Because of the nature of online meetings it can be very easy for the meeting to loose focus and turn into a waste of time. Online meetings save time and expense; however there is some skill to holding an effective online meeting. The following tips can help you to make sure your next online meeting accomplishes everything you expect from the time you invest both in preparation for and conducting the meeting.
Take the time to prepare an agenda of how the meeting is going to progress. Most importantly, have this agenda prepared well in advance of the meeting so it can be distributed to participants at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled start time. Getting the agenda in your participant’s hands early allows them to prepare for their part in the meeting. Distribute the agenda electronically for faster delivery and distribute the agenda individually so that you can make personal assignments in advance of the meeting when appropriate.
Take your copy of the agenda and document how you want the meeting to flow. Stay focused on accomplishing the necessary tasks, extemporaneous discussions can be conducted at the end of the meeting if participants have time. Be sure to document on your copy of the meeting agenda where you expect to involve each participant. If you gave an assignment, schedule in when you want that persons input or report. Call out meeting attendees to keep them involved in points applicable to their responsibilities. Keep the meeting moving in time with the laid out schedule.
Your online meeting software should have the ability to document discussion points on-screen for each participant to see. These input steps along the path of the meeting keep participants involved and they see the progress being made in specific detail. These documented decision points can be used as the basis for meeting minutes at the conclusion of the session. If you are too busy conducting the meeting to produce this documentation, then assign the task to a person who will be attending; just make sure they understand your expectations for sufficient detail.
It is not enough to just make a list of assignments given out during the meeting; set deadlines for productivity steps. Make sure meeting participants not only know what is expected of them, but when it is expected. Your online meeting software should have a means of documenting a timeline relative to the project or program you are meeting about.
Meetings should have an end time as well as a start time. Plan your agenda accordingly so that you can end your online meeting at the appointed time. Meeting participants have their own schedules and responsibilities; running a meeting well past the time you said it would end is a sure way to loose your audience.
Well run online meetings are not much different that a well run face to face group sessions. But, it is easier to loose the attention of online participants if you don’t prepare for the meeting properly.