10 Tips to Make Your Web Meetings More Productive

Cynthia Clay CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutions

By Cynthia Clay, CEO, Netspeed Learning

Wouldn’t you love it if every meeting you attended was engaging, collaborative, productive, and held your attention? By some estimates, 25 million meetings occur in the US every day. With the advent of the virtual workplace, more and more of these meetings are happening online. And yet, up to 50% of these meetings are considered to be wasted time.

Most people admit to multitasking while they are participating in a web meeting. A recent study by Intercall revealed what people are actually doing when they are logged in:

  •        Getting other work done: 65%
  •        Sending an e-mail: 63%
  •        Eating or making food: 55%
  •        Going to the restroom: 47%
  •        Texting: 44%
  •        Checking social media: 43%

Perhaps you can see yourself in that list of distractions. Truth be told, I’ve done everything on that list during a boring web meeting except go to the restroom! I think you’ll agree with me—we’ve got to get better at planning and facilitating web meetings so we can reap the promised benefits of increased productivity and effectiveness.

Ten Tips to Make Your Web Meetings Great

  1. Set Measurable Meeting Goals

Any meeting, face-to-face or virtual, is improved by spending a few minutes thinking about the outcomes you hope to achieve. Make these targets as measurable as possible. Instead of a vague goal like, “Discuss the marketing event,” make it more specific and clear.  “Choose a venue for the marketing event within our budget of $10,000” is a measurable goal that guides the discussions you need to plan.

 

2. Plan for Interaction Every Three to Five Minutes

Once you’ve established your meeting goals, begin to think about how you will engage the best thinking and problem solving abilities of your meeting attendees to achieve those goals. If you want to capture and hold their attention, build interaction into your plan. The rule of thumb is to get their input frequently, at least every five minutes. That means you can’t deliver long status updates and expect to keep them from madly multi-tasking in boredom.

 

3. Prepare and Email the Agenda in Advance

Give your meeting attendees 24-hour’s notice to review pertinent background information and prepare to participate actively in your web meeting. It’s tough to facilitate any meeting on-the-fly, without preparation. The difficulty is compounded when you want to meet effectively online.  With a solid agenda, including planned interaction distributed in advance, you signal that your web meeting is going to be fast-paced and productive. Here’s an example of web Meeting Planning tool that can help you get the most from your web meetings.

 

4. Log in 15 Minutes Early

You can often get away with racing into a face-to-face meeting just as it starts, but if you are the facilitator of a web meeting, you’ll want to log in at least 15 minutes prior to your start time. You need to be there to upload your slides, check any polls you plan to use, test the web conference settings and troubleshoot anything that might be glitchy before your meeting attendees begin to arrive. Once you are ready, you’ll be able to greet your attendees warmly as they join the meeting online.

 

5. Begin and End on Time

Yes, this tip is true for all of your meetings. However, online meetings can sometimes get slower starts if people are having difficulty with their devices or their log in instructions. If someone is unfamiliar with the web conferencing software you use, invite them to arrive ten minutes early so you can support them. Or better yet, orient them to the web conferencing environment in a tutorial a few days before your meeting. Do what you can to get a fast start on your web meetings and you’ll increase attendance and participation. Then make sure you close with a few minutes to spare, so people can log off and get to other appointments.

Probe for Diverse Opinions with Polls

6. Probe for Diverse Opinions with Polls

The polling feature in your web conferencing platform is an easy and effective way to capture people’s opinions and experiences. If you need to vote amongst several alternatives, create a poll. If you are curious about the experience level of people on the call, open a poll. If you want to check the pulse of the group and whether they are ready to move on, use a poll.

For example, you might have a reusable poll created ahead of time with multiple responses that you open when you reach a stopping place in a discussion. The poll question might be: Are we ready to move on? The three responses might be: 1) Yes, let’s move on! 2) Maybe, I still have a comment or question. 3) No, we are not ready to move on.

 

7. Use Emoticons to Check for Agreement

Most web conference platforms have status icons or emoticons such as a smiley face, raised hand, green check, and red X. If you are striving to reach consensus on an issue, emoticons are a fast way to check for agreement. For example, ask people to give you a green check if they are in full agreement, a smiley face if they are in partial agreement and willing to move forward, or a red X if they have serious reservations. Of course, if someone signals with a red X that they have serious reservations, you need to probe further to find out what those reservations might be.

 

8. Record Ideas and Actions Visually on White Board or Note Pod

To actively engage interest, allow meeting attendees to see what’s being agreed upon by typing their comments directly on a whiteboard (common in platforms like WebEx, Skype for Business, or Adobe Connect) or in a note pod (used in Adobe Connect). Similar to the way you might use a flipchart pad in a face-to-face meeting, the whiteboard or note pod feature allows you or someone you designate to actively serve as a scribe during the meeting. These visual records reduce confusion and ambiguity as everyone can see what’s being recorded. You can also use a whiteboard as a “parking lot” for tangential issues and questions.

 

9. Encourage Open Discussion in Chat

There’s great value in encouraging meeting attendees to comment, make suggestions, or raise questions in the chat pane. This is one of the advantages of web meetings that can’t be beat by face-to-face meetings – the ability to read what’s on people’s minds. Just make sure to periodically review the questions and comments aloud so you can either address the issues or place them on a “parking lot” for later. I love using chat this way, as it encourages free discussion without stopping the meeting.

 

10. End with Praise and Appreciation

In our company, we end our weekly meeting with five or ten minutes of team kudos. We take the opportunity to thank the people on our team who have helped us achieve our objectives from the previous week. We try to make these kudos as specific as possible. It is very powerful to conclude a web meeting with appreciation and it guarantees that people return to work feeling good about their contributions.

These ten tips will help you deliver a great web meeting. If you’d like five more tips, download my infographic, Great Web Meetings: We’ve Got to Keep Meeting Like This!

Cynthia Clay is the CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutions and the author of Great Webinars: How to Create Interactive Learning that is Captivating, Informative, and Fun, as well as Peer Power: Transforming Workplace Relationships (Wiley).