This checklist for your online meeting will make you a more flexible professional
If you’re wondering how to prepare for an online meeting, you’re not alone. We think this online meeting checklist could help loads of people out!
The online meeting is fast becoming part and parcel of daily professional life. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, more and more businesses have been embracing flexibility in the workplace.
Master the online meeting to embrace remote working
One aspect of this flexibility is allowing employees to work remotely. Some companies do go as far as working entirely remotely. They might not have any office space at all. Others incorporate remote working into a varied weekly or monthly routine, meaning they meet virtually too. That means an online meeting checklist could work wonders for them! For some, simply renting a meeting room once a month is enough, and the rest of the work can be done individually or in smaller teams in cafes, parks, and with online meetings and so on. There are loads of great free meeting locations out there! Some companies might meet much more frequently. Some allow remote work on an ad hoc basis, or in certain circumstances. Others might have a rota, whereby different members of staff come in on different days.
Let your employees find a better work life balance with online meetings
Having a more flexible outlook on professional life might also impact on the way employers see time management. Rather than asking people to work 9-5, many find teams are more efficient on a task-to-task basis. In other words, as long as the task is completed by the given deadline, when and where they choose to work is up to them. In the freelancing world, these two structures are even used to work out payment. Some freelancers prefer being paid hourly, while others think project-payments are fairer.
If you’re going to see time and efficiency more fluidly, then the ability to hold an effective online meeting is crucial. And online meeting checklist could boost efficiency and morale!
Without the rigid 9-5 structure, you might have people working vastly different hours. And when you’re part of a team, that can create some challenges – especially if you’re dependent on sharing a physical space. After all, you can’t expect everybody to hang around the office all day. The entire point of a flexible schedule is to allow people to fit work around life, as well as life around work. Maybe the most convenient time for all the team to meet is 8pm – perhaps they are caring for children in the day, one or two work freelance and have other projects, they have a day full of meetings and conference calls. The chances are that when people have to get together out of hours, they’d rather do so remotely.
Move to the online meeting for business success
By learning how to prepare the perfect online meeting, and having the ultimate online meeting checklist at your fingertips, you’ll be able to embrace the flexibility that so many business-owners attribute their success to. You’ll probably find yourself with a more efficient, happier team!
Of course, as many of us have found of late, the transition into remote work can feel daunting. There can be a lot of new factors to consider, and unexpected things to try and plan for. Preparation is as pressing as it’s ever been.
That’s why we’ve put together this checklist of how to prepare a great online meeting. There are loads of handy guides to having the most effective meetings, and even for the perfect conference call. You should definitely have a browse of these resources as you think about your online meeting. But here, we’ll focus specifically on info for the perfect online meeting.
Define what you’ll need for your online meeting, and who can provide it
This is a crucial step of the checklist as you prepare your online meeting, so don’t skip it! It might vary hugely from one group to another, meaning there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Of course, as with any meeting, an effective online meeting needs a detailed and thought-out agenda. But the move online might mean you have to think even more carefully than usual during your preparation. It’s not just pinning down your desired goals, or what you’ll do and discuss during the meeting. You need to think about how you’re going to get these things done, and who is going to be doing what.
Choose your online meeting tools carefully
Answering these questions will do the leg-work in narrowing down exactly what online conferencing tools you’ll need for your meeting. Think of preparing a set of questions for yourself, a tool checklist of sorts. Will screen-sharing be indispensable? How many people will have to share their screen throughout the meeting’s duration? Who will lead the meeting? What kind of moderator tools will they need to keep things moving productively and fairly?
Different online meeting providers have different limits and tools. You’ll need to figure out what your meeting needs, and then find the provider that best matches your requirements. To simplify things a little for you, we’ve even put together this handy comparison of web conferencing softwares.
Given the well-documented importance of non-verbal communication, it is likely that at least having the option to incorporate video into your online meeting will be preferred, if not required. That way, you’ll be better understood, and more equipped to read and react to people’s feelings. But of course, flexibility is vital! Choosing a software that allows for, but does not require or depend on, video is probably your best bet. That means opting for a provider like Call.Group.
