Meetings can be informative or incredibly boring, as we all know. We’ve all been to those meetings where falling asleep is merely a closed eyelid away; and when the content is disorganized as well, it only serves to further the want to close our eyes and dream of being somewhere else. Organized meetings have a greater chance of keeping everyone engaged (and awake) and will reach their goals much more often than those that are unorganized. Here’s how to run a successful online meeting.
Always Have an Agenda
First and foremost, typed, organized agenda is the most important component of any meeting; whether you’re meeting online or in a conference room. Without an agenda, things tend to go a little haywire; side conversations develop, the topic becomes lost in translation, and suddenly the meeting is about who did better in last night’s football game rather than what sales projections are looking like for next quarter.
An agenda can be as simple as a list typed up in a word document, or as complex as a fully-organized spreadsheet of topics, time limits, speakers, and more. At the least, your agenda should include a guest list, the goal of the meeting, time slots for each subject, time and date of the meeting, and how long the meeting will be.
It’s a good idea to email your agenda to the meeting’s participants at least a few days before the meeting, so they’ve got plenty of time to review the content and provide extra information you might have missed. Don’t underestimate the power of a good agenda to make your meetings more streamlined and effective.
Refine Your Guest List
The guest list is something a lot of meetings tend to skimp on. Taking a closer look at who needs to be in attendance vs. who you think needs to be in attendance will ensure that only the right people show up; which can mean the difference between a derailed meeting and one that stays on track.
The wrong person at a meeting can serve as a distraction for everyone. If your meeting is about finance, you probably don’t need Jim from IT in attendance. Without experience or relevant input to the material being presented, the wrong person may bring up completely different topics or information that’s not only out of place, but derailing to the entire purpose of the meeting.
Be sure that whoever is on your guest list actually needs to be there. Go over your guest list and your topics at least two or three times, and ask yourself whether or not everyone in attendance is associated with or has experience with your discussion points. If they don’t, they probably don’t need to attend.
Use the Right Platform
Online meetings require certain tools to help them run effectively; mainly, a dedicated meeting platform for secure video or audio calls. Without the right tools at your disposal, you’ll find that not only is hosting the meeting a challenging task, but keeping it on track is nearly impossible.
Online meeting spaces are readily available, and conference calling services exist all over the web. You’ll usually have to pay for a monthly service, (which is good if you have frequent meetings) but if meetings are a rare occurrence for your team, you’ll want to try a free option instead.
Track Your Time
Using a time tracker to ensure your business stays on pace will make sure everyone stays awake and alert. Most people tend to disengage after about the first hour of a meeting, so if you can keep yours under this limit, you’ll be more effective in reaching your audience. This will also allow you to track employee hours so you’re paying your team for the time they spend in meetings.
This is probably the biggest reason to use a time tracker; your team isn’t at its post performing daily duties while in a meeting. This can take away from productivity, causing some loss for the day. Keeping your meetings short and sweet will help mitigate these losses and keep the day somewhat on track.
Be sure to set a strict time limit on not only the topics of discussion but also the meeting itself. If you tell the attendees the meeting will only take 45 minutes, and you end up sitting in the meeting for three hours, no one’s going to be happy about it.
Ask for Feedback After Each Meeting
One of the best ways to have better meetings is to ask everyone who attended for feedback on the time, structure, and presentation of the materials. Ask what the team liked about the presentation, what could have been different, and what they expect from future meetings.
You’ll be truly amazed at how much information you can gather from a simple feedback email or survey. You can also opt to record your online meetings to get a better idea of how they flow and what the material sounds like when it’s being presented. Self-reflection is an excellent tool for any professional, as well as the ability to accept constructive criticism from peers.
Online meetings can benefit from careful planning in the form of an agenda and a refined guest list. Be sure to take the time to properly plan out future meetings for maximum effectiveness and to keep your attendees engaged throughout the duration of the meeting.