It’s been nearly a year since remote work became the norm for many corporate employees. By now, the majority have moved past the novelty of talking and coordinating with their team members and holding long meetings online. Video conferences and online calls have become the new normal, and with them, a new set of challenges for meeting facilitators and participants.
How do you keep your team engaged and paying attention for the entire duration of the video conference? How would you know that they are paying attention to your presentation and not dozing off on their desks or watching Netflix on another device?
For those who are new to conducting business online, there are actually workshops and training courses for facilitators and leaders who wish to learn how to hold effective online meetings. To those for whom training is not an option, this article can help. Below are some best practices for conducting productive and engaging Zoom meetings.
Plan and Assign Roles
Planning is a given, but we’re not just talking about preparing cue cards and notes on how to open the meeting. Think of who among the participants can play active roles in the meeting. For example, assign someone to take the minutes, one or two others to co-host and facilitate segments of the meeting, and another to serve as chat moderator who will monitor the questions people submit on the chat while you’re presenting via screen share.
Giving participants roles during the meeting will keep them alert and participative when it’s not yet their turn to do something. This is also another way to ensure that people will join the conference call earlier, if not on time. The participants who will join you as facilitators can help you remind others of the time and agenda of the meeting.
Give a Quick Overview of the Meeting and Reminders about Meeting Rules
Avoid lengthy speeches about what the meeting is about as that can have people zoning out from the get-go. There’s also no need for extra-formal, introductory speeches if you’ve already sent the agenda along with the invitation and link to the Zoom meeting. People will appreciate it more if you can get to the point of the meeting quickly as that could mean the meeting will also end early.
Remind everyone of your established house rules as well, such as typing questions in the chatbox so that every concern will be addressed, muting microphones when they’re not speaking, and allotting enough time for discussion after the meeting.
Provide Meeting Materials Beforehand
It’s a good idea to provide the data that will be discussed in the meeting beforehand. This gives participants the chance to prepare for the meeting, too, and find things they may want to ask about during the meeting. When everyone is looking at the same material for reference, it becomes easier for the person leading the meeting to point out data that are not included in the presentation slides.
Ice Breakers Are Only Necessary for Long Meetings (But a Chit-Chat Before the Meeting Is Appreciated)
As much as people want to keep meetings short, it would do everyone a lot of good to be allowed to chat freely among themselves a few minutes before the meeting will start. As the meeting facilitator, you can invite the chit-chat by engaging the early birds in casual conversation. It immediately puts people at ease when they arrive at a Zoom meeting and everyone is already chatting and geared up for the meeting. This also eliminates the need for awkward, “how are yous” to which everyone will only feel obligated to say, “I’m fine..”
Email a Copy of the Presentation After the Meeting
It’s so easy to forget what’s been discussed in a meeting after it’s done. To make sure that everyone is informed, and to also give people more time to ponder over the information and resolutions discussed during the meeting, email the slides and minutes soon after the meeting ends. If anyone needs a follow-up, they can send it through the thread so that the people who need to answer can easily recall what the question was about.
The venue might have changed from in-person in the office to virtual over Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet, but the goals of meetings stay the same. Encourage participation during and after the meeting so that every minute everyone spends on Zoom will be truly productive and worthwhile.