Let everyone join your online meeting
A really key part of this first step in your checklist is thinking about how to ensure the call is accessible to everyone. For many, it’s vital to find an online meeting provider which allows people to join either via the Internet or by dialling in.
Make sure that as you’re preparing, you talk to everybody about their technical capacities ahead of time. That doesn’t just mean finding out how experienced they are with online meetings. Different organisations might have different restrictions on their devices, for example. Some people might need to seek approval or permissions from the IT department before they can join. Think, communicate, and act in everybody’s interest. After all, the purpose of the online meeting is to bring everyone together!
2) Sending out online meeting invitations
Of course this is high on your online meeting checklist. It’s not a meeting without some guests! If you’ve read some of the resources we pointed to earlier, you’ll know how important it is to choose your participants carefully as part of your preparation. It ensures that the meeting is productive, focused and relevant. It’s also a key part of maintaining morale and ensuring all team-members feel necessary and helpful.
Choose your guests carefully, and your conferencing software accordingly
One factor which vastly differentiates web conferencing softwares is the amount of participants which they allow. This varies not only from platform to platform, but on different plans from each platform.
If you’re picking a platform for long-term, recurring use, be sure to consider the maximum participants you’re likely to have to accommodate. If it’s a one-off meeting, the number might be clearer-cut.
In either case, you shouldn’t have to tailor your meeting to fit the software. Of course, budgets can create restrictions, and place certain larger plans out of reach. This can particularly be the case with providers who offer plans where the capacity increases on all rooms, and the licensed hosts increase proportionally too. While that may make sense for some organisations, it leaves others paying for features they don’t need.
Opting for Call.Group will infuse that all-important flexibility into your online meetings. We allow you to increase the capacity of just one room, so that you aren’t paying for loads of huge rooms that will never be filled, so to speak.
The key thing is to think about how many people you’ll really need in the meeting. Don’t cut corners or leave people out who would add value to the meeting. Instead, research different online meeting options to find one which can cater to your needs. If you’re stuck, our comparison might be useful here, too! Knowing what’s out there is vital in figuring out how to prepare for an online meeting.
Let everyone know the online meeting is happening
The great thing about online meetings is that the host is often relieved somewhat of the onus of composing invitations. Most online meeting softwares will allow you to input your participants and send out handy invitations for you, simplifying this step of the preparation.
Often, as with Call.Group, these invitations even include a link which will launch the online meeting, auto-filling the meeting room number. The invitations should also be compatible with calendar software. That way, your guests can upload the online meeting information directly into their calendars on their computers, tablets or smartphones. You’ll guarantee that nobody forgets or misses any of your online meetings!
You might be tempted to treat your online meeting invitations more casually than if the meeting were face to face. Perhaps you reason that people don’t need to make travel arrangements, and that instructions to find the ‘room’ aren’t quite so pressing or complex. But you’re still asking people to make time in their working schedules to attend a meeting, as well as doing all the preparation required. Make sure you give plenty of notice, and make sure that there are detailed instructions on what they’ll need to be able to join the meeting, and how to do so.
Here, security comes into play. It’s a key priority of Call.Group’s. Be very vigilant about how you share your conference room access details, and with whom. Be sure to mention in your email that the details should absolutely not be shared with anybody else, and that guests should store them in a secure place.
Don’t just say when and ‘where’, tell your guests what will happen during the meeting
As the articles we’ve linked above explain, thought-out agendas are a key point on any meeting checklist. It’s usually great practice to send out a detailed agenda along with your invitations. It lets people prepare appropriately, and know what to expect.
The agenda should not only lay out the contents and order of the meeting, but include indications of timings, and who’ll be saying what. Participants will then be able to put together any presentations they might want to give (if your online meeting software includes screen-sharing functions), collect data or information they’ll need, and generally prepare for the meeting. They’ll also know just how much time they’ll have to speak and/or ask questions, and how much time to set apart for the entirety of the meeting. It’s not just about learning how to prepare for yourself. You need to make sure everybody else is prepared, too.
