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Start running more effective meetings today

Mar 10, 2021

Ever heard the tagline, ‘this could have been an email’? There’s a reason this phrase has been so heavily circulated on the internet over the last few years; too often, our meetings prove to be an ineffective waste of time. When we don’t prioritize preparation, or know why we’re hosting the meeting in the first place, things are destined to go downhill fast.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to improve the quality of our meetings, so they create a positive impact on our team and the company as a whole.

 

Why effective meetings are vital to your success

Hosting online meetings is an incredible opportunity to share new ideas, foster collaboration, and get everyone aligned on various goals and action items in real-time. When you optimize your meetings and exchange information in a meaningful way, there’s no doubt you’ll enhance productivity and accelerate teamwork across the board. That’s why effective meetings are such a crucial component to your company’s growth, success, and beyond.

 

8 ways to run better online meetings

Saying you’re ready to run better meetings is a good start, but how do you actually set the wheels in motion? We’ve come up with eight practical (and applicable) ways for you to host effective, enjoyable online meetings your co-workers will be eager to participate in.

1. Determine the purpose of your meeting

The best place to begin is by determining the purpose of the meeting. If you don’t have a solid understanding of why you’re bringing everyone together, it can be difficult to justify scheduling anything at all. But when you take a moment to evaluate the motive for your meeting — outside of, ‘this is what we do on Tuesdays at 2:30’ — you’ll set your team up for a much stronger, more unified outcome.

Ask yourself pointed questions, like: Is this meeting essential, and if so, what is its primary function? Is this the type of meeting intended to brainstorm ideas, introduce new strategies, decide on next steps, or something else entirely? 

When there’s clarity around the meeting’s purpose, you won’t wind up having a brainstorming discussion in the middle of a strategy session (or vice versa). By establishing the aim of your meeting, and then creating an agenda to compliment it, you can accomplish exactly what you want and get the most out of your allotted time.

2. Decide who really needs to be there

Once you have a clear picture of the meeting’s purpose, you’ll have to decide who really needs to be in attendance. With regards to the number of meeting participants, there’s no doubt that less is more; when there’s too many people present, it can hinder productivity or disrupt the overall flow of conversation.  

Think about each person you’d like to invite to the meeting, and then consider what role it is they’ll play. If they don’t have a defined role, or if that role is better suited to another team member, it might be best for them to sit this one out. (Chances are, they’ll thank you for freeing up their day to use on more pertinent matters.)

With that said, if any important decision-makers aren’t able to be there, you’re wise to find a different time that works for all involved. And if there are team members who want to attend but don’t need to be in on this particular discussion, you can always send over the meeting notes so they stay in the loop.

3. Send the meeting agenda in advance 

When you host an in-person meeting, you might approach things a bit more casually, since you can easily connect with your co-workers in the hallway or breakroom and get them up to speed on anything they missed. But when you’re operating online, a successful meeting calls for intentional planning, in addition to sharing your meeting materials ahead of time.

By sending your agenda in advance, participants can mentally prepare for the meeting instead of being forced to think on their feet. Not to mention, any introverts in your group will likely feel relieved, since they tend to favor structure over surprises.

Prior to your meeting, everyone should have a run down of agenda items, including key talking points and the primary goals to be achieved. And if you’re the meeting facilitator, be sure to provide virtual invitations to all participants, forward any relevant visuals that supplement your message, and confirm attendees have access to necessary links or login information, as well.

4. Make sure your tech is working

One of the most common ways online meetings waste time and lose focus is when they’re interrupted by needless technical difficulties. Sure, these hiccups are bound to happen on occasion, but why not do everything in your power to avoid any interference and keep things running smoothly for the duration of your call?

By testing the functionality of your devices and making sure everything is working properly, you can save yourself a major headache down the road. A few minutes ahead of start time, confirm all your required tech is up to par, and encourage your fellow attendees to do the same. 

In general, everyone should know how to connect to the call, as well as how to share their screen. Meeting members should also check their audio and video settings, and verify their camera and microphone are activated (and the preferred audio source is selected). 

By testing these features before you begin, you’ll maximize the time you have available, stick to your appointed action steps, and ultimately, ensure your meeting is as productive as possible. 

