We live in a new world. COVID-19 has forced businesses who would have never dreamed of operating remotely to work entirely online in growing their business, and building marketing plans. Of course, the need for collaborating doesn't go away just because the workforce is remote now. That, in turn, has introduced challenges about how to make sure that any meeting you run is still efficient and effective despite the spatial challenges.
The good news: you're not alone. Millions of other businesses around the world are making this shift and thousands of companies are already experienced in the process. At Pixel Fish, we focus on building great websites and improving the online presence of our clients. As such, being able to work remotely and run successful meetings online has long been crucial in our process and way of working.
Now, as many of our clients are taking the same steps out of necessity, we want to share that expertise with me. These are our top 10 tips for conducting an effective online meeting, applicable no matter your industry or size of business. Implement these, and you'll be surprised just how productive your remote meetings can be.
Top 10 Tips for Conducting an Effective Online Video Meeting
- Pick the Right Platform
- Limit Your Participants
- Ensure Consistent Technology
- Set up a Reliable Internet Connection
- Set the Dress Code for the Team
- Establish Some Ground Rules on the Call
- Minimise Distractions
- Keep Meeting Times Short
- Stick to the Meeting Agenda
- Follow Up with To-Dos and Next Steps
1. Pick the Right Platform
Before you even start the first meeting, you have to get the right platform. There are countless options available, and many of them are having a field day vying for attention among the many businesses suddenly finding themselves in need of videoconferencing software.
Zoom is the giant that everyone seems to use, but it's far from your only option. It's free for meetings of 40 minutes or less and limited participants but gets expensive quickly after that. It pays to browse the top videoconferencing platforms available today:
- RingCentral Meeting
- Intermedia AnyMeeting
- Zoho Meeting
- Microsoft Teams
- Cisco Webex Meetings
- BlueJeans Meetings
In addition, Microsoft Office 365 business license users can use Skype for Business free, while the same is true with Google Hangouts for G Suite by Google subscribers.
There is no single 'best' solution. Check out the pros and cons, and weigh them against your own business situation. Then, make a choice that benefits your specific business and environment.
2. Limit Your Participants
Seemingly every in-person meeting seems to have just a few too many people in it. These are supervisors or related jobs, professionals who don't end up talking or contributing much.
In a video meeting, that type of setup can be a killer. It prevents the meeting from being productive or effective, as it's easy to lose oversight or organisation almost immediately. Especially if the meeting leverages screen sharing, you never know who's talking, who's available, and who needs to do what.
Instead, limit your participants to only those necessary in the meeting. One of your takeaway tasks (more on those later) can simply be looping everyone in who needs to be. Generally speaking, meetings with six people or less will always be more successful online.
3. Ensure Consistent Technology
Does everyone in the meeting have the technology necessary to participate to their fullest power? At the minimum, that means a webcam to actually enable video as well as a reliable microphone to ensure clarity on the sound. Headphones with an integrated microphone don't hurt.
Too often, when businesses first start to hold online meetings, novices call in while also trying to connect their webcam. Leave the sound on both, and the feedback will be deafening to most in the meeting. A simple setup, ideally identical for everyone within your organisation, can prevent quite a few headaches and technology issues.
4. Set up a Reliable Internet Connection
The next piece is also related to technology but in an entirely different way. Unreliable internet connections by any participant can kill the flow of an online meeting. Especially if you limit your participants, and everyone on the call is important, someone continually dropping requires continuous re-counting, repeating, and re-focusing by all participants.
It doesn't have to be that way. We can't completely control our internet connections, but a few tips can help you increase its reliability:
- Hardwire in. An ethernet connection is always more reliable than a WiFi connection.
- Try to limit your bandwidth. Reduce the number of tabs on your browser and turn off any apps (like Dropbox or OneDrive) that require continuous data downloads.
- Disconnect other devices. If you're truly worried or if it's a crucial meeting, turn off any connected devices that might draw data - from your connected TV to your child's PlayStation.
