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6 min read

People have been conducting and attending online meetings for months now. Many of those meetings, however, were launched without a clear plan of action in mind. Do you want to host better online meetings that will help increase engagement? Try some of these critical best practices. 

Start with an agenda.

Before beginning your meeting, start by laying out what you plan to accomplish during the meeting. What is its purpose? What are the specific issues that you want to cover? You may want to go as far as creating a clear timeline for your meeting, or you may want to simply lay out the basic things that you want to cover.

Creating an agenda for your remote meeting accomplishes two key things. First, it lets people know what to expect when they attend the meeting–and can, in some cases, help some of your employees decide whether they want to attend. Second, it allows you to more easily keep the meeting on track and avoid unnecessary side trips that can take up too much time and energy. 

As you look at your agenda, you can also get a better idea of who needs to be present for the meeting and what information they need to have on hand for the meeting. Do you want employees to present? As you construct your meeting agenda, you can discuss those needs with them ahead of time, which can help set the entire meeting up for success. 

Respect attendees’ time.

Many meetings–both online and in-person–could, according to attendees, just as easily have been an email. Others seem to drag on forever, without much getting accomplished.

Remote attendees have the same demands on their time that they would if they were in the office. In some cases, they may even have more demands on their time: children who are also at home during the day, for example, or tasks at home that need to be taken care of. 

Respect attendees’ time when they sign in for meetings. Start on time. End on time. If the meeting starts to drag on or your conversation goes off on a tangent that does not require the input of every member of the team, consider allowing team members who aren’t currently engaged in the discussion to sign off. These simple steps can go a long way toward showing your employees that you respect them–and in increasing engagement when they do attend online meetings. 

Introduce the people present during the meeting.

During an in-person meeting, you would take the time to introduce unfamiliar people in the room. No, you don’t have to introduce the same team members who are present during every meeting, but if you have someone new joining the team, a client who is present in the meeting and doesn’t know all of your team members, or a higher-level executive observing and participating in the meeting, introduce them before the meeting starts. In large meetings, in particular, introducing everyone who has called in can go a long way toward ensuring that everyone is aware of who’s there, which can avoid accidental oversharing or informality that could offend.

Encourage attendees to mute when they aren’t speaking.

During a fast-paced, dynamic conversation, it’s fine to leave your microphones on so that everyone can hear what you have to say. On the other hand, if you’re in a meeting with multiple people trying to speak, it can quickly grow confusing–and background noise can quickly overpower the discussion you’re trying to have with your employees. When they aren’t speaking, encourage employees to mute their microphones. You’ll be able to more clearly hear the person who is speaking or presenting and have fewer distractions.

Create a clear policy regarding backgrounds and cameras.

Not everyone on your remote team has a suitable backdrop for an online meeting. As they have settled into the hybrid/remote work norm, many people have also stopped dressing up for the office. Nevertheless, seeing one another face-to-face, even if it’s over a video, can increase employees’ sense of connection to one another. Video chats can put a face to those names that you hear around the office regularly or help humanize employees, which may help improve overall work conditions. 

Decide what matters most to your organization, then set a policy that upholds those values. You may want to encourage employees to use a background and turn on their video when possible, or you might want to institute a policy that allows employees to connect with their video turned off or camera blocked for some meetings, but that encourages them to turn the camera on for others. Make sure your policy is clear well before the meeting so employees will know what is expected of them.

Eliminate or minimize distractions where possible.

If you were holding an important in-person meeting, you would take every step possible to minimize distractions. Attendees would arrive in a separate room, where they would be encouraged to engage directly in the conversation, rather than being distracted by other devices or other work tasks. During most in-person meetings, employees would not be doing other work at the same time.

Your remote online meetings should operate the same way: with as few distractions as possible.

Unfortunately, with remote work, it’s sometimes much more difficult to eliminate distractions entirely. Employees may have others moving in and out of the room they need to use for work, or they may have children demanding their attention during the workday. They may also try to take advantage of the opportunity to work on other tasks while still attending the meeting. While some distraction is normal, do your best to eliminate what distractions you can. As the meeting host, set your employees up for success by eliminating distractions in your own environment, which can put you in a better position to engage with your employees and keep the meeting on track.

Give multiple employees a chance to share.

Some online meetings are simply announcements: a chance to go over specific information with your employees and make sure they understand it. (Hint: those “meetings” can often go out as video announcements, rather than being actual meetings, which may allow employees to attend at a time that is more convenient for them.) 

Other online meetings, on the other hand, are designed to invite input from other members of your team. You don’t want to take over the entire meeting and keep the “stage”–and the microphone–throughout the entire thing. Instead, give other employees a chance to share. Ask for their opinions. Avoid putting them on the spot, if possible, but do give them a chance to ask questions, issue their opinions, or provide input into the issue or project at hand. 

Break your meeting down into segments, if needed.

Try to avoid holding a meeting that lasts for more than 30-45 minutes, since your attendees will rarely have the attention span and focus to keep their eyes on the screen for much longer than that. Remember that your virtual attendees may need to use the bathroom, grab something to eat, or just stand up and stretch for a few minutes. By breaking your meeting down into 30-minute segments with breaks in between, you can help everyone maintain focus and increase the odds that they will keep their attention on the meeting itself, rather than allowing it to drift to anything and everything else. 

Make sure that you have the right technology (and that you’ve tested it beforehand). 

You can determine the success or failure of your online meeting before it even begins with one simple test: the technology you’ve chosen. If you use a platform that doesn’t support the right number of users, that is clunky and hard to use, or that does not allow your employees to easily connect with one another–or if you have a platform that simply does not offer the features you need to connect your employees effectively–you may find yourself struggling throughout the meeting. On the other hand, if you choose the right platform–one that is effective, tested, and that has the features necessary to support your meeting plans–you’ll find that the meeting will typically go much more smoothly.

If you’ve never used the platform before, especially if you’ll be hosting the meeting, test it out ahead of time. You may want to invite other users in the office to connect with you while you work to figure out how the platform works, or you may want to test it out by working with customer support. Make sure you’re familiar with various aspects of the software, from how to start the meeting to how to mute your microphone quickly if needed. 

Hosting a remote meeting is a great way to bring your employees together no matter where they are. By following these best practices, you can set it up for success! Do you need an effective video conferencing platform that will help enhance your meetings? Contact Pronto today for a free demonstration.