Running Productive online Team meetings

Kieran Watman

Group Meetings are most productive when they have a confident and effective meeting facilitator.  Whilst the facilitation of online meetings does require a different approach, you still need to follow standard meeting rules and etiquette, even when people aren’t in the same room.  Below, are a few tips for running online meetings, as well as some reminders for good meeting practice.  However, even with the best will (and facilitation) in the world, if your team don’t trust each other, then meetings will remain unproductive.   See our blog to identify whether you have a trusting team.

Preparing for your online meeting

Preparation is key

Give your team fair warning.  Not just of the event itself, but also any preparation they might need to do.   You want to use the meeting time to have productive discussions, generate ideas and solve problems as a team.  Not to simply convey information.   That can be done off-line.  Issue any background information for the team beforehand.  The better prepared you and your team members are, the more smoothly your meeting will run.  

Have a trial run

If you’re using virtual meeting software for the first time, make sure you have a practice run yourself first.   You’ll need to moderate the meeting as well as Chair it so make sure you are very familiar with the functionality. Explore the tools that are available to you; as a minimum, know how to connect audio and video, manage the ‘chat’, share your screen with others – and allow others to share their screens. 

Audio or Video?

Decide whether you want to run this as a video or audio conference and make sure you communicate that to your team in advance.  There’s nothing worse than finding half the team have their video switched on and the other half are just dialing in via audio.   Opt for video wherever possible as it so much more personal and engaging, and ensure everyone knows how to get online with video.

Communicate the purpose and agenda

Communicate to your team in advance of the meeting, the purpose of the meeting and the level of contribution you expect from them.   Having an agenda may seem OTT for your virtual team meeting, but it is an excellent navigation tool that will keep everyone on track and on time.  Make sure you circulate the agenda well in advance of the meeting.

Quiet time

It goes without saying that barking dogs, crying babies and other background noise is not only distracting for you but for your team too.  Interruptions during online meetings are commonplace, but as the meeting moderator you need to minimise your own background noise as much as you possibly can.

Facilitating your Online Meeting

Be a good role model

Many people treat online meetings differently, more informally.   Online social time is important for you and your team, but keep that social time separate from your main meetings.  You can do this by, for example, having virtual coffee breaks.  As the Chairperson, how you come across will set the tone of this meeting so, from the outset, speak positively, confidently and professionally. 

Start as you mean to go on

Welcome each person as they join the conference and make sure everyone can hear/see everyone else before you start.  Set some ground rules for the meeting including don’t walk away from your screen or put yourself on mute, and don’t take calls on your mobile (my  pet hate!).

Break the Ice

If your team aren’t familiar with meeting online, make them feel comfortable before you start working through your agenda.  Have each team member talk for 1 minute about what’s going on for them in their  lives right now. Alternatively, you can run an ice breaker.  See our resources page for some of our favourite icebreakers that are suitable for online meetings.

Keep people’s attention

Attention spans are shorter online so don’t let your virtual meetings go on for too long.  As we’ve already said, having video rather than audio conferences will help too. The more involved your participants are online, the more engaged they will be so keep them occupied in discussions.  You can show short videos or a presentation.  However, you will need to keep it pacey to maintain attention.

End positively

Finish up by summarising what has been discussed and re-state clearly any actions that were committed to.  Thank everyone for their time and set out the next steps. 
Closing as you started will maintain team spirit and social connection so, rather than ending the meeting with a formal finish, consider having some end of meeting online chat.   How you do this and the mood you create will depend on the culture of your team and the relationship you have with them. 

Finally, don’t forget to end the meeting on your screen to disconnect all video and audio connections - otherwise, someone could be listening in to your next conversation……!