This evidence-based approach to making your online gatherings engaging and productive will continue to bring benefits long after the pandemic has passed.
Half the meetings we hold in the real world not only fail to engage people, they can even be detrimental to your team’s wellbeing. When you shift gatherings online – as most of us have during the COVID-19 pandemic – they have even less chance of producing satisfactory results.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Writing for MIT Sloan Management Review, Professor Steven G Rogelberg, author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance (Oxford University Press, 2019), explains that leading effective online meetings is all about careful stewardship.
1) Plan for success
- Keep meetings small. Only invite people whose input is essential for the topics to be discussed. Record the meeting so it can be circulated to those whose attendance is not strictly necessary.
- Keep it short. Not every meeting needs to last an hour. If time is limited to, say, 20 minutes, it can improve focus and urgency.
- Refine your agenda. Listing specific questions to answer defines who needs to attend, influences how successful the meeting is, and identifies the point at which to end the meeting.
- Press record. Knowing your contribution is being recorded will increase your teams’ engagement and boost confidence.
2) Make it productive
- Stick to a schedule. Avoid delays by getting key players to check their technology well in advance. End on time – over-running causes stress.
- Be upbeat. Your mood affects everyone else’s; if you’re positive it encourages others to follow suit.
- Set expectations. Ask your team members what they think would constitute a successful meeting. How long should people speak for? When should you take a break in proceedings?
- Involve individuals. Don’t let one or two people dominate, divert or ramble – give everyone a voice. Ask specific team members for their opinions.
- Use the technology. Real time voting apps and chat rooms can help you check the opinions and consensus of the meeting as you go along.
3) Wrap things up
- Close well. As the end of the meeting approaches, confirm all required follow-up actions and who is responsible for taking them.
- Invite evaluation. Ask team members to give feedback about the meeting. Send out a brief survey asking people what they thought went well and could be done better.
Set a standard for remote meetings that inspires others to follow suit, and remember, everything you learn now is just as useful for improving face-to-face meetings when they eventually resume.