5. Be conscious of meeting time throughout

Speaking of maximizing your time, being conscious of the clock is super important if you want your meeting to go well. While there are countless reasons a meeting starts late, it still happens much more often than it should. 

If a morning meeting is delayed, there’s every possibility it’ll have a snowball effect on the team’s schedule for the rest of the day. And worse yet, the frustration people feel as they’re waiting to start can spill over into the meeting itself, translating to decreased morale and reduced engagement.

Simply put, an effective meeting has to start on time. Not only does this show respect for your co-workers, but it demonstrates your dedication to getting things done. Even if you have some latecomers who haven’t logged on, it’s your responsibility to kick off the meeting as scheduled.

It’s also a good idea to check in on how everyone’s feeling every ten minutes or so, since that’s the average attention span for a meeting attendee. Look for a natural break in the conversation to pause or refresh, and as a means to negate boredom or wandering thoughts.

Lastly, be mindful you stick to your end time. Just like starting late can negatively impact what comes next, going over time can hinder the rest of the day’s activities, too. By practicing smart meeting management and adhering to your agenda, you should be able to keep within your time limits and close out the conversation with ease.

6. Encourage meeting etiquette 

When it comes to running effective meetings, proper etiquette should not be underestimated. While the beauty of online meetings is in the attendee’s ability to sign in from anywhere, this freedom can sometimes present interruptions that interfere with the team’s productivity.

As a ground rule, you can ask all non-presenters to mute themselves while they’re on the call. By anticipating inevitable background noise, you can stay on track and knock out the meeting’s to do’s in no time. This will also help meeting participants practice active listening, by taking in the fullness of the speaker’s words, body language, and facial expressions.

Another boost to active listening is having team members close non-work related tabs and set their phones out of arm’s reach. This greatly reduces distractions, and helps bring their awareness to the topics at hand. Without the temptation for multitasking (like texting or checking email), participants can make better eye contact with the camera, keep unnecessary movements to a minimum, and remain more in tune with the decision-making process.

7. Engage all meeting participants 

While the mute button is a powerful tool, it’s not intended to discourage team members from engaging altogether. Rather, it’s meant to allow one speaker to have the floor at a time, and to guarantee everyone is listening to the information they’re presenting. 

But whenever possible, try to cultivate a safe space for others to express their opinions and offer their ideas (regardless of their title or rank within the company). Supporting inclusivity and letting all participants feel seen, heard, and valued is an amazing way to remove the power structure in your meeting, which can be a barrier to collaboration and creativity. 

A good meeting is one where team members take notes, pose thoughtful questions, and even lead specific discussions or breakout sessions. By switching up presenters, you can realign the group’s attention and help participants feel a sense of ownership over the meeting agenda. This autonomy can go a long way in motivating the team to exceed expectations, by adding their own fresh ideas or insights to the conversation.

 8. Provide clear next steps

Some team meetings leave us feeling like we need an extra cup of coffee, while others leave us teeming with inspiration and an eagerness to get back to work. Either way, the end of the meeting should never come too early, wherein participants feel unsure about what comes next.

Ideally, each participant should sign off knowing exactly how to tackle whatever’s on their plate. To ensure this is true, you can send a follow-up email containing meeting notes and action plans — or better yet, record your meeting and share a link to the audio or video afterward. 

And don’t forget to assign anonymous feedback forms from time to time. Participant’s feedback can help you gauge whether the meeting was informative, ineffective, or where you have room for improvement in the future. When you make an effort to collect these comments or criticisms, you’ll learn volumes from the participant’s input that can be readily applied to your next meeting.

Wrapping up

Too many meetings ask for team members’ time, but don’t place enough emphasis on their thoughts or skill set. By determining the purpose for your call, developing a solid agenda, and encouraging participant etiquette and engagement, you’ll be primed to host a productive meeting that’s also memorable.

If you’re looking for an upgrade to your run-of-the-mill meetings, Vowel is the solution for you. Partnering with Vowel is the best way to host, record, transcribe, and share your meetings, thanks to our user-friendly features and superior functionality. Join Vowel’s waitlist today, and start experiencing the difference for yourself!

, Head of Marketing

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