Lay down the rules
An important part of the checklist for a successful online meeting agenda is giving guidelines on how participants should conduct themselves. The move to remote meeting means certain etiquette norms might not apply – like holding doors open, pouring water and so on. However, it does bring new etiquette into play.
Along with the invitation and agenda you circulate ahead of your online meeting, be sure to clarify your expectations. Should your guests all join with camera, or without? Will they turn their camera on while they speak? Should their microphones be muted unless they are speaking? And how will you decide who speaks when, without body language cues which are so important in navigating group conversations. Here again, the online meeting technology might be on your side, if your chosen platform has tools like Hand Raising and Chat.
3) Test your tech
This is a key point on the checklist whether you are hosting or just attending an online meeting. It’s not just about having all the info. Sure, knowledge is power. But you need technology on your side too. The last thing you want is to discover at the eleventh hour that your technology is not compatible with the chosen online meeting software. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have some kind of trial-run well in advance of the meeting’s start time. That way, you’ll have time to rectify any issues so that you can have a smooth meeting.
Your device should allow you to test the camera and microphone to ensure they’re both working as they should. Different platforms might also allow you to check your hardware’s compatibility. If you’re planning on working with Call.Group, you can see that everything will run properly by visiting https://test.webrtc.org/
If you’re joining on a browser, you’ll need to make sure you’ve granted that browser permission to access your microphone and camera. Within the browser, you’ll also need to grant permission to the website you’re using. The same permission-granting will be required if you’re joining via a smartphone app.
Trial runs should be on your online meeting checklist
If you can, try holding a full-blown conference call with at least one other participant, in the room that will be used. If you’ll be sharing a presentation, test one out (even if you haven’t got round to preparing the real one just yet!). Then, when the online meeting comes along, you’ll be sure that you’ll be heard, seen, and fully ‘present’ in your online meeting.
It’s a good idea to close as many apps and browser tabs as you can before the meeting. That way, your device can dedicate its memory space to the online meeting.
Ideally, you should try to wear a good quality head-set for the meeting. That can help prevent echo, ensure your microphone is clear and close to your mouth, and that you can hear everybody well. If you don’t have a head-set, headphones can also be helpful, especially those that have good microphones.
4) Prepare your online meeting space
Perhaps this sounds somewhat unnecessary. After all, isn’t part of the point of an online meeting that you get to cross this point off a regular meeting’s checklist, and you don’t have to think about the meeting space?
Actually, no. Even for those who don’t intend to use video conferencing, location is really important. As you prepare, you need to make sure that you’re somewhere free from distractions, both to you and your guests. That means eliminating as many noise-risks as possible. Of course, some things can’t be controlled, and participants will usually be understanding of this – particularly if working from home isn’t exactly voluntary, as is the case for many people during the lockdown. But try to avoid being in a room with a TV blaring, noisy cooking, or children playing, for example. And for your own sake, avoid having a TV even on mute, as you may well get distracted!
If you will have video turned on for your online meeting, you’ll want to think about visuals, too. Try to find a plain, light background if you can. Opt for as neutral a setting as possible, to avoid distractions and to retain a sense of professionalism. Again, work with what you have and don’t worry if there are bookshelves, wardrobes or coffee-makers kicking around in the background. But do make sure that you have a general tidy-up. Laundry or lunches are more of a no-no.
Also try to consider lighting. You should aim to have a light source shining onto you from behind the camera, to ensure you’re well-lit. Avoid back-lighting, which might render you a silhouette to your guests. Try to make sure windows are behind the camera, rather than in-shot.
While de-cluttering, do make sure you have anything on-hand that you might need during the meeting. A notepad and paper might be a good idea if you’re concerned about switching between the meeting platform and a virtual document to take notes, or if you don’t want the sound of typing to interfere. Having said that, though, with tools like online meeting recording, you should be able to leave any note-taking for later!
