How To Plan An Online Meeting That Works
Meetings just aren’t what they used to be.
Now that most of our work life has moved online, it seems like we have more meetings than ever before. However, online meetings fail to give us the same human connection that we feel when we’re in a room together. As a result, meetings have become a source of dread for a lot of employees. And many people simply don’t know how to plan an online meeting properly. But with the proper organization, online meetings can still be incredibly effective, even if your team is suffering from ZOOM FATIGUE.
The key to running EFFECTIVE MEETINGS ONLINE is staying organized, and communicating efficiently. And with a few simple tweaks, you can plan ANY TYPE OF ONLINE MEETING in a way that can actually improve your efficiency compared to face-to-face meetings. Here’s how to plan online meetings so they run efficiently and stay on track.
STEP 1 | Define Your Needs
The first step in how to plan an online meeting is to define your needs. Take time to consider your objective, who you’re meeting with, and how long you want to devote to the meeting. Once you create this foundation, you can start to shape your meeting and plan your agenda.
The most important thing to establish about your meeting is the objective. This is the reason that you’re having the meeting, and it is the core element that you will build everything around. It might help to make a list of goals, and go from there.
When you’re planning your meeting, consider carefully whose presence will be helpful, and whose won’t be. Nobody wants to sit through an online meeting where they’re not needed. And you definitely don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen.
It’s easy to over-estimate, and under-estimate, the amount of time you’ll need for your meeting. Be sure to plan enough time to get through your agenda, and leave room for debriefing at the end. While it’s always better to keep your meetings short, people are always happy when a meeting ends early, so they can get to work on the things you discussed.
Even though you’re meeting online, it is important to choose the teleconferencing platform that best suits your meeting’s needs. Consider your objective and participants when selecting the virtual location, as well as what additional tools you’ll need (screen sharing, audio, etc). And be sure to clearly communicate which platform you’re using with your team. Nobody likes to wait in the wrong room alone.
STEP 2 | Decide The Meeting Type
Not all meetings are created equal. DIFFERENT TYPES OF ONLINE MEETINGS suit different types of objectives, require for different amounts of participation, and allow different styles of interaction. Defining the type of meeting you need will help you construct an agenda that helps increase efficiency.
The purpose of a Check-In is to gain an understanding about the state of things in the team / task. Your designated Meeting Lead should guide individual participation, giving 5-10 minutes for each participant to share their update.
In a presentation, the Meeting Lead presents information to the team with the help of visual aides. Expect little to no individual participation, but create opportunities for questions, either throughout the presentation, or at the end.
CO-CREATION / BRAINSTORMING
Co-Creation / Brainstorming meetings are an opportunity to source ideas and solutions from the team about a specific task. Allow for open interaction, and encourage participation by individually inviting individuals to share their ideas. It’s also a great idea to split into smaller teams to tackle ideas together in separate breakout rooms.
An elaboration meeting is a chance to collect feedback from your team on a given idea. This type of meeting has a high level of interaction that can be guided by the Meeting Lead, or offered up at the discretion of the participants.
An operations meeting is the right place to update the team on the current status of short-term workflow or overall business. These are often regularly scheduled or recurring meetings with a medium amount of participation and interaction. Operations meetings are a great opportunity to review team progress and assign participants new tasks.
STEP 3 | Schedule A Time
One advantage of online meetings is that we can now meet with team members and clients all around the world. This means that we’re not only dealing with the challenge of arranging meetings across different time zones, but that we’re scheduling around potentially conflicting cultural norms.
Scheduling an afternoon meeting for you might mean interrupting your colleague’s family dinner. Being conscious of these potential conflicts while scheduling your meeting can save arguments and stress later on down the line.
GREENWICH MEAN TIME (GMT)
Greenwich Mean Time or GMT is clock time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. It is the same all year round and is not affected by Summer Time (Daylight Saving Time) clock changes.
When you schedule a meeting with GMT be sure to adjust for Summer Time in your time zones.
CENTRAL EUROPEAN TIME (CET)
Central European Time is the time zone of most European countries. CET alternates between GMT+1 (standard time) and GMT+2 (when daylight saving time is observed).
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STEP 4 | Communicate Your Expectations
Every person in the meeting should have an idea of what’s expected of them. And, so we don’t waste time talking about it in the meeting, they should know this before the meeting begins. It’s worth it to organize a meeting where you discuss what kinds of expectations you have of your team. This gives them confidence to speak up when they need to, and listen when they don’t.
Designate a Meeting Lead to run the show and keep things moving. This is most often the person calling for the meeting, but not always. Some meetings have different leads at different times. You can assign Leads in your meeting agenda if that’s the case.
