Make your online meetings
more productive

Getting everyone together to brainstorm ideas or run a workshop has best been done in person. With the use of tools like whiteboards, notepads and even post-its on a window. With more teams being located across the region, country or globe, the need to be able to run these critical meetings online is critical to the organisation being able to be productive. 

You need to ensure your team are able to contribute effectively in these sessions, to the same level as they would in a face to face, given the online workplace we are living in.

Many people struggle to either run or take part in these sessions via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex or other online meeting technology. And guess what, it isn’t the technologies fault! We have compiled a list to make your next online workshop more productive, and help you are able to get the most from the time. You asked for their input right, so lets set everyone up for success.

1. Plan, communicate and be prepared

As the facilitator, you need to ensure there is a solid agenda, with a list of desired outcomes for the workshop. This should be communicated early with participants. Let people know why they have been invited (their special skill) and what the outcomes are that you need from the time allocated. If there is reading, background research, slides etc for them to review, send this well in advance. Make the most use of the time.

2. Get everyone aligned and introduced

Introductions; who are you, what is your role, and why are you in this session. There is nothing worse than not knowing who someone is and why they are in your video conference.

Then as the lead, you need to get everyone aligned. Why are they here and what are you wanting from them. They will already have received the background reading etc as stated earlier. Cover it again though, “From today we want….” Making sure everyone is clear on the expected outcomes will keep then focused and assist in keeping the workshop on track.

3. Have a shared workspace for notes

Like you would in a meeting room, you need to share notes, ideas diagrams with the group on a single screen. There are some really easy ways to do this, the first is OneNote. In case you didn’t know, you can create a OneNote page directly from the meeting invite, and decide to share it with everyone or just yourself. This will show the meeting date and time and who attended. Very handy. Create the OneNote and share it with everyone, and on the screen in the video-conference. Another great way to share or mimic a whiteboard is an app called Whiteboard from Microsoft. It’s free and works across PC’s, tablets and mobile devices. Whiteboard allows everyone to contribute by drawing on the shared whiteboard.

4. Plan breaks

One thing we see in video-conference sessions is people tuning out. Gazing out the window, catching up on emails, checking the phone. It’s hard to maintain concentration when you are in a room by yourself looking at a computer screen.

Let people know how long the session will be and when the breaks are. Even if you are only going for an hour, put in 5-10 minute break halfway. It will reward you and those attending.

5. Limit the time

If you need to go longer than 90 minutes, you might want to consider breaking it into a couple of sessions. Just like planning breaks, it is going to become harder to keep peoples attention and focus. After all, its their contribution you are after. By using some of the sharing and collaboration tools we have mentioned, it is easy to pick up where you left off if you need to break the session up. No one is going to come into the room and clean off your whiteboard. Having a morning, then an afternoon session can be an advantage. It will give people time to ponder and consider options between sessions.

Being remote doesn’t mean things have to stop. By putting in some guidelines and setting people up to contribute you can be kick off your next project or brainstorming session online and reap the benefits.

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