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Online Meetings: 4 Steps to Plan for Success from Start to Finish

on February 28, 2017

In the workplace, while meetings are a necessary evil, most people loathe the very thought of yet another meeting—that’s because they’re doing them wrong. In today’s workplace, with remote workers on the rise and collaboration of utmost importance, online meetings are increasingly popular, but in far too many instances people dread online meetings almost as much as they do in person meetings.

Don’t despair! If you put a plan in place, chances are good online meetings can be your new BFF. Here are 4 steps you can follow to plan for success of your online meetings from start to finish, and ensure better business communications overall.

Prepare Beforehand

Before scheduling a meeting, always ask yourself whether it’s necessary. What purpose does it serve? Is it a meeting for the sake of just another meeting, or are there real things that need to be accomplished as a result? If it’s a pertinent and time-sensitive issue, schedule the meeting, but make sure to only invite those who need to be there.

Once you’ve gotten that far, here are steps you can take to avoid wasting time during a meeting:

  • Set an agenda. Set goals for the meeting, prepare an agenda that articulates those goals, and stick to your talking points. The idea is to get everyone in and out of the room as quickly as possible, while covering all the necessary ground. Keeping it short is the key to success on this front.
  • Share the agenda. Sharing the agenda beforehand allows participants to come to the meeting fully prepared and able to participate in a productive fashion.

Set up and test equipment. There’s nothing more irritating, or more of a time-waster than when equipment doesn’t function properly and everyone has shown up online and is waiting for the meeting to start. Ensure that doesn’t happen by setting up and testing all AV equipment in advance of the meeting.

Conduct an Efficient Meeting

 To ensure that you will indeed have a productive meeting, make sure it starts and ends on time. A meeting’s length can affect its productivity—long drawn-out affairs waste time and your participants’ attention. Thirty minutes is often all you need to run through your checklist and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Getting a large group of people to stay on task and focused enough to keep your meeting under 30 minutes can seem like a tall order. These tips will help you:

  • Choose a designated facilitator. Autonomous collectives are nice but wasteful when it’s just a room full of people talking over one another. Assign one person to hold the floor and guide the meeting in an orderly fashion.
  • Stick to your plan. Follow the agenda you emailed before the meeting to make sure you hit all talking points to make the meeting productive.
  • Involve everyone. Make sure everyone is included in the conversation and that participants aren’t distracted by other work during the meeting. If the meeting’s purpose is to check-in on project status, everyone should get a turn to weigh in. This is where video conferencing as part of your meeting protocol is especially valuable. When you’re all collaborating on video there’s a certain amount of accountability involved and it adds a dimension of connection that’s not possible when just connecting by standard conference call.
  • Plan follow-up. At the end of the meeting, plan for when and how team members will follow up and stick to it.

Record for Posterity

Recording the content of your online meetings is like an insurance policy. It’s not uncommon that not all invitees can attend every meeting. When you make it SOP to record your meetings, it makes it easy for folks who weren’t able to attend to access the meeting after the fact. It also makes it easy for your team who were able to participate to go back and refer to certain talking points or takeaways as needed.

Create Timely Follow-Up

After the meeting, take steps to ensure participants are following through what was decided in the meeting. Send a written recap of the meeting via email as quickly following the meeting as possible. This establishes accountability for each participant. Next, follow up according to your plan. This will help ensure that your meeting time was effective and that your goals are accomplished. 

There you have it. A four-point checklist that can take your online meetings from dread-worthy to incredibly productive. And all it takes is a little bit of planning for success, from start to finish. You’ve got this!

Photo Credit: bruno.mediak Flickr via Compfight cc