Connecting and collaborating online in our brave new world

The upheaval of recent events has shone a spotlight on what works – and what really doesn’t – for most businesses when it comes to meetings.

Meetings are either the curse or cure for much of our working life. A great meeting moves things forward, addresses and resolves issues and can leave people energised and excited.

A bad meeting…well, we’ve all been involved in enough of these to know they represent many hours of life we won’t get back.

Effective meetings are an essential part of good communications, which is why at Clarity we’ve spent a lot of time training people and organisations in how to run their meetings better.

One silver lining of the recent working from home experience has been the realisation that we’re all better at working remotely than we thought. Modern technology means we can connect and share our thoughts, projects, achievements and frustrations just as easily via an online platform as in person.

The not so great? Online meetings can feel clunky, disorganised, time wasting, intrusive and socially difficult. At best a bad Zoom call or cringey Teams catch up makes for a funny meme; at worst, they’re a waste of time, counterproductive and leave you with a poor impression of colleagues.

As we return to our offices, there’s no need to ditch the digital platforms, but let’s learn from our experiences.

Regardless of the platform these simple steps will ensure your web-based meetings are success:

1. Edit your invite list

Apply this rule to every meeting, regardless of location or the proximity of attendees. An edited invite list ensures maximum meeting effectiveness, and it’s important to be tough – if someone won’t serve a purpose or participate in the meeting, regardless of how senior they are, they shouldn’t make the cut.

2. Know your platform

Know how your tech works before you invite others to connect. Know how to set up the call and what can you control, plus some basic troubleshooting tips if attendees run into problems to minimise wasted time for everyone involved. Also, turn up early, it often takes time to load-up and login. If necessary, Google beforehand!

3. Who’s on the line

Be really clear about who is online, who is in charge of the meeting and who is directing the conversation. Also agree the role of the mute ‘button’. A good meeting is run by someone – even if they are only ensuring the agenda is followed. Some platforms limit the number of meeting participants who appear on each other’s screens, so it’s really important to be explicit about who is in the meeting and also who you can actually see on your screen. Mute buttons remove the kids, dogs, chickens and other background noise from your meeting, but they can also often take you off the screen until you speak, so just be clear on whether you are using the mute function so people know you are there and will be speaking after a brief lag to turn the microphone back on.

4. Share an agenda ahead of time, then stick to it

Don’t waste the first 15 minutes getting people up to speed on why they are meeting. Share an agenda via email, Slack or whatever other channel you prefer beforehand. A few dot points will outline the meeting’s purpose, its structure and key discussion points. This sets the expectation that those dialling in should be ready to participate and will keep the group focussed. Don’t deviate: if something comes out of left field, park it for discussion at another time. This rule applies to all work meetings but it’s even more important online, where succinct is the name of the game.

5. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

When it comes to meeting etiquette the rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t do it in a face-to-face meeting, there’s no reason to do it in an online one. That means no muting your mic to have a conversation with someone else or randomly turning off your video feed; no popping away from the screen unexpectedly; no replying to emails, answering a phone call or scrolling through your Instagram feed. People can see where your eyes are wandering, and it’s not hard to work out when you are looking at a second screen.

6. Take the temperature of the group before you disconnect

Following an in-office meeting, attendees are likely to share feedback in person when they feel ready – even if it’s just at the watercooler. Because it’s harder to gauge responses after an online catch up, it’s important to take the time to request feedback or responses before you disconnect. Factor this in when planning your meeting and encourage everyone to contribute.

7. Follow up

Take detailed notes or assign a scribe to capture the outcomes of your meeting, and then share by email as soon as possible. This will keep your participants engaged and accountable after the dial-in is over, and they’ll be more likely to follow up on their action items.

If you are interested in training in meeting effectiveness for your organisation, online or offline then contact amy.pepper@claritycommunications.com.au

Author


Amy Pepper
Senior Consultant

A senior communications and marketing professional with more than 15 years’ experience, Amy is passionate about helping her clients to tell their unique story. Amy’s experience ranges from work as a print journalist with The West Australian and independent publishers, to strategic brand guidance and award-winning campaign development and management.