12 Ways To Host More Effective Online Meetings

Close up view of coffee mug When you’re planning an online meeting, you have to more than hope participants are paying attention! In fact, you want to inspire them to be engaged and present. For that to happen, your online meeting needs to be structured. It needs to be designed and catered to your audience.

After all, what’s the purpose otherwise? Why spend the time gathering the troops to go over progress reports or open up the lines of communication to brainstorm a pitch if the only sound heard is crickets?

With a more interactive approach to your online meetings, you can expect high engagement, better absorption of information, and a more thorough understanding of your content. Maybe even a little fun!

Let’s get down to business – business meetings, that is!

According to a Harvard Business Review article, upper management, C-level execs, and other decision-makers spend nearly three-quarters of their time meeting with others to discuss work progress. That’s a lot of time spent in meetings.

Let’s not forget about remote workers too. Thanks to sophisticated technology, online meetings with teams and colleagues in different locations are possible but there are still challenges with time zones, connectivity and coordinating projects. This is where time spent can get lost or misused.

Are you doing everything you can to ensure your online meetings are productive and a good use of time?

If you’re looking to:

  • Find simpler ways to coordinate with colleagues and remote workers
  • Stay connected regardless of time or distance
  • Reinvigorate interactions
  • Push for more participation and effectiveness

Then here are a few ideas to liven up meetings to make them more interactive and effective:

First, ask yourself: Is this meeting imperative? Do you really need to hold this meeting?

In order for participants to interact and collaborate, voices, opinions, findings and the sharing of information has to be heard. In the instance of an online meeting, a dialogue is preferred over a monologue.

person on laptop using project management tool and holding a mobile deviceIf there is an announcement or information that doesn’t require participants to add on or work from and only listen, consider how your message might be better suited in an email. For meetings that are interactive and engaging, asking participants to listen only might cause them to lose or feign interest.

Once the content and purpose of an online meeting has been established as “necessary,” here’s what to do next:

12. Manage Expectations
Cultivate the right mindset amongst colleagues by letting them know in advance that their participation is required. In the agenda sent out before the online meeting, present a simple layout of what everyone can expect.

Showcase the problem and let participants know that their ideas and input is requested. This provides them the time to think and problem solve, while also setting some ground rules.

Plus, let them know some basic expected etiquette, like:

  • Hit “mute” when you’re not speaking
  • Refrain from eating or drinking
  • Put phones away and other distractions on pause

11. Check-in With Colleagues
In light of a recent pandemic with millions of people working from home as a result, remote work can feel isolating. By simply planning a meeting on a Monday and starting with the simple question, “What did you do this weekend?” you can elicit participation and encourage colleagues to open up.

Better yet, depending on the size of your meeting, use this intro time to get everyone to reach out and thank a colleague for something they did. Big or small, by showing appreciation with a simple name call and task shout-out, gratitude works to make everyone feel more connected. This is a small but mighty way to encourage social bonding on a virtual platform.

Does your team comprise many remote workers? Instill more of a sense of social bonding by injecting a little fun to help break the ice and make people feel less lonely with social distancing or working from home:

  • Spice Up Introductions:

Online meeting room full of strangers? Invite participants to introduce themselves and a quirky bit of information:

    • Their favorite karaoke song
    • Their signature home cooked dish
    • The best concert they ever went to

Online meeting room with the same colleagues? Invite familiar faces to:

    • Briefly discuss a good movie they recently saw
    • Share how their pet is doing
    • Open up about a hobby or personal project they’ve taken on
  • Use Your Brain:
    Team building exercises shouldn’t fall to the wayside just because team members are more dispersed. Provide the criteria ahead of time so participants can show up ready. Try a short online rendition of Charades, or Balderdash for a more interesting way to open the meeting.
  • Play A Guessing Game:
    Another way to get people more engaged is to ask each participant to play a simple version of ISpy by describing an item in their remote work area.

10. Create Your Meeting Agenda Ahead Of Time
If your meeting agenda is clear and articulated, you can expect the same ROI with your online meeting! With no plan or forethought, a vague, misinformed sync will lead to confusion and waste time.

Prepare a structured agenda that outlines key issues, and mention what’s required and expected from participants. Send out at least a day in advance and don’t forget to use your invitations and reminders setting to quickly disseminate info.

9. Get Your Technology Ready
As wonderful as technology is, there are still occasions that it can go a little wonky. Feel confident everything is running smoothly by testing your tech, and checking that all devices are charged up. Get to know where your electrical outlets are and have your chargers close by. Test your camera, microphone, internet connection and consider anything else you might need:

  • Is your lighting too bright or too dim?
  • Are you surrounded by a lot of clutter?
  • Are you in a high-traffic area where people are coming and going?
  • When was the last time you shut off/reset your device?

