Online meetings. Love them or hate them or somewhere in between, they’re here to stay.
Here’s an easy peasy checklist to make sure your online meetings are as good as they can be and, even better, one of the first steps to ensuring you have interactive online meetings.
This is part of a new monthly series for how to make your online meetings more interactive.
Pro tip: these tips also apply if you’re doing a webinar or workshop.
I’ve divided them into categories to make it even easier for you. And I made you a downloadable checklist which you can access here.
Same as IRL / Old School
Let’s ease in shall we? These are a few tips that apply equally to if you were having a meeting in person or in real life, that also apply to online meetings.
- Pen and paper
- Whether it’s truly a real pen and paper or a digital equivalent (e.g. a tool like Workflowy), make sure you have something at hand to take notes, and record reminders, and action items.
- Make sure you have any specific meeting-related supplies you need within easy reach. For example, for me, that might include books I want to show and share.
- Your agenda
- Every meeting (and every workshop) needs an agenda and one that includes timing (e.g. how much time you estimate each section will take).
- Alexandra Samuel, author of Remote Inc., says, “An effective online meeting is like a good three-course meal: it includes an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert.”
I know it may strike you as a weird sub-category, but let’s face it, some meetings/workshops are recorded, so your appearance will be out there for all to see. And even if it’s not recorded, it’s still important to look professional.
- Always make sure you have a mirror handy to do a quick check to make sure no bits and bobs are hanging out in places on your face that they shouldn’t be.
- This is especially important for meetings/workshops that take place right after you’ve eaten something. You’d hate to get to the end of a meeting only to realize you had a big chunk of spinach stuck on your front tooth!
- Similarly, ensure you have some kleenex at the ready in case you have to sneeze etc. The day you don’t will be the day you need it!
- I have a few containers of peppermint, lavender, and grapefruit essential oils in my office desk drawer. They’re a quick and easy pick me up if I have a poor night’s sleep, for example. Keep ones near you that you enjoy and work for you.
- Oh, the benefits of water, how do I count thee? Always, always, always have a water bottle nearby.
- Taking a sip of water does three things: 1) it helps avoid dry mouth, which can produce that terrible sounding sticky mouth, 2) swallowing relaxes your vocal cords which helps prevent nervous-public-speaker-quavery-voice, and 3) it gives you a little break to stop and think.
- You don’t need to be a master movie director to hold an online meeting, but you do need to pay attention to lighting.
- Make sure the light is hitting you in a way that illuminates your face and is natural looking. Light sources from above and the side help with this.
9. Computer height
- Pay attention to the height of your computer, so you’re not looking up or down but rather straightforward at the camera. If this means putting your computer on a bunch of books, so be it.
There’s nothing worse than feeling left out and excluded in an online meeting or workshop. Here are two simple ways you can make people feel welcome and included.
10. Participant names
- Have a list of participant’s names handy, so you can call them by name.
- If the group includes names you’re not familiar with, encourage people at the top of the call to direct message you with the correct phonetic pronunciation so you can be sure and get them right.
11. Know your platform.
- When someone joins a Zoom call, for example, there is a few second delay between when it shows me, as the host, that someone is joining, and when their audio starts working. You can set your system to make a dinging noise (for your ears only) when someone joins.
- Then use that sound as a signal to welcome the new person/people by name(s).
- Sort out ahead of time how many screens you’ll need to host your workshop or meeting. Here are some examples:
- One screen + paper: have your agenda printed and your PowerPoint on one screen
- One screen: use the ‘partial screen share’ option in Zoom (which is MS Team’s default) and have your agenda and any other media on the same screen but not shown to participants (e.g. only you can see it).
- Two screens: have your agenda on one screen and your PowerPoint on another
- Have a timer handy, so you can easily see where you’re at all times in your planned agenda.
- Setting a timer is really helpful with breakout rooms as well, so you don’t inadvertently leave people in groups longer than you said you would.
14. Resource links
- There’s nothing more frustrating than a participant asking for a link that you then have to spend 10 minutes digging for.
- Instead, depending on how many screens you’re using (see point 12 above), either have a digital note with all your resources’ hyperlinks handy or, if you’re sharing a partial screen, copy the relevant links into your slide notes so you can quickly grab them and copy them into the chat.
- Videos suck bandwidth like no tomorrow, so make sure to check the boxes ‘optimize sound’ and ‘optimize video’ when you’re sharing on Zoom (note you have to check this before you share the video).
- And ideally, download the video and share it from your desktop rather than the cloud, as it will usually play better.
- Have you ever meant to record a meeting or workshop and forgot? Or paused the recording only to forget to restart it?
- I always have a big ol’ cardboard RECORD sign in front of me anytime I pause the recording, so I don’t forget to start or restart it. Low tech/no tech, but it works!
17. Say no to collars and earrings
- If you’re using headphones, be sure to not wear dangly earrings or a shirt with any kind of a collar, as they can easily hit the mic and make annoying and distracting noises.
- Be aware of what your participants can see in your background and make it as pleasing as possible.
- This applies to your physical background as well as your computer screen in case you plan to share your entire screen.
There you have 18 simple and straightforward tips for better online meetings, including things related to old school/IRL, personal appearance, access/inclusion, and tech. They go a long way to forming the foundation for an effective meeting or workshop, one that you can then make nice and interactive.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Speaking of interactive and effective online meetings, check out Five simple ways to make your Zoom online meetings more interactive
- Sometimes we go into online meetings with huge reluctance, like this German shepherd who doesn’t want a bath. But if you practice the tips, you’ll soon be swimming up a storm of great meetings.
- Download the handy checklist and use it for your next meeting or workshop.