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Best practices for hosting online meetings

Solving problems collaboratively involves the leader selecting a topic for the panelists to discuss.

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Many businesses are embracing online meetings as a cost-effective solution to run webinars, conduct training, and host conferences. Companies are opting for these types of meetings thanks in part to the ease of adoption and convenience. Furthermore, the market is overflowing with tools designed to suit the needs of small, medium, and large enterprises.

Virtual meetings provide a viable way to enhance the productivity of an entity and follow social distancing rules associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure glitch-free communication, you need to select the ideal technologies and software. The right choice of tool is determined by the type of information shared and the participating audience.

Experts recommend designing the presentation, including data based on the office environment. The presentation of data or information to a live audience differs from the presentation to a virtual audience. For this reason, you should avoid using material from a live meeting on a video monitor for an online meeting.

The virtual meeting limits the scope of interaction with the audience. Meetings conducted in a physical location allow you to adopt a more casual approach about the agenda and the usage of materials. On the other hand, virtual meetings require proper preparation. Hence, the need to plan for the event well in advance.

You should deliver the agenda to participants ahead of time. Also, consider creating powerful visual materials to make your message more engaging. Ensure that the visuals and materials reach participants before the event. The recipients need to have login credentials, URLs, and call-in numbers at least 24 hours before the meeting.

Doing so enables participants to check that everything is working as planned or download the required software. To avoid glitches, also ensure that participants log in between 10 and 15 minutes before the meeting commences. This allows you to test connectivity.

Experts recommend conducting roll call to check the system and review the timeline. It is also vital to provide offline contact details for the panelist to reach you in the event of technical issues.

When the meeting is broadcast by one presenter to a large audience, you should assign the facilitator role to a colleague. The facilitator provides much-needed assistance to the presenter.

Online meetings during COVID-19

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As coronavirus spreads to more countries around the world, online meetings have become a critical solution for businesses and governments. Virtual meetings enable participants to conduct business while following social distancing rules triggered by the pandemic.

Many professionals are working from home; hence, the need to conduct meetings virtually. This new reality prompts organizations to explore ways to use conferencing tools more effectively. Online meeting tools make it easier to host conferences uninterrupted.

Engagement

To boost engagement during an online meeting, you should resist the temptation to launch straight into the task. Doing so compromises relationship building. Instead, you need to break the ice by requesting the participants to introduce themselves and briefly share any interesting information.

This approach boosts engagement levels by adding a social element to the meeting. When participating share something personal, the virtual proceedings simulate in-person interaction. On the other hand, you need to invite questions from the panel before the meeting commences.

These measures provide a sure-fire way to keep the panel engaged. Also, consider taking a poll and asking for answers via chat to receive feedback on specific issues. Asking questions frequently makes it easier to maintain a personal connection with the participants. However, avoid asking open-ended questions that often lead to the dead-air phenomenon.

Stay focused

Online meetings provide a wide variety of advantages, including the ability to connect from any location. However, participants should not attend public spaces to avoid distractions. Places like airport lounges and cafes can make it difficult for a participant to stay focused. Ambient noise can be problematic even in home offices.

On another level, experts advise against cramming too many topics or agendas into a single virtual meeting. Try to focus on one or two topics and give the panel a break before introducing a new topic. Each segment should be short (maximum 30 minutes) to ensure that participants can remain attentive during the discussions.

Always reserve time for icebreakers to break down any social barriers and create an optimal group atmosphere. Breaking the ice also allows people to become familiar with each other, which fosters trust.

The majority of in-person icebreakers are possible virtually. It is possible to make the engagement fun by sharing photos or using eye-catching virtual backgrounds for Zoom.

Virtual brainstorming

Activities like brainstorming and voting contribute to increased engagement. You can embark on these activities by using a wide variety of specialized tools. Always keep the proceedings interesting to avoid the participants getting tired or bored. You can always ask them to take a break and refresh their minds before proceeding with the conference.

Establishing an effective way to call in the panel is an essential part of handling online meetings. The appropriate method depends on the conference platform you are using. If your meeting uses an audio-only platform, consider turning to the clock technique. This method involves assigning participants numbers on the clock, which you will use to conduct introductions.

When working with a video conference platform, you can call in participants by order on the screen. Alternately, you may opt for introducing the panel using the alphabetical order.

It is important to monitor the eye movement of panelists during a video conference meeting. Rapid eye movement may be a sign that a participant is reading and arm movement could be due to typing. Also, watch out for bored expressions and signs of mental fatigue.

When you notice that an individual is distracted, you need to call for attention from the entire panel. At the end of the meeting, set aside time to evaluate the productivity of the conference. Highlight any areas of concern and find ways to correct the shortcomings.

Hybrid meetings

If you are planning to host hybrid meetings involving both virtual and live participants, consider employing a bridge moderator. This role can be handled by a colleague who is attending a physical meeting. The moderator monitors the connection between the live and the virtual panel.

It is important to ensure that online panelists can see, hear, and contribute to the proceedings. On the other hand, the moderator should keep the physical panelists aware of the virtual group. The easiest way to achieve this objective is by showing the faces of the remote participants on a big screen.

Many panelists do not read meeting minutes. You can ensure that everyone reads the minute documents by making them brief and concise. This allows your colleagues to learn about topics they may have missed during the online meeting.

In some cases, professionals do not rely on information obtained verbally as it may result in miscommunication. For this reason, consider sending a brief, concise follow-up email that lists key details of the conference.

Additional considerations

If the attendees are not familiar with each other, you should break the ice by allowing everyone to introduce themselves. Doing so makes it easier for participants to feel comfortable with each other. In turn, the congenial atmosphere improves the productivity levels of the meeting.

Encourage team leaders to break the ice by sharing some lighter moments with the group. Also, promote collaboration problem solving during the online meeting. These types of sessions can provide an easier way to replace the standard report-outs that compromise the smooth progress of the proceedings.

Solving problems collaboratively involves the leader selecting a topic for the panelists to discuss. The group works together to discover viewpoints and vital information. As a result, it becomes easier to formulate innovative solutions that address specific business challenges.

All the participants should be given time to focus on the agenda. In doing so, you help boost productivity during the problem-solving sessions.

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