20 tips for your successful online meeting
Video calls are the working method of the hour. Some of us are stuck in Zoom or Skype meetings for hours or they even have our very own bigbluebutton-room. In addition to technical problems, an overloaded network, blurry cameras and distorted sound, there are also numerous other complex and challenging situations. This article is now about the basics, because if they are not right, then even the most sophisticated communication strategies make little sense.
Tips for moderators:
- Outsource technology: Take time to review the technology before the meeting and offer team members who are still unsure about it to review it together. This will help your team to overcome their fears and you’re your colleagues that you take their concerns and problems seriously.
- Time management: Set a time frame of 60 to 90 minutes maximum for your virtual team meeting. In virtual spaces, attention spans are significantly shorter. Working remotely changes our concentration.
- Extra tip: For once, don’t let the meeting start on the hour or half hour. Your employees will arrive on time and be more relaxed, since there is no direct follow-up appointment.
- Plan in more detail: For your digital meeting you need good preparation, more than for real meetings. It is more difficult to react and make spontaneous changes when working remotely. Therefore, think as precisely as possible about the process you want, the documents you need and the visualization options you want to use.
- Moderate the desired output: In order to be able to keep to your precise schedule, create an overview at the beginning of the meeting by defining the desired output, i.e. the goal for this meeting. What do you want to accomplish today? What are your expectations and what are not? Should a problem-solving proposal be developed? Do you want to go trough a checklist or do you want a specific course of action to be decided upon? Define it. In this way, you can prevent participants from getting lost in thought loops and instead keep them focused on the topic at hand.
- Ensure interaction: Keep participants alert by incorporating active times early on. Use the chat function, let them vote, alternate lecture times with breakout sessions (i.e. discussion rounds in small groups) and reaction rounds. Your team members will thank you with greater attention and stamina.
- Use visualization: Don’t just read out the schedule, let your colleagues read along. Use the screen-sharing feature to do this. Record the results of the meeting and share them with your team in a timely manner.
- Encourage personal exchange and create interpersonal closeness: Don’t underestimate how important a sense of closeness and mutual exchange is to productive collaboration. Take time at the beginning of the meeting to create a working atmosphere through a personal check-in, giving everyone time to arrive. Try to find a compensation for the small personal conversations that are so important for working together. For example, how about a joint digital coffee break after the meeting or a meeting in the virtual lunchroom (where everyone brings their own food, of course) at fixed times?
Tips for participants:
- Prepare topics: During your workday, take notes on what you want to address in the meeting and consider whether it’s necessary to address these topics as a team or whether you can better address them individually.
- Also have pen and paper ready to take notes during the meeting.
- Check your surroundings and only turn on the camera for others when you are truly ready.
- Make sure your connection is stable. Of course, you can’t control if your internet goes down occasionally, but there are some things you can do in advance. For example, no one in your household should be streaming anything while you’re in a meeting. Some people even get two personal internet accesses for this purpose, but this is not really necessary. In some cases, it can help to connect your computer or laptop directly to the rooter via cable, should your WLAN connection not be stable.
- During the meeting, make sure your microphone is off when you are not saying anything. When speaking, make sure that the microphone does not pick up sounds of your clothing, as this can be very irritating. This also applies to the rustling of documents that may inadvertently be in front of or near the microphone.
- When you use screen sharing, be careful before you inadvertently share private things with your colleagues.
- Address participants personally. In online meetings, we can not use body language to make clear who we’re talking to, which can result in either no one talking or several people talking at once. Therefore, it is best to address colleagues by name.
- Assign one person as the minute taker who will write a summary of the important findings and steps after the meeting and send it to everyone. This could be linked to the question of how the employees liked the meeting and what could be done better next time.
Tips for a successful appearance during your online meeting
- Even if the latest vacation photo as a background is a nice technical gimmick and a change, you should rather avoid this kind of self-staging in professional contexts, because it distracts from the content of the meeting and you as a person. Likewise, blur effects or neutral, played-in backgrounds that “fray” the person are not recommended.
- For a successful background it is recommended to use a neutral background (e.g. a white wall), with small personal details to make it more interesting e.g. a picture or part of a bookshelf.
- Video conferencing at eye level: most cameras on laptops or desktop PCs are located too low to make the face look beneficial and to be able to comfortably maintain eye contact in the long term. For professional use, it’s a good idea to buy an external mini-camera, but books or cooking pots can also be used to raise the camera to a good height (slightly above eye level).
- If possible, sit directly in front of a window for ideal daylight lighting conditions, or use a floor lamp with dimmed lights that illuminate you directly from the front so that one half of your face is not in shadow.
- Use a headset for better sound quality when hosting a meeting, but also try switching to the sound of your external speaker in between if you just need to listen. If the sound goes directly into your ear, it can be more likely to cause fatigue in the long run, especially if the sound quality of the meeting is not good.
Are you actually tired of online meetings and much more interested in how you can use the new year to develop yourself as a leader? How about an article about being more confident as a leader?
Sophie Grußendorf, Coach bei dynaMIND