How to make your online meetings more productive

Posted in Business and entrepreneurship.

It’s no secret that communicating face-to-face is one of the most effective ways to collaborate and share ideas. Reports show that the majority of us actually prefer to hold business meetings in-person, rather than over the phone or using apps, even though it can sometimes take a little more scheduling effort.

But let’s be honest. While face-to-face meetings are a nice idea, it doesn’t always make sense for businesses to communicate in this way. This is especially true if you’re looking to hold an internal meeting with remote working employees, or if you need to collaborate with a client who’s based in another town or city (or even country!). This year marked a time when online business meetings were one of the only options available. The truth is that although online business meetings may not be everyone’s first choice, when it comes to being practical, they can sometimes be the best option.

The Problem with Online Meetings

Although there are many advantages to holding business meetings online, such as the cost saving benefits, the flexibility to join in from anywhere in the world, the convenience and the eradicated need to have a suitable space lined up, there are a number of downsides, too. Of course, we can discuss the possibility of unstable connections and the risk of hacking here, but perhaps more importantly we need to consider how the lack of human connection could affect the overall outcomes and meeting success.

Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that humans instinctively grow through their real-life, in-person connection to others, and that direct social interactions are one of the most powerful platforms for learning and development. If we want to conduct effective business meetings online, it’s important to take measures to ensure we’re doing all we can to facilitate a productive environment.

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Online meetings can take many different formats, so take some time to research the options available to find one that best suits your team. For example, online meetings can be held through VoIP or video conferencing software, which enables you to hold a meeting in much the same way as you would in-person, but instead you communicate with participants digitally. Another option, which is becoming increasingly popular, is to use collaboration software which allows participants to share their ideas through the software itself, jot down notes, and even put their hands in the air… virtually, of course.

Be Completely Clear… About Everything

Although advanced technologies such as VoIP and video conferencing mean that we’re able to see facial expressions and hear intonation in online business meetings which can help us to assign meaning to what’s being said, clarity is still one of the biggest challenges when going virtual. There is typically a higher risk of meanings becoming lost and messages being misunderstood when using digital communications rather than the old-fashioned face-to-face method, so try to keep all participants on the same page wherever possible. Send a full agenda 24-48 hours prior to the meeting, reiterate vital points, and summarise.

Know how to use the technology

No matter what sort of online meeting you choose to hold, every single virtual meeting will rely upon some sort of technology to facilitate digital communications. The very best thing that you can do to ensure a productive meeting is to know how to use this technology! It’s worth checking that your connection is stable, that your speakers and microphone work, that you can easily access the files you need, and, perhaps most importantly of all, that you know how to use the mute function! Encourage all participants to do exactly the same, and hopefully there won’t be any nasty tech surprises on the day!

For more on this topic check out our article about the best apps for video calls.