Your Guide to Effective Online Meetings (with Checklist)

9 min read
October 26, 2022

Online meetings have become a key component of almost every company’s communication strategy. Holding effective online meetings might look easy, but it isn’t as simple as it looks.

Today we will give you our top tips and checklist to help you get the most out of yours. With it, you will have all the tools you need to maximise your virtual meeting effectiveness.

Table of contents

  1. What are Virtual Meetings
  2. Why is Remote Meeting Technology Beneficial for Companies
  3. 10 Tips for Effective Remote Meetings
  4. Online Meeting Set up and Checklist
  5. Wrap-up

What are Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings are the means we use to communicate remotely using software and hardware like video conferencing software and webcams.

Thanks to technological advances, we no longer need to be in the same room to achieve our communication goals and objectives. Many of us now have colleagues in different countries that we interact with daily.

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Virtual meetings have removed many barriers to effective communication, including distance, physical space, commuting costs and travel time. Communicating with colleagues is now as easy as clicking a button and turning on your webcam and microphone. 

One of the issues with virtual meetings is the barrier to entry. Because they are so easy to host, there is a huge range in meeting quality. We have all attended awful online meetings where the host didn’t know the first thing about running an effective meeting.

Like any workplace process, checklists and best practices can help us improve our standards.

Why is Remote Meeting Technology Beneficial for Companies

Remote meetings are a huge asset for businesses. The list of benefits is long and there are very few disadvantages. Let’s look at what they are:

  • Save money - virtual meetings will save your company money. It’s a simple equation. Add up what it costs to send people to meetings, this includes travel, accommodation, food, etc., and compare it to the cost of video conferencing software. You will find that it is almost always cheaper to host a meeting virtually.
  • Save time - how much time do people in your business spend travelling to and from work and meetings? It probably adds up to a significant number of hours.
    Video meetings allow us to recover these hours and spend them on important organisational tasks.
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  • Productive employees - many studies have shown that remote working results in more productive employees. Most people now consider a hybrid or fully remote working arrangement a priority when searching for a new job.

    Remote employees are productive employees.

  • Video conferencing software - hosting an online meeting gives us a huge set of tools that are difficult to replicate in person. Imagine trying to poll a live audience every 10 minutes, or remember which question came first? All of these issues are easily overcome with modern software.

10 Tips for Effective Remote Meetings

1. Engagement - engagement is your best friend when it comes to hosting effective online meetings. A lack of engagement will kill your meeting quicker than anything else. Use interactive tools to keep participants engaged.

Digital Samba for Meetings has a host of interactive features, including polling, hand-raising, Q&A and emojis. Use them frequently to ensure participants are active. 

2. Remote meeting etiquette - we follow etiquette rules for in-person meetings. Why should it be any different for virtual communications? We could write a whole article about etiquette, but here are some simple rules:

  • Appearance - you can be more relaxed in an online setting, but this isn’t an excuse to show up in pyjamas. People still form first impressions based on appearance in the virtual world. Ensure your lighting and audio settings are optimised.

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  • Manners - you should be as polite and well-mannered as you would be in person. Don’t use the virtual format as a means to talk over people. Good manners help to build collaborative relationships.

  • Mute when you aren’t speaking - no one wants to hear you chewing lunch or talking to your partner. Always mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking, especially in big meetings.

  • Code of conduct - we encourage you to produce an online team meeting code of conduct for your organisation. Don’t leave what is and isn’t acceptable up for debate. Set out clear rules from the get-go and you can avoid unpleasant incidents later.

3. Choose the right platform - platform choice will hugely impact your meetings' success. What you need from a platform will change depending on what type of organisation you are in.

Digital Samba for Meetings, has everything most organisations need to host engaging and effective virtual team meetings. HD video streaming, screen sharing, cloud recordings, whiteboard, file sharing, breakout rooms, interactive features and mobile-friendly are just a small sample of the available tools.

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4. Provide training - if you recently adopted a new videoconferencing platform, it may be wise to host some training sessions. You need all your staff to be familiar with the platform to get the most out of it. Transitions can be tough, but high-quality training will help speed things up.

5. Icebreakers - Icebreakers and virtual activities and games play an important role in online meetings. They boost engagement and help your employees get to know each other. More than ever, remote employees are suffering from alienation and loneliness.

Check out our list of virtual icebreakers and games here for some inspiration.

6. Introductions - If you are hosting a session where not everyone has met, it’s always a good idea to do a round of introductions. In our experience, if the host doesn’t force an introduction, they tend not to happen. You can keep them simple or ask people for a bit more, like a fun fact about themselves. You never know. You might form relationships with people who would never have interacted.

7. Poll often - we are going back to engagement here, but polling is a highly effective tool. We recommend that you often poll during a session. Not so often that people get bored of it, but just enough to keep people's attention and maintain the novelty aspect.

