Make online meetings and workshops as effective (or more!) than offline meetings

As part of our grand effort to break down barriers and inequality due to geography, we think that online activities are amazing and essential, :metal:t5:… but a lot of people don’t think they are as effective as in-person meetings. :disappointed_relieved:

From our experience, the main things that impact meeting or discussion effectiveness are not whether people are in the same room, or the kind of technology used. Instead, it’s more important how people use the technology, appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of whatever technology they’re using, and most important is how the discussions are facilitated.

We’ll talk more about the art and science of facilitation in other posts, but for now here are a few simple pointers to help make online meetings more effective.

BEST PRACTICES FOR EFFECTIVE VIDEO CALLS/ONLINE MEETINGS

We have found that these small elements can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of online meetings:

  1. Use headphones (except if many people are trying to connect on one device)

  2. Keep your video on, so people can see your beautiful smile, and you can see other faces (unless bandwidth issues are impacting quality). Eye contact and body language are very important parts of how we communicate with each other.

  3. Mute your microphone when not speaking, and be aware of background noise when you are speaking. Even simple sounds – like fans, rustling of papers, the microphone hitting a necklace or jacket, or people talking nearby – can be incredibly distracting to those on the other end of the connection.

  4. Be in a good, quiet location without distractions. The location you are in, and your own readiness, are just as important whether you are at an in-person meeting or on a call. Walking around, in a noisy/distracting place, people distracting you, or trying to multi-task (on your phone, laptop, etc) are just as disruptive for online meetings as for in-person meetings.

  5. Have an agenda, and take notes: Technology naysayers often complain that videoconference technology still isn’t reliable, calls drop, or people have trouble connecting. While that is true sometimes, people also have trouble connecting at in-person meetings. Schedules clash, cars break down, people get sick, and traffic delays people. To help offset that, and help people stay on track even if they have tech/connection problems or have to go to the bathroom during a meeting, have an agenda and take quick notes. Better yet, put the agenda and notes up a shared collaborative document online, so everybody can be adding in their thoughts.

  6. Have fun! :slight_smile: Let’s be honest … more meetings, whether online or offline, should be more fun. How can you help people have a smile before, during, and after your next meeting?

Up for debate - the question of all or none on a call.

Some people think it’s better to have either everyone on their own screen or everyone in the same room, rather than having some people together in-person and others online. The important element here is to make sure that every feels connected, engaged, and valued in the call. Unfortunately reality sets in, and sometimes it’s just necessary to have groups together in a location with others are joining a meeting online. That’s again where good facilitation comes in. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute, regardless of where they are.

For other tips on How to Make Meetings Rock, check out this blog post!

And as always, please share with us your best tips and feedback!

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