Running a successful in-person meeting is difficult enough, but online sessions present new challenges. In the book, “Speed Lead” author Kevan Hall said “one survey showed that only 23% of managers gave their full attention during conference calls, while 25% dealt with their email, and 27% did other work. This level of distraction is much higher than in face-to-face meetings.” In any meeting, keeping conversations focused, and participants engaged can be a real challenge but when they are working from home where there are many more distractions. But, there are ways of making these meetings productive including the use of teleconferences.
Pick a service that will work for you.
There are many alternatives, from Microsoft Teams and Zoom to new ones that are being birthed as the result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Pick one that works for you. Ideally, the service will send an email notification to everyone well in advance of the meeting so that the meetings get on everyone’s calendars. If the service doesn’t do it, someone needs to send out a reminder, with dial-in information about thirty minutes before the meeting begins. If you are leading the meeting, familiarize yourself with the features of the technology.
Agendas are essential for every meeting, whether it is in-person or online. But it is a valuable tool for keeping online meetings more focused. Make the purpose of the meeting and objectives clear. This will help keep the meeting shorter rather than a ramble of various ideas. Ask for suggestions for agenda items from participants in advance. Identify those who are responsible for leading the discussion on certain items. This also helps to keep everyone engaged. Make sure there is a time at the end of the meeting to allow anyone to raise other issues.
Allow for Brief Social Time
People who work remotely, miss personal interaction. Start the meeting with an opportunity to share personal stories. But after a short period, the organizer needs to get everyone focused on the agenda.
Keep People Engaged
Visuals help to keep people focused. Make sure that everyone is participating even if it requires calling on someone who has faded into the background.
There might be a few second delay in both video and audio, so consider that when you are speaking. Speak clearly; keep body movements minimal. And, most importantly make eye contact with the camera on your computer. Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.
While I believe that everyone should take their own notes during any meeting, someone should be designated as the group notetaker so that essential action items are preserved. After the meeting is over, these notes should be shared with all participants plus with anyone else who needs to know what has taken place.
Avoid Too Many In-Person Meetings
Don’t abuse the opportunity to schedule too many online meetings. Everyone has real work to get done. While this is true for working inside an office, it is especially crucial in the online world. If your objective is to keep everyone productive, have short and to the point meetings. Once you have achieved your goal, adjourn the meeting.
Share any tips you have in the comment section below.
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