The Basic Ingredients Of Effective Online Meetings

I’m loving my work at the moment! My calendar’s been packed with online training sessions with bunches of brilliant people – mainly coaches, facilitators and trainers.

They join the first call apprehensive at the thought of a longish online session: the best that they hope for is boredom.  They finish the workshops delighted at the realisation that online meetings really don’t have to be dreadful. In fact, they can even be fun!

For example, my fourth and final class with a group of Agile facilitators started with a lively warm-up based on the improv game Zip Zap Zop. We couldn’t match it rule for rule. But we came close to matching the energy, the laughter, and the “groupness” of the original. 

As I mentioned in my post last week, there are secret ingredients that can help this to happen. But more important is combining good-quality ingredients, in the right amounts, to create a decent dish – avoiding burnt, stodgy, tasteless or otherwise inedible offerings.

So, what are the basics?

The start at the very beginning – with a good meeting. Have a clear purpose, invite the right people, and start and finish on time. Taking a bad meeting online won’t make it any better.

Then, there are elements that are (at least a little) different for online:

  • Preparation and planning need extra care and attention. People’s expectations of remote meetings are generally very low: participants often expect to be able to dial in from any random location (or form of transport), and/or to multi-task throughout. Funnily enough, when they do that they experience another bad remote meeting… lowering their expectations even more. If you want something different to happen in your online meetings, you’re going to have to do some work – and get your participants to do some, too.
  • Technology is what makes remote meetings happen. It’s worth investing time, attention and perhaps a bit of money in decent kit. Some of my recent students have seen their meetings transformed by simply asking people to use a headset and spend a few Euros on a selfie light.  For hybrid meetings, where there’s a bunch of people in a room together and a one or two remote, the Meeting Owl is a game changer. And don’t forget to ditch old-fashioned video conference systems for one that actually works reliably in a user-friendly way, such as Zoom.
  • Facilitation online is different from in-the-room. Your skills may need a bit of a tweak when eye contact and body position are no longer part of the toolkit. You may need to be a little more directive until your groups acclimatise to the online context and start to evolve their own brilliant ways of working together, remotely. You’ll need to understand the affordances of your chosen tech, and either drive it well yourself or have someone to help you. And you’ll certainly want to understand how synchronous and asynchronous interactions work together to create your participants’ holistic experience. 

And when the basics work well, the magic happens.

“Just like to say thank you for creating this course.  I’ve enjoyed these past few weeks.  I truly believe you’re touching on a subject that is such a big issue for many people and you’ve provided all us with something to work with in how we prepare for and facilitate any number of meetings or workshops with our associates.  Thank you!”

Dan Parsons

“Kudos to Judy Rees and Lisette Sutherland for running a superb 100% remote training… I now know what a great remote meeting feels like and have much more confidence in facilitating one…”

Claire Donald

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