Online Meetings 101: How to Have Effective Virtual Meetings

Young Businesswoman Doing Video Conference On Computer

Online meetings have become increasingly popular in the past few years. More and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home or work remotely, creating an increased need for meeting virtually rather than face to face. 

And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing most employees to work from home, online meetings have become the norm, even for those who may have never done them before.

Basic Tips for Online Meetings

Trying to navigate the world of online meetings? Whether you’re hosting your first virtual meeting or you’ve done a few but need a refresher, here are a few basic tips to help you meet effectively, even when you can’t connect face to face. 

Try Out the Technology

For many people, the technical components are the aspect of virtual meetings that are most intimidating. Setting up a web camera, exploring the online meeting platform, sending meeting invitations, finding compatible headphones with a microphone – it all feels like a bit much when you’re trying to do it for the first time.

But once you’ve done a trial run, you’ll likely find there’s no reason to be intimidated. The latest online meeting platforms – like Zoom and Google Hangouts – have made it really easy to understand how to set up and attend virtual meetings. 

If you’re hoping to make your virtual meeting a success, test out a meeting ahead of time. (Well ahead of time – not like 10 minutes before the real thing.) It will only take a few minutes, and it will help you to ensure that you have everything you need to make all the audio-visual aspects of the meeting go smoothly. Doing so will enable you to hit the ground running – and look professional – when you launch your actual meeting.

Get Dressed

It’s true that one of the perks of working from home is staying in your pajamas all day if you want to, but when you have a meeting it’s especially important to get dressed for the day. And when we say get dressed we mean really get dressed all the way – no ‘business on the top, pajamas on the bottom’ nonsense! 

Being dressed helps you to get in the professional mindset you’ll need to run a successful meeting, and it shows the other attendees that you’re taking your job seriously despite the fact that you’re doing it remotely. 

Set Up An Effective Meeting Space

You might not be physically hosting people in your space for your online meeting, but you’re still giving them a glimpse into your space. With that in mind, make sure the background of your video conference is appropriate.

It’s best to find a private room in your house or in your remote setting where you can do your online meeting. You want to minimize distractions (pets walking through, kids playing in the background) as much as possible, and keep the environment professional.

Have an Agenda

Virtual meetings can sometimes feel more informal than in-person meetings, but the truth is they are not. You might not be physically face to face with the others in attendance, but you’re still presenting to a group and asking for people’s time and attention. 

Approach your virtual meetings with the same type of detailed agenda you’d bring to an in-person meeting. This will help you to be well prepared for the meeting, stay on task during the meeting, cover all the topics you need to address, and follow up appropriately afterwards. It will also help to make your meetings as efficient as possible.

Don’t Multitask

It can be really tempting to multitask while you’re participating in a virtual meeting that’s not quite holding your attention, especially since you’ll likely have your computer in front of you with access to dozens of other items you could work on (and, who are we kidding, social media).

Resist the urge to multitask! On a video conference, you’ll appear distracted at best and disinterested at worst, plus there’s a good chance you’ll miss some of the important takeaways you should be keeping track of.

Even though you’re not actually sitting face to face with the other meeting attendees, do your best to pretend that you are. 

Take Notes

Working from home or remotely has its perks, but it also has disadvantages – one of them being a plethora of additional distractions. While it’s important to take notes during in-person meetings, it’s also important to take diligent notes during virtual meetings.

Write them, type them, record a voice memo after your video conference has ended – do whatever works best for you, but make sure you keep track of what was discussed, key takeaways