Consider including these points in the pre-meeting agenda email so everyone is in the know.

8. Breathe Life Into Your Delivery
Sure you can run through your online meeting effectively by riddling off key items but you can also add some pizzazz to keep people intrigued:

  • Invite Movement
    We all know how easy it is to get invested into work. Getting up from your desk is a great idea but can get forgotten when you’re in the throes of putting out a fire or writing a long email. At some point in your online meeting, shake it up a bit by getting participants to move their blood. Simple movements like stretching your arms above your head or standing up and sitting down a few times or doing a few desk stretches can increase oxygen to the brain and work to break through feelings of tiredness and lethargy.
  • Add Visuals
    Encourage interaction and get your content across to your audience by
    using bright colors, videos, photos and snappy call outs. Make your content digestible and unforgettable with a simple to understand presentation that is appealing with the use of visuals and perhaps a well-placed, appropriate meme!
  • Get Feedback In Real-Time
    See how people are absorbing your content by conducting an on-the-spot poll. Not only are these fun, they actually interrupt the program and provide you with real-time info that comes in handy. It serves an instant decision-making tool, keeps engagement high and helps structure out next steps.

7. Delegate Tasks
When people are responsible for contributing something to the online meeting such as moderating, running an ice-breaker activity or taking notes, the more engaged each person will be. Plus, this helps to keep meetings small. Keep roles obvious by including only those who need to be there like a decision-maker, adviser, the intern, etc.

  • Selecting A Moderator
    A moderator ensures the meeting doesn’t get derailed. His/her job is to maintain an eye on the technology, lead with authority, give speaking permission to those who need it, be responsible for recording, and watch that the audio and video quality is taken care of.

6. Stick To The Time Frame
When you’re aware of the limited time you have, productivity tends to get fired up. Working with a time-cap “frames” the meeting and gives it focus. Assign a specific amount of time for each key point with a 10 minute buffer. That way everyone can end on time or just ahead of time!

5. Remove Distractions
Woman sitting at desk with working on open laptopIt’s easy (and highly common) to want to check your email or take a glance at your phone while in an online meeting. Stick to the timing and avoid the temptation by removing distractions from the beginning: shut down the tabs on your laptop, put your phone on silent (or airplane mode!), close the window to shut out background noise (or use headphones) and save the snacking for after!

(alt-tag: Woman sitting at desk with working on open laptop sitting near window early in the morning)

4. Promote Collaboration
Use an online meeting to generate ideas from participants. Set aside some time to take on the characteristics of a think tank or brainstorming session. Allow people to come up with their own ideas or piggyback off the ideas of others; Try a feature like the online whiteboard to get creative juices flowing.

3. Incorporate Games
Through gamification, you can expect the levels of interactivity in your online meeting to shoot through the roof! Include a small ask at the beginning and get participants to follow through. These can be incentivized too – extended lunch, company swag, early leave, etc. For example:

  • Select an image or character to embed throughout the slides and get participants to answer how many times it was seen throughout the presentation.
  • Throw in a simple quiz at the end to test participants’ understanding of the content.
  • Collect quotes from colleagues and get them to guess who said what.

2. End With Well-Articulated Action Items
The point of an online meeting is to gather participants and come together to make progress towards the next step. This can only be done with clear action items. When everyone is aware of what they have to do only then can things get done. Before the meeting is over, check that participants are clear about their role. Spend a few moments going over what was discussed and assigning the person for the job.

1. Share The Summary
A lot can transpire in an online meeting. Plenty of ideas, suggestions and opinions get thrown around, which is why well summarized notes are effective in maintaining the integrity of the sync.

Choose video conferencing software that comes with a recording feature and or AI capabilities to capture everything that went down. Taking notes manually is always a good idea, but when you have technology working in the background for you, you can perform during the meeting knowing the rest is taken care of.

Here are a few more tricks to make your next online meeting shine:

  • Emblazon Your Brand Across All Touchpoints Of Your Meeting
    Pitching to prospects? Record your own message that introduces your company name, slogan and important announcements while participants show up to the customizable online meeting room. Make a great first impression that’s polished and professional with your logo and brand colors across the user interface.
  • Use AI To Do The Legwork
    In an online meeting, you’re doing the forward-facing work. Choose a video conferencing solution that works in the background to provide transcriptions, speaker tags and date stamps for easy searching later.
  • Hit Screen Share To “Show” Instead of “Tell”
    With the screen sharing option, navigating hard-to-explain demonstrations and product features during an online meeting just got easier. Everyone can grasp what you’re saying when they’re able to see it before their eyes. Bring participants onto the same page when every course of action can be shown in real-time.

Let Callbridge invigorate your online meetings. With sophisticated technology, customizable features and an intuitively designed user interface, your meetings just got more interesting and productive.