Online Meetings: DOS and DON’TS

Maybe it's because of that autumn mood that my clients increasingly are asking me for online formats again. Or they are simply of the forward-looking type and have priced in waves of colds and COVID infections and have therefore opted for online meetings and workshops.

That said, I also have to remind myself again: “What does it take to have a smooth online meeting?” or “What things are better not done in meetings conducted online?”.

Here are my thoughts on the DOS:

  1. Encourage each person to say something right at the beginning (check-in)
  2. Allow room for interaction: a) For groups larger than 6 participants, incorporate working in small groups; b) Speaking in rounds so that every perspective can be presented; c) Work visually either in a chat, on a digital whiteboard, or with a survey tool such as Mentimeter
  3. Facilitate personal exchange
  4. Offer variety
  5. Ensure sufficient amount of breaks (approx. every 60 minutes)
  6. End the meeting via a check-out routine so that each person can share one more thought also at the end

DO #3, “Enabling personal exchange", is of particular importance to me in the digital space, as there is no such thing as walking together to the meeting room or meeting randomly at the coffee machine. I have several options at hand to achieve this form of exchange, all of which do not necessarily take up a lot of time, for example:

  • Conduct the 10-minute check-in with one or two personal questions at the very beginning of the meeting in small groups of 3 people: How are you feeling today? What was your highlight, what was your lowlight last week? What would you like to share? What is on your mind at the moment?
  • Each person shows a photo of their home, their last vacation, or their favorite place by sharing their own screen. 
  • Alternatively, participants can show their place of birth on Google Maps and say how long they lived there. 
  • Another option would be to switch off the camera filter so that participants can show where they are at the moment and share one or two thoughts on their current workplace.

DO #4, “Offer variety", should be a high priority for moderation, above all in the digital space. Nothing can be more tiring than tedious online meetings that are held one after the other throughout the day. Any meeting that contains just one fresh or new impulse will stand out positively. Below is a list of ideas I have already used in my work as a facilitator:

  • Give all participants a thematic question or statement and send them away for 3 to 7 minutes to think about that question or statement. Everyone turns off the camera and their microphone and then leaves the meeting.
  • Offer a meditation or a short stretching exercise of 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Pick out 3 to 5 yes-no questions to create a relaxed atmosphere. Give the instruction to turn off all cameras and then ask the respective question one after the other. If the answer is “yes,” participants switch the camera on; if the answer is “no,” they leave it off. Examples of questions could be: Have you ever been to Asia? Have you changed your employer more than twice? Do you love summer? Etc.

On the other hand, what I try to avoid as a facilitator are the following DON'TS:

  • Give or allow presentations longer than 15 minutes
  • Full-day online workshops
  • Cameras off

The most obvious DOS for good meetings such as invitation, agenda, presence of a facilitator, the right participants, technology that works, etc. can be found in my newsletter from 13 January 2021.

Finally: I prefer the actual space for moving around, the haptics and the intensity of in-person meetings. At the same time, I really appreciate the benefits of online meetings such as the resources and costs saved as well as the convenience for me and the participants of not having to travel. All in all, I welcome every type of encounter – whether in person or online!

This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here

Further reading and practical tips:

Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 64 34-905 997+49 175 5196446
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