Virtually Awesome: Tips for Hosting Online Meetings
Do you typically meet with clients or colleagues face-to-face…and suddenly you can’t because of social distancing? Are you freaking out a little? That’s normal, so take a deep breath and know that things are changing…maybe for a little while…maybe forever.
In the meantime, take this opportunity to build a new skill that will serve your business, your team and yourself in the short- and long-term.
Tip #1: Make it Easy for Everyone
First, get your logistics sorted.
- Choose an online meeting software or app and get comfortable with it. There are lots of free or paid options (usually with a bit more functionality and flexibility). I’ve used Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, and most often, Zoom.
- Send a calendar invitation with the meeting link and dial-in options, and encourage participants to try it early in case software needs to download to their device.
- Include a brief agenda, or at a minimum, the purpose and outcome of the call or meeting.
- Establish expectations early: Video on or off? What to bring? How to prepare? Share this ahead of time, and remind everyone again at the top of the meeting.
- Keep your agenda realistic and focused, and build in connection time.
Let go of perfection! If you haven't done this before, there are bound to be hiccups. Everything is new the first time, so go with the flow, keep an open mind and look for the learning. You've got this!
Tip #2: Check Your Tech
Before the meeting starts, take a little time to get comfortable with the technology.
- Log in early, test your mic, and make sure you're well-lit. Do a test run with a friend or your spouse if they are also working from home right now!
- Use the tech tools available to you as a host. I use four basics in Zoom: mute/video control, share screen, chat, record.
- If you are having connectivity issues, try turning off everyone's video, or ask participants to leave and rejoin the meeting.
Technical challenges can throw you for a loop, especially if you don’t feel prepared or savvy in that department. So, have a Plan B, just in case – record the session for those who can’t connect so they can watch later, or have a conference call ready in the wings to dial into the old school.
Tip #3: Manage the Environment
Model good online etiquette to your participants or clients. As a meeting chair or host, it’s up to you to set the tone and flavour for the meeting.
- Be in a distraction-free zone, mute yourself when necessary and turn off your screen briefly if something distracting happens around you.
- Manage participants by doing what you’d typically do in a face to face meeting, such as introductions, and reviewing the purpose and agenda, before diving in. And if this is a stressful time, allocate some time for folks to check-in and share how they are -- they may not have spoken with others for a few days!
- Create agreements that support a virtual space, such as asking participants to raise their hands when they’d like to speak, go round-robin to avoid interruptions, and use the chat function to ask questions.
- Don’t forget to document actions and decisions and share them out later (assign this to someone if it’s too much for you to manage).
- And, keep an eye on the time. Everyone is relying on you to move through the agenda and respect the time; if this is a challenge, assign this task to someone who excels at it.
With these tips, some courage and a little practice, you’ll be comfortable hosting online meetings or client sessions in no time!
Need some help preparing for an online meeting or client session? I’m here to help! Reach out to schedule a time, or check my other tips at JillyHyndman.Com/Virtually-Awesome.