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5 Best Practices for online meetings

By Joanne Jacobs

Now that we’re back in lockdown, working from home and online meetings have once again become the norm.

We’re here to refresh your memory on the best practices for online meetings, and give you some of the best tips we’ve learned while running a number of our events and workshops online.

We’re sure by now you’re all too familiar with the traditional best practices, such as having your camera on during meetings, muting yourself when you’re not talking and ensuring your background is appropriate.

But we often forget that our participants are all regularly attending back-to-back meetings, or feeling like our video conference is just staring into a screen, making snail-paced progress. With this small insight, we can bake-in some interaction design to turn a very average meeting into an amazing, energising one.

Don’t talk at people, talk with them – ensure the content is engaging

When running online workshops or meetings, it’s important that you keep people engaged for as much of the session as possible.

Chances are that people retain very little of what is said, and will leave feeling like they didn’t gain anything. Interaction elements that keeps people engaged – for example, conversational break outs, filling out worksheets, polls, surveys and canvases – all serve to keep energy and attention levels high.

Schedule regular breaks

If your meeting or workshop is longer than an hour, it’s best to include a break. Set your agenda at the beginning of the meeting and explain when breaks will take place:

  • Every hour and a half for all day workshops
  • Every 45-60 minutes for shorter meetings.

This gives participants the opportunity to get up and walk around, get some food and coffee without feeling like they’re missing out on anything or being rude. You will find the participants return feeling more engaged than they were just before the break.

Encourage people to go outside

In addition to scheduling breaks, it’s helpful to encourage people to step away from their screen during the breaks, and preferably go outside. Especially during lockdown, it is extremely important to make sure that everyone is getting some time outside in the fresh air.

One way to encourage this is giving participants a 20 minute break and ask them to go outside and come back to the meeting with three observations that they can share with the rest of the meeting. This not only encourages them to have a proper break, but also focus on something different to the task at hand.

Try to read the room

Although you might have scheduled breaks throughout the day, it is important to try and read the virtual room, because sometimes these breaks might be too short, or not frequent enough. It can be difficult to read people’s energy through a screen, but try and take notice of people’s body language, their focus on tasks and their enthusiasm towards the workshop or meeting itself.

Sometimes you will need to be flexible and move a break earlier than anticipated, or allow a little more time than you initially planned so that you can make the most of the rest of your time together and be productive.

One last thing

If you happen to finish your workshop or event early, wrap it up. Thank your participants for diligently working through the process, and give your colleagues some time back in their day.

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