There might be certain documents that you need nearby, though, so plan accordingly, whether they be digital or physical.
Another good idea to keep on your online meeting preparation checklist is muting all notifications. A continuous stream of spam emails arriving, IMs from other colleagues, or unexpected phone calls can all prove really distracting and annoying, both for you and others. As far as possible, try to mute things ahead of the call. If you’re worried about missing important things, you could simply turn off the sounds rather than switching off all notifications.
5) Stick to the plan, but be patient and flexible
This is definitely something which does apply across the board, whether your meeting is online, over a telephone conference or in a board room. You’ve made an agenda, you’ve circulated it, so make sure you follow it. Otherwise, what was everyone’s preparation for?
One area which can prove particularly problematic specifically for online meetings is sticking not only to the contents of the agenda, but to its schedule. Particularly in moments like a nation-wide lockdown, it can be tempting to assume that if people are at home, they can stay on the call longer than anticipated. After all, where else are they going to go?
It’s vital that you resist this thought. Even the slightest consideration shows how illogical such an assumption would be. If they’ve scheduled in this online meeting, what’s to say they don’t have another shortly after? And clearly, if they’re attending meetings as usual, they’ll be completing their other tasks as usual. If you’re letting points drag on longer than they should, people will become restless and impatient, and may begin to worry that they will have to rearrange their entire day. You might also end up with people having to leave the call early. This will mean you have to schedule a whole new online meeting to go over what was missed the first time around.
Be ready to adapt
Equally, though, you need to factor in extra time and patience for potential technical problems. Try to have Plan B and C at the ready. Ideally, everyone will have run tests beforehand to ensure everything runs smoothly. But some people may not have had the chance. There also might be unexpected or uncontrollable hiccoughs, like patchy WiFi or a file that has been corrupted. Make sure that if you’re preparing a presentation, you have a back-up ready. Whether that means emailing a copy to a colleague, having an alternative version, or being able to deliver the information without visual aids is up to you.
This also means that you, and everyone on the call, might have to be slightly more patient as people get to grips with the technology. After a few online meetings, things should run much more smoothly. But be prepared for some trial and error. That’s the best way to learn!
6) Take into account the online nature of your meeting when you collect feedback
Again, getting feedback is crucial in any meeting checklist. But when you’re thinking about what feedback to collect, make sure you consider the fact that the meeting was online. This links to the trial and error scenarios discussed above… Find out how easy your online meeting platform was to use. Was joining as a guest seamless? Is sharing screens and documents intuitive and easy? Did people like being able to access the call recording, or would they prefer written minutes?
Your platform needs to be easy and enjoyable for everyone to use. Find out if there were tools they felt were missing, and what they liked best about meeting online. Ask them to reflect about what they had to do differently to move the meeting online. Were there things they preferred? What were some of the challenges they faced? Did they have specific concerns beforehand, and were these realised?
Gather as much information as you can, and then be sure to act upon it as you plan your next online meeting!
7) Make and share meeting minutes
This step in your checklist should be easier than ever if you’ve used conference call recording! You’ll be able to listen back to the whole meeting, and pause and rewind as necessary to take detailed minutes.
Make sure you are clear in the minutes about what ‘next steps’ were decided on. Try and lay out as clearly as possible what tasks need to be completed, their deadlines, and who is responsible for each.
Aim to share your minutes as soon as possible after the meeting, preferably on the same day. That way, everyone can remind themselves of what was discussed, and crack on with the next job!
8) Plan your follow-up online meeting
As people progress with their next tasks, it’s important to stay in touch. Collaboration and communication are key ingredients for any organisation’s success. Make sure you always have at least one other meeting on the horizon, so people know when they’ll be feeding back and deciding on how to progress.
With many online meeting platforms, you can set meetings to recur regularly. Maybe some teams want their meetings every week, while others only need to be monthly. Whatever your needs, be sure to use the tools you have available to you so that everyone knows when and how they’ll next be meeting!