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8. Use people’s names often - People love to hear their names. It’s a simple fact of psychology. When running effective virtual meetings, use this effect by regularly referring to people by their names.

9. Every meeting should have a goal - Your meeting must always have a purpose. Participants do not like sitting in meetings that they think aren’t worth their time. You have probably sat in meetings where the host has needlessly filled the allocated time with fluff. Participants actively resent what they see as a waste of their time.

Elon Musk encourages employees to leave a meeting if they don’t think they need to be there. You might not want to be as drastic, but always consider how you use people's time. Preparing and distributing an agenda beforehand is a quick win that can increase the effectiveness of any meeting.

10. Feedback - Always try and get feedback from your participants. You can use responses to improve your next session and provide a better experience for your attendees. Leave your ego at the door and ask for honest feedback. It will only help you in the long term.

Online Meeting Set up and Checklist

In addition to applying our top tips for effective virtual team meetings, you should use this checklist before each meeting. Here are 9 things you should always do before a meeting to ensure things run smoothly. 

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  • Keep your software updated

    As simple as this is, many organisers fall foul of it. Starting your meeting only to realise that half of your attendees can’t join because their software is outdated can take the wind out of your sails.

The best way to avoid this issue is to use a browser-based videoconferencing platform like Digital Samba for Meetings.

Browser-based software requires no downloads and allows you to join meetings by clicking a link. No software downloads mean fewer moving parts and fewer things that can go wrong before you start.

  • Bandwidth

    Ensure you have all the bandwidth you need before hosting a large meeting. If you are hosting, your presence is compulsory and you can’t be dropping in and out due to network issues. As crazy as it sounds, not everyone has access to lightning-fast fibre broadband.

    If you live in a city or have fast internet, this won’t be a problem. If you have ok or below-average internet, do everything you can to maintain bandwidth throughout the meeting. This might mean asking family members to lay off Netflix while you are on your call.
  • Dress appropriately

    As the host, this applies to you more than others. Poor presentation can send the wrong messages to participants. If you don’t care, then why should they?
    We aren’t saying you should turn up to a team meeting in a three-piece suit. This isn’t a good look, either. As a rule of thumb for formal meetings, smart casual works best.

Use common sense to determine your dress code before the meeting. Job interview? Wear something smart and professional. Informal team gathering? Relaxed clothing is fine, use your judgement.

  • Lighting & sound

    Check your lighting and sound before you start. Using our lighting guide, you can take your online presence to a new level. We recommend two or three-point lighting if you want to optimise and appear as professional as possible. 

Crisp audio is equally important, you could have the best lighting and webcam setup in the world, but a poor-quality microphone could ruin it. Spending some time perfecting your lighting and sound will help you look professional and be taken seriously.

  • Prepare an agenda

    As we highlighted earlier, a team meeting should always have a purpose to be effective. An agenda is a great way of letting everyone know what you want to achieve and cover. It gives people time to prepare questions in advance and for you to prepare any materials. 

Overall they are just a great way of providing structure and direction to your meetings. You can refer to the agenda and redirect attention elsewhere if too much time is spent on a topic.

  • Send invites and reminders

    Check and double-check that you have sent your meeting invites. If you have, send reminders so that no one forgets. It’s common to see video conferences derailed due to unsent invites or a lack of reminders.

    Digital Samba for Meetings makes this process easier for the host by giving you access to one-click email invitations and reminders.
  • Upload documents in advance

    Decide what materials you need and have them ready before the team meeting. Upload them to your platform, so they are on hand when needed. This is why a platform offering file sharing and cloud storage is so important. 

All your materials should be neatly organised in a folder, ready to go. Don’t be that person who has to spend 10 minutes searching for a file mid-meeting.

  • Trial run

    We recommend performing a trial run before the real thing. A dry-run is a must for important events like annual company gatherings, board meetings, shareholder meetings, etc. You need to know if your software is working as intended. 

Don’t wait until the meeting has started before noticing something seriously wrong with your hardware or software settings. A little bit of preparation before an event can make all the difference between a successful and unsuccessful meeting.

  • Set clear goals and objectives

    Even if you have already made your agenda, think once more about your goals and objectives. They need to be clear, definable and measurable. For example, don’t host a software training session that aims to “increase the effectiveness of the sales team using this software”.

Remember, clear, definable, and measurable. Taking the above example, we could change it to “To ensure that all sales team members have completed the first and second software training modules with a grade of at least 60%.

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Wrap-up

Anyone can host an effective online meeting, but it requires some planning and effort on the host’s part. Before your next session, apply our tips and make sure you tick each item off our checklist.

Your meeting will run smoother and be more engaging. Your participants will thank you for it. 

 

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