took? Make sure everyone involved has access to them. This can be another great way to create a shared understanding of what was decided, who’s responsible for what action items, and what to follow up on in the future.
Asking directly for input really helps team members feel engaged. And remember, listeners can only hear one person at a time clearly, so take turns sharing with each other.
It is vital to make every person feel like they have the ability to contribute to the project. Reaching out to everyone in the meeting individually or asking specifically for their contributions is a good way to get people involved.
The goals for online meetings are no different than in-person meetings: communicate clearly so you can make decisions that move your organization forward.
When your meeting is remote, you just need to make a few adjustments to achieve that goal. By preparing properly, participating fully, and following up, your online meetings can be just as successful as sitting in a room together.