In the current climate, most of us have had to adjust how we work. And where we work. Naturally for those that work in offices, this has led to many online rather than physical meetings. And this has been a culture shock especially for those leading the get-together. So we put together some tips on how to begin an online meeting. If you start the meeting well, you are half-way towards a productive discussion.
The key to starting well is the preparation that occurs before the meeting even starts. That means that every participant in the meeting has all the material at hand to make for a positive discussion that ends with something being achieved. And key to preparation is ensuring all participants understand exactly what the meeting is about. This might seen obvious, but i have sat in many meetings where i was not needed, and where there was a lack of clarity as to its purpose.
Thus begin by distributing a clear agenda to all that will be on the call. Add in notes should you wish specific people to make a contribution for certain sections. Also do not dictate the contents of an agenda. Be open to feedback and suggestions for adjustments and additional points of order.
Also make clear before the meeting occurs what you expect from the occasion. Should its intention be to decide concrete decisions going forward? Or is it more a general discussion to get the ball rolling on a certain process? Always ensure everyone knows what the meeting should decide. It can be just as beneficial to make clear what the meeting is not about as much as what it is.
There is something of an art to constructing an agenda for a meeting. You do not want to write an essay, as it is merely a guide for discussions. But you also do not want it to be so vague that there is no clarity on what is being discussed. Make the points clear and the goals too. Perhaps guide on how you wish the discussion to flow. Ask certain members to own parts of the discussion if that helps and they have a specific area of expertise.
It may help to clarify also the level of contributions each member is expected to make in a meeting. It is a simple fact of meetings that some people will be needed more than others. I have sat in three hour meetings where ten minutes was for me to give an update on one certain aspect of the business. I had no interest in the rest of the meeting. So do not worry if everyone does not contribute exactly the same amount. Some may not need to contribute at all – they may simply be there to learn details that can help them move forward in their job role. But for those that do contribute, make clear that they must be concise and not dominate the meeting. If you chair a meeting, you essentially act as a conductor, and will need to temper how much people speak at times. It is important for concentration levels that you keep the meeting moving along at a brisk pace.
Much of what i have already mentioned can be clarified, and should be, at the start of the meeting before discussions commence. Lay out ground rules, what you expect from those on the call, and more. It will also help to comment on how long you wish the meeting to last, roughly. And whatever the topic of the meeting, start in a positive manner. Start on the right foot.
You do not want the meeting denigrating into the sort of meeting that went viral on social media last week. you may need to discuss difficult and sensitive matters. There may be bad news to impart. And as always, you are dealing with a number of people all of different character. Some may attempt to control proceedings, some may be rude or even offensive. You must stay in control, and curb any inappropriate behaviour. Make it quite clear from the start the standards you expect of everyone present. Honesty is fine, but lines cannot be crossed.
It’s almost certainly the case that you attend too many meetings if you work in an office. It’s certain that you attend many bad meetings. You can usually tell within the first two minutes which type of meeting you will be in. If you’re the chair, make sure your meeting makes an excellent initial impression. Achieve this by focusing everyone on the unique value they’re supposed adding, Emphasize variety of thought, and filtering out time-wasters. Do that and you’ll find that your meetings earn a sterling reputation and actually help get work done.