Many of the techniques that are useful when running physical meetings are also relevant for online meetings. However, some aspects are different for online meeting. Below, you will find practical advice on how to deal with this:
The chair is responsible for managing the discussion at the meeting and making sure the agenda is followed – and this is especially important when the meeting takes place online. If minutes are to be taken, another person should be responsible for this.
Give the participants the opportunity to provide input to the agenda before the meeting, if relevant. Keep the agenda open during the meeting.
It is a good idea to make sure beforehand that the link and sound works, and that there is a stable internet connection.
This makes the participants feel welcome and ‘seen’, in spite of them not being physically present and not being able to make eye contact or shake hands. It may be a good idea to start off with a bit of small talk until all participants have joined the meeting room. This will make the atmosphere less formal.
The participants often enter the meeting room gradually and will small talk until everyone has arrived. For this reason, it is a good idea to have a formal start to the meeting. Go through the agenda and ask everyone to turn on their microphone and briefly introduce themselves. This will ensure that everyone is aware that the meeting is about to start, they know what it is about and who is present.
Video should be turned on so that the participants have a better sense of each other, maintain eye contact and use body language and gestures - whether they are speaking or actively listening. Encourage all participants to turn on their camera.
In meetings with many participants, it is a good idea ask people to mute themselves when they are not speaking. Listening to papers being shuffled, coffee being sipped or people talking in the background can be distracting.
In meetings with only a few participants, it may be a good idea for everyone to unmute so dialogue flows more smoothly. If everyone except the chair is muted, the meeting may turn into a monologue or one-way information instead of discussion and debate.
During the meeting, it might be necessary to share links, ask a question or make a comment that is not important enough to interrupt the person who is speaking. For these purposes, it is a good idea to have a chat function or a live document for comments, questions and/or notes. It is important that everyone has access to this function and can follow along during the meeting.
It is a good idea to have some leeway with regard to the duration of the meeting, because it is very important that you conclude online meetings formally instead of participants just disappearing one by one to get ready for their next meeting. Set aside an additional 15 minutes in the agenda and allow time for some closing remarks.