8 Steps to Leading a Successful Online Meeting

Today, businesses all around the world are embracing online environments for remote working. Here are some top tips for leading a successful online meeting.

Today, businesses all around the world are embracing online environments for remote working. For some, leading online meetings may be familiar territory, but for others, it may be a new and daunting task. 

Due to the pandemic conditions, many consultants, freelancers and remote workers have had no choice but to fast track their understanding and comfort with taking their business online.  Holding online meetings can feel very different to the traditional method of in-person opportunities to build rapport and follow familiar guidelines for an effective meeting.

With a firm game plan and some preparation, however, online meetings can result in crystal clear communication, ensuring that no important details fall through the cracks.

Here are some top tips for leading a successful online meeting.

1. Establish an agenda

A key element of preparing for a meeting is to create an agenda. This helps everyone attending to arrive on the same page and keep them focused on the items of priority. An effective agenda is less about your ability to to lead a meeting and more about assisting participants to understand the goals and objectives of the meeting itself.

When meeting online, participants have little access to your non-verbal cues, and understanding in advance what the meeting’s objectives are, makes it less likely that they will lose their place, focus or attention. Here are some meeting agenda examples to help you get started.

When creating a meeting agenda, be sure to:

  • Request input from those scheduled to attend
  • Identify who is expected to lead any individual agenda item discussions
  • Note any decisions that need to be made, and by whom
  • Leave space in the agenda for last-minute questions or additions

2. Utilize mind maps

Using mind maps can be an effective way of recording who is in attendance and offer space for ideas or comments beforehand, with branches linking to action items or relevant documents so everyone can come prepared. This can be particularly useful for more formal meetings that require accurate records which can later be referred to.

Shared mind maps can also help if you want the participants to brainstorm ideas prior to an online meeting, or even in real-time during the meeting online.

3. Prepare your meeting space

There have been plenty of amusing examples throughout the pandemic of online meetings being inadvertently crashed by children or half-dressed partners in the home background of an otherwise professional environment. Given the circumstances, this has largely been forgiven and taken in good spirits, but it is still embarrassing for the individuals and much better avoided! 

So, before the meeting, choose a quiet space where you can control and limit the distractions. Use headphones to prevent audio feedback and minimize background noise. Also, if you are using new conferencing software or new technology of any kind, do a test run prior to the meeting to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

4. Pace yourself

To account for the two to three second delay that online meeting software typically runs at, it's important to lead an online meeting at a slightly slower pace than in-person meetings. Make sure there is sufficient pause after a question is asked and ensure that everyone has had a chance to catch up if there is a change of subject. Also, add an extended pause after requesting everyone’s attention before continuing on.

online meetings
Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Do English speaking, listening, and reading exercises to improve your speaking skills.

5. Get more descriptive

Unless you are sharing your screen, it’s possible that at times during an online meeting, the conversation will center around something that not everyone can see. In these instances, it’s important to be extra descriptive to maintain a fully-inclusive approach for all participants, as well as to get the best out of their responses. Take a moment to consider what image you are conjuring in the minds of those who can’t directly see what you are referring to, and try to be as accurate and illustrative as the subject requires.

6. Make and share notes

Another great way to ensure shared understanding of the meeting’s objectives is to make effective notes during the meeting and share them with all attendees. One good option is to utilize online mind maps, which all participants can see and add to in real-time as new ideas come up. This can also be a great method to keep everyone engaged and receive input from all attendees whilst creating more clarity.

7. Recap before you wrap up

Before you all sign off, have everyone take turns to recap the action items that they are now responsible for moving forwards. This confirms that everyone in attendance has understood the outcome of the meeting and ensures accountability moving forwards. This is especially helpful with online environments in which it isn’t always easy to visually detect a person’s confusion.

Sam Bell, Marketing Manager at Portico, considers recapping to be the most essential component to the overall success of an online meeting. “No matter who you are conferencing with online, effective recapping prior to signing off is key to ensuring the success of the meeting’s objectives. Consolidating their understanding of the key points covered and confirming who is accountable for the actionable items identified is imperative to the continued results of the meeting.”

8. Delay individual debriefing

Especially if you’ve just finished an important or high-stakes online meeting, it’s important to leave the virtual meeting ‘room’ before debriefing individually with colleagues. It could be a disaster if remote attendees were to overhear anything negative as a result of you debriefing before everyone else has left the online conference space. The best prevention is to make it a general rule that any debriefing is to be done via a newly established online connection.

What about real estate meetings?

Covid-19 brought about immeasurable and permanent change to the workflow management software trends of many industries, including the property sector, with professionals and clients alike all recognizing the benefits of taking much of the business of real estate online. When it comes to property-related virtual meetings, in addition to the above, here are some valuable tips to consider:

  • Learn how to share your screen to walk clients through digital contracts
  • Take the time to master how to conduct a virtual showing
  • Teach your clients how to use online video conferencing
  • Host regular video conferencing with your clients to maintain rapport

The goals of an online meeting might not be any different to in-person meetings, but some extra preparation, well-paced, crystal clear communication and participant engagement and understanding is key to ensuring its success.

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