With a growing number of remote workers in businesses large and small, traditional meetings are now being replaced by online meetings where team members can collaborate from multiple locations. Whether you’re thinking of holding your first online meeting or are already a seasoned pro, this article will provide tips & tech to boost productivity and make your next online meeting a success.
Online Meeting Tech Tools
There are quite a few online meeting platforms available, with a range of prices and features to fit the needs of any business. A few of the big names in online meetings are:
- GotoMeeting – GotoMeeting is as simple as launching an online meeting, sending out invites, and then getting to work. Team members can participate by phone or through the computer using mics, speakers and webcams. You can see each other, work on your screen while the meeting is happening, and even share your screen with the group. They’ve also recently added new features that allow PC users to move/hide the control panel, Mac users to switch devices without having to reconnect, and personalization options so you can create custom meeting rooms and destination URLs. Plans start at $39/month and include a free trial period.
- ClickMeeting – ClickMeeting offers both meeting and webinar subscriptions. ClickMeetings allow videoconferencing with up to 25 participants and 2 presenters, built in presentation apps, document sharing, and desktop sharing. The price is $30/month. ClickWebinars allow videoconferencing for up to 1,000 participants with added benefits including tools for interactive presentations and for managing participants & discussions. There are four plans available, starting at $40/month.
- Onstream Media – Onstream Media is a place for all sorts of virtual events, offering streaming services, conference services, virtual environments, and other professional services. Regarding online meetings, Onstream allows you to choose from audio conferencing (an automated/spontaneous meeting using your office or mobile phone, or an operator-assisted conference call) or web conferencing (which allows users to share and present slides & documents from the desktop). Onstream Media is billed on a per usage basis with no minimums.
These are three of the highest rated online meeting platforms, but there are dozens more to choose from. This website has reviews and comparisons, and for an even longer list of online meeting platforms check out this page.
Online Meeting Best Practices
Now that you’ve picked out an online meeting platform that will work for your business, put these ideas in practice to improve the productivity of your meeting.
- Conduct a Test Meeting – If you’ve never used online meeting software before, test it out before the big meeting so you can better understand the program and deal with any issues.
- Schedule in Advance – Make sure you schedule the meeting in advance and email all participants so they know exactly when the meeting is and what they have to do to join.
- Prepare Notes – Just like a traditional meeting, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for your online meeting. Jot down an agenda, list of ideas, and any extra notes you have, then keep your notes near your desk so you can reference them during the meeting. You may also consider making a slide presentation to share with participants and help guide the meeting.
- Find a Quiet Space – This will minimize background noise and other distractions.
- Turn Off Other Apps & Devices – This also eliminates distractions and the chance that a random instant message may interrupt the meeting (especially if you’re sharing your screen).
- Open Files – If you plan on sharing multiple files during the meeting, have them open so they are just a click away.
- Maintain Pace – Keeping up the pace of your meeting should be easy if you’ve prepared notes and an agenda. Maintaining pace will keep the meeting efficient, productive, and ensure that participants don’t lose interest.
- Allow Participation – Your team members may have ideas, comments, and questions to contribute; just like a traditional meeting, you’ll want to allow them time to have the floor so they can collaborate. If participants don’t know each other, have them introduce themselves before they comment or ask a question. You may allow participation during the meeting, at specific stop points, or at the very end in a Q&A session.
- Share Files – Most online meeting platforms will allow you to share files with participants. Share files, relevant documents and slides at the beginning, at appropriate times during the meeting, or at the end before you dismiss.
In the end you’ll find that online meetings have common characteristics of traditional meetings, with added features that boost efficiency and productivity. Online meetings can also improve collaboration and comradery among team members who don’t work in the same physical location.