• Gerard Horgan/GH

10 Tips for A Successful Online Meeting

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Given the extraordinary circumstances we are living through, many of us are now working from home and increasingly, participating in online meetings with one or more colleagues. Clearly fine tuning this process will occur over the coming weeks to make these meetings more efficient. One of the most important points from the outset is talking and listening should be done in almost equal measure. Éist le do thoil.

1. If colleagues have specific queries leading into a meeting they can always email them to the Chair & have them dealt with under Chair's business. This should save time and prevent the meeting from going off message.

2. Online meetings require a strong Chair to ensure participants stay on message and do not go off on tangential and lengthy discussions, which risks losing other colleagues. The effective chairing of online meetings is critical to there success! This is all the more important because technology can be fickle especially given the huge volume of people now working online.

3. Related to the above point is the need for the agenda to be adhered to as closely as possible while also allowing some space for commentary from colleagues. Clearly the right balance has to be struck and that will come with time and practice. Significant items that arise in an online meeting and are not on the agenda are either a) touched on briefly b) parked for an off-line discussion or c) raised as an agenda item at the next online meeting.

4. Staff contributions should be kept as succinct as possible and to assist this it would be beneficial for participants to jot down some notes beforehand so they have a clear sense of what it is they wish to get across in the limited time available.

5. Set clear time limits for the online meeting which the Chair should ultimately be guided by when it comes to moderating colleagues contributions. Again practice makes perfect and most colleagues will understand the time pressures involved.

6. In the interests of inclusion, it is wise to spread discussion among as many colleagues as possible. This could mean moving from more vocal personalities to colleagues who are reticient or even shy when it comes to making contributions within a group setting. It is human nature for stronger personalities to emerge in such settings so again the Chair's role will be critical here when it comes to giving colleagues the opportunity to contribute.

7. Sometimes in our desire to get something across we can come in too quickly, interrupt or cut across a colleague. Good meeting etiquette demands that colleagues wait for a contributor to finish their point. It is not good to jump in, speak over or down, cut across or interrupt a colleague's contribution. Such practices tend also to indicate that you haven't been listening as well as you should have been and that your mind is too busy formulating a point you wish to make. So hold those horses! Out of respect to colleagues, let their points be made, pause for a second or two after they have concluded (always a good thing to do with online systems) and then come in. It is also wise for the Chair to be taking notes while comments are being made as that simple practice illustrates to colleagues that you are genuinely listening and taking what they have to say seriously.

8. Online meetings, like meetings generally, tend to be called for a specific purpose or to get through a number of agenda items. Do not overuse them for fear of creating meeting fatigue! The most effective meetings in my opinion are those that strike the balance between seriousness and a little bit of levity. More relaxed meetings tend to achieve more, but they can't be so relaxed that they become unmanageable. If a slightly relaxed atmosphere can be created, it is possible better ideas and solutions to challenges may be forthcoming from colleagues.

9. As the end of an online meeting approaches, it is a professional touch for the Chair, under Any Other Business (AOB), to ask if colleagues have any final points they would like to make and also to thank them for their participation.

10. Once your online meeting has concluded, make sure a summary of all the meeting notes is sent to the participants. List the action points identified for each agenda item along with the name of the person responsible for its delivery so that everyone knows what is expected of them.

Conducting online meetings can be difficult to manage. But if all participants prepare in advance, test the technology by logging on 10-15 minutes before the meeting start-time and the Chair ensures that meetings are well structured, moderated and well-communicated, then online meetings can become an extremely effective means of achieving work goals and building team solidarity.

As ever welcome comments/feedback below and feel free to subscribe for future posts!

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