5. Set the Dress Code for the Team
Working from home means dressing a little more casually. But it also means an exceptionally more difficult time trying to read your co-worker and determine the exact dress code for any videoconferencing call.
That uncertainty leads to inconsistencies but, more importantly, it can introduce unpleasant dynamics among your team. Someone who feels either over or underdressed will not be as productive, and might even introduce some unforeseen trauma.
To alleviate that problem, here's a simple solution: set the dress code for the meeting. Let everyone know ahead of time what your expectations (or lack thereof) are for the meeting itself. That way, everyone knows exactly what's coming, and can prepare accordingly.
6. Establish Some Ground Rules on the Call
The dress code, of course, is only the beginning. These ground rules tend to help your calls stay on task, with everyone's input and comfort level at its max:
- Mandate video calling (or the lack thereof). Too often, business calls end up with half the attendees' webcams on, and the others' off. That automatically introduces a power and visual imbalance that can hurt productivity. Set a rule for everyone to either enable or disable video consistently.
- Introduce the mute button. As a general rule, everyone who isn't talking should mute themselves. That allows you to ensure the double-talk from multiple attendees, which automatically becomes impossible to understand. Some solutions, like Zoom, have a hand-raising feature that can really come in handy.
- Make sure everyone gets to talk. Introverts will not speak up in the average call unless they're called upon. Especially when you solicit opinions, call on them specifically to get their thoughts and make sure their input can bring the meeting forward.
7. Minimise Distractions
Wherever you can, try to make sure you can focus on the meeting. When you're meeting in person, you automatically know where to pay attention. It's different when all you have is a small screen.
Close your email client to avoid those constant notifications. Turn off the TV. Put your phone at a spot that's difficult to reach. Escape to a room where your family and/or kids can't easily distract you. Take as many steps as you need to make sure that your focus remains on the call.
8. Keep Meeting Times Short
When we schedule meetings, we tend to default to hour-long timeslots. It makes calendars easier to manage and just makes sense given all the small talk that usually occurs at the beginnings and ends of a meeting.
When you meet digitally, however, that hour will start to seem a lot longer. It introduces filler content, while small talk becomes that much more difficult.
To avoid these situations, try to keep your meeting times as short as possible. A productive 15-minute meeting is much more beneficial for everyone involved than a 60-minute meeting that just seems to drag on.
9. Stick to the Meeting Agenda
Building a meeting agenda is important regardless of where you're meeting. But when you're meeting online, especially when video calling is involved, it becomes a crucial lifeline.
Virtual meetings only work when they remain focused on a singular point. That's best accomplished through an agenda that walks in detail through each step needed to make the meeting successful. When you're done with the agenda, it's time to hang up and get back to work (or the next meeting).
Ideally, you should prepare the agenda at least 30 minutes in advance of the meeting and send it along to all attendees. If that's no possible, use screen sharing to show it to your participants. That way, they have something tangible to follow and keep their focus.
10. Follow Up with To-Dos and Next Steps
Finally, especially in digital contexts, it's crucial to follow up on the meeting with assurances that it actually led to something. The host of the meeting should send out a summary afterward, which includes not just the points covered but also important follow-ups and the next steps for everyone involved.
That accomplishes a few things. First, it effectively replaces the 'hallway conversation' where most productivity and collaboration tend to happen. Second, it makes sure that even those who were distracted for any reason can follow up on their tasks. Finally, it ensures that everyone feels the meeting was productive and goes into the next meeting aiming for the same goal.
Ready to Test it Out? How About an Online Video Meeting with Pixel Fish!
Of course, all of the above tips take time and practice. The first few meetings you run will not be 100% effective, and that's OK. One way to learn is to hold meetings with companies and businesses who are experienced in this format and follow their style and guidelines.
That's where we come in. Even as your company adjusts to remote life, your website remains a core focus regardless of your industry. So why not join an online meeting with the website experts? Contact us to get on our schedule today.
Keen to read more of our blogs on Videos? Here are a few.
10 Common Website Video Mistakes To Avoid
Top 10 Ways for Using Video on Your Website
How to create a great promotional video for your business website