By now we all know the basic online meeting do’s and don’ts – removing as much background noise as possible, making sure you’re not muted when it’s your time to talk and dressing appropriately if your camera is required to be on. But how do we get the most out of our online meetings? Whether remote work is your norm or not, online meetings are the way of the future for many businesses, and they need to work as best as possible for you, your team and your clients.

So how do you run the most successful virtual meeting possible? While no one can predict connectivity issues, background noises or sometimes even load shedding, there are a few simple steps to follow for an effective and efficient online meeting.

Choose robust technology

With so many collaboration tools on the market, it can be difficult to decide which is best for your needs. Do you go for the more expensive option in the hopes that the price point means it has everything you need, and more? Or do you reduce the features you have access to and go for the more affordable option to save on business costs?

Whatever you’re able to afford, it’s wise to choose an option that can do the basics, but do them right. These include:

  • Decent video and audio capabilities
  • A chat function
  • Screen-sharing
  • Recording ability

There are a number of versatile collaboration tools out there that provide businesses with a package of features. Look out for solutions that offer the basics of video conferencing and instant messenger, but also additional products including business email, team workspaces and task creation.

Once you’ve chosen your technology, spend some time learning its ins and outs. This will reduce time wasted during live calls trying to figure out where the record button is, or how to send a message to participants.

Make time for a catch up

Despite having an agenda, with important points to get to, take the time to have a brief and informal catchup with the participants. Whether they’re your colleagues and you know each other very well, or it’s a client that you’re meeting for the first time, make some time for casual conversation.

Creating this connection sets up a friendly tone for the interaction, encourages engagement and can strengthen the team culture or client relationship. Set a time limit for this catch up, around five minutes is more than enough. You can then dive into the meeting feeling positive and ready to go.

Create an approachable environment

Whether you’re chatting to your team, or pitching a new idea to a client, creating a space where questions can be asked and queries can be put forward is vital to a fruitful meeting. Without the face-to-face interaction, some might find it difficult to interject at times, while others might be too good at taking over the virtual ‘floor’.

Part of taking charge of a meeting is negotiating various personalities and giving everyone a chance to have their say. 

There are various ways to make participants feel comfortable and included in the meeting, such as:

  1. Greet everyone by name and ask them questions based on what you know is happening their lives
  2. Ask individuals for their thoughts based on their skillset
  3. Add a quick activity or questions to sections of your presentation or agenda
  4. Ask everyone to briefly introduce themselves at the start of the session if they are unfamiliar with each other
  5. Make participants aware that you are available to answer any questions or concerns after the meeting if they don’t feel comfortable doing so during the meeting.

Virtual meetings are vital for many remote and in-office teams who need to collaborate with people in different locations. And it’s no longer about learning where the mute button is, but about getting the most value out of these meetings so that they work for you and your participants. With a little preparation and participant management, you can create a successful virtual meeting every time you’re hosting one.