Participation is the way that people behave during the meeting. Different meetings require different types of behavior from the people participating. From low-level participation where people mostly listen, to high-level participation where people more actively share and take part. When people know how they are expected to participate, they properly prepare and adjust their behavior appropriately..
Interaction is the way in which the Meeting Lead expects people to participate. Certain meetings require the Meeting Lead to guide interaction, moving the speaking conch from one person to the next, inviting people to share their thoughts or experiences. Other meetings make room for interaction on a voluntary or discretionary basis, with participants speaking up when they have an idea or something to say.
STEP 5 | Make An Agenda
Every meeting should have a simple agenda to help the organizers keep things on track. The agenda doesn’t have to be super specific, but it should include a Welcome, Announcements, Core Content, and Debriefing. Structuring your meetings this way helps to shape them with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
This gets your team ready to go from the top, brings them in on the action, and gives them a sense of accomplishment and purpose when it’s all over.
Even when meeting with a few close team members, it’s important to have an official start to the meeting. With online meetings, people often start chatting before everyone arrives. A simple “Welcome, everybody” from the Meeting Lead lets everyone know that it’s time to pay attention and get ready to begin.
The beginning of the meeting is the perfect place to make any important announcements. A quick update about what is happening in the company or with the project piques people’s interests and starts everyone off on the same page.
Your agenda will vary depending on your meeting type’s core content. Keep this content simple and easy to read, and remember to assign the tasks as appropriate.
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Debriefing at the end of a meeting provides an overview of what was discussed, and an action plan for moving forward. It’s important to take a moment to wrap things up with purpose. It not only acts as a great refresher, but it allows us to set up an action plan to achieve our goals and stay productive.
STEP 6 | Create An Organized Calendar Event
Our personal calendars can be a distracting eyesore, filled with lots of colors, numbers, and shorthand. While creating a calendar event for your team meeting may seem pretty straightforward, staying organized and using clear formatting make it easy for everyone to get the information they need about the meeting so they know what to expect.
PRO TIP | GRANT ACCESS
Allow the appropriate team members access to edit the event and add to the agenda!
MEETING TITLE | Team
The title of the meeting should start with the meeting type. In all caps. Add a separator (we like to use the “|” or “-”) and follow it up with the team that you’re meeting with. Having both of these elements right in the title makes it easy to know what’s coming up with a quick glance at the calendar.
DATE | Day, Month, Date
Your team is filled with different types of brains. Each brain processes and saves information differently. Help everyone out by including the weekday as well as the month and `date when creating the event. It’s a small gesture that ensures everyone remembers when to meet up.
TIME | When – When (Time Zone)
Personal calendars will usually localize meeting times. When you add a meeting time into the Calendar Event notes, make sure that you communicate which time zone you mean so that people further away don’t get confused.
OBJECTIVE | Short Sentence
If your meeting has a specific objective, write a short, 1-sentence description of what you plan to cover. You can leave room in the agenda for a longer description if you feel it is needed.
AGENDA | Brief List
Share a brief version of the agenda you created on the Calendar Event. It doesn’t need to be super specific. Just jot down the main topics that you want to cover, and arrange them in a way that builds on the provided information.
INCLUDE PROPER LINKS
Some calendars, like Google Calendar, create and include a link invite automatically when you’re making the event. But not all 3rd party clients adhere to this same practice. Be sure to double check that the calendar includes the invitation to whichever online meeting space you’re using.
PRO TIP | REDUCE THE FLUFF
Auto-generated invitations usually have more content than is needed. Keep things simple by trimming the excess and sending only what matters to your invitees.
STEP 7 | Invite The Team
The final step in the process is to invite your team members to the meeting. Most online calendars include a place to input your invitees email addresses, however it’s also a good idea to make an announcement to your team, just to be sure there’s clear communication.
Remember to include the meeting Title, Date and Time in your announcement. And don’t forget to add the link to the calendar event and/or the meeting platform.
Don’t get too overbearing with meeting reminders. You work with smart people. Trust that they’ve got your back.
Make your meetings matter.
Strong leaders know how to plan an online meeting and make sure that their teams have everything they need to succeed.
Taking the time to get organized will make your meetings more efficient, and keep the participants engaged and on track. While these things may seem overbearing or robotic at first, they will soon become second nature. It’s important to be consistent with the organization. When we get lazy with our prep, our meetings can become unfocused and lose their value. Stay organized. Keep focused. Be productive.
Book a session with Stefan to discuss your team’s needs.
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