With so many people working from home, online meetings have become the norm. But even those working from an office often need to connect remotely with clients, vendors and offsite employees.
Whether you’re engaged in a small meeting (under ten), or a meeting of dozens, these guidelines will help you improve online communication and ensure that your meetings run smoothly and professionally.
If you’re the organizer. Assign someone to handle the technology (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeetings, Google Hangouts WebEx, and Skype for Business are a few choices) while you or a colleague moderate the discussion.
Put together an agenda. As with face-to-face meetings, an agenda will keep participants engaged and on the same page. Share the agenda early so that everyone knows what to expect. Include a timeframe: Anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes is a good meeting duration—in person or online.
Create visuals. Use charts and graphs to highlight key points; avoid small fonts.
Test your tech. Try out your mic and video a day in advance. You don’t want technical issues to prevent you from joining the meeting or keep you from being seen or heard.
Close non-essential programs and tabs. If you neglect to do this, your computer might crash during the meeting. Of course, keep any tools necessary for the meeting open.
Audio. If possible, use a headset. Turn off noisy fans, air conditioners or other loud appliances. If your computer mic isn’t working, conference in via phone. Mute yourself whenever someone else is speaking.
Video. Have it on at all times; speak up when called upon, as in a physical meeting. Look straight into the camera for shared eye contact.
Light source. Place it behind the camera. Also, clear any clutter behind you; it will look unprofessional and distract from the meeting.
Don’t multitask. People will see you looking away during the meeting, zoning out or even disappearing should you walk away for a few moments.
Understand chat. Know how to chat with the entire group or one person. The moderator should encourage chat and call on people with questions or to add their input.
End on time. Everyone’s time is valuable. End when you say you will, having reserved the last few minutes to review next steps. Post “Next Steps” to your agenda so people don’t leave the meeting early.
Email a concise follow-up. In it, nail down commitments and summarize decisions. Also, ask for feedback. What aspects did meeting-goers like, and which did they feel could be improved the next time out?