7 Tips for Facilitating Successful Online Meetings
Just like the rest of the world, people in ministry are holding a lot of meetings online these days. Almost everyone can agree that there are plenty of pros and cons to these virtual calls. We might miss gathering together and might be struggling with “zoom fatigue” but still appreciate the flexibility connecting remotely affords. Whether you love it or hate it, online meetings are a very real reality for the foreseeable future, so practicing the art of productive and painless meetings is well worth everyone’s time.
Choose the Right Technology
Finding and choosing the right tools for your team can go a long way to making meetings more efficient. Zoom and Google Meet are popular platforms, though countless more exist and this article offers a great, practical breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the major options out there and different features you may want to keep in mind.
Ensure Every Meeting is Essential
As explained by Sanford researchers, it’s easy for online meetings to wear on all of us. A great way to help prevent digital burnout? Preparation. Make sure you’re clear on the purpose of and desired outcome of each meeting, as well as who absolutely must be there. Consider, could this meeting be a phone call? An email? Does the entire team need to be on the call, or just a few key players? It might seem like common sense, but knowing the who and why of your meetings helps boost efficiency and efficacy. Plus, respecting the time of your staff helps build trust, morale, and, as we discussed by the Sanford experts, keep zoom fatigue at bay.
Specify a Leader
Designating a leader for each meeting is a great way to help calls run smoother, promote productive discussions, and flow from topic to topic with ease. The leader will most likely be the one writing the agenda and doing the pre-meeting prep, as well. With a leader, everyone knows who to defer to whenever there’s a lull or things start to get sidetracked.
Build an Agenda
The agenda is an important tool for both preparing for and running meetings. An agenda helps give each meeting a plan to follow and a means to achieve its purpose. It helps whomever is running the meeting stay on task and gives attendees an idea of what is to come and how they can prepare for the meeting themselves. An agenda is often the structure a meeting needs to succeed.
Set Ground Rules
It’s never too late to build a healthy online meeting culture with your team. Are you having issues with staff being unengaged and distracting? It could help to establish some ground rules and expectations for behavior on calls. Think about your staff and if it might be helpful to ask your teams to keep their cameras and microphones on. When we can see each other, even across the screen, it’s easier to stay focused and attuned to what’s happening in the meeting.
If that feels a little too much like micromanaging but you’re having trouble engaging your team, have an honest conversation about what might help them be more involved in meetings. It could be that your staff don’t feel like all of their meetings are essential to their role. While building your agenda, give time to each member of the meeting. If someone doesn’t need time, there’s a chance they might not need to be at the meeting. And the more important a meeting is to someone (and, bonus, the fewer meetings they need to call in for), the more likely they are to be engaged when they are present.
Figure in Time to Debrief
In the office, it’s a common ritual for everyone to debrief after a meeting in their offices or in the break room. Consider building this time to unwind into the meeting itself. You can split up into breakout rooms to give your staff time to decompress, process, discuss, and brainstorm. If you’d rather stick together, you can open the floor for questions, thoughts, and concerns.
Follow-Up With an Email
Meetings can be dense and, even while engaged, it can be difficult for everyone to remember key takeaways and action items. It’s good practice for the leader of the meeting or someone who’s taking notes to send out an email after the meeting that encapsulates what was discussed, decided, and any relevant next steps.
Running a productive meeting online can feel overwhelming but with practice and experimentation you can find a process that will help your team thrive. Admins and leaders, thank you for your persistence and creativity as we navigate an ever changing technological and social landscape. We’re praying for your inspiration and wisdom as you continue to lead and adapt to the ever-changing environments.
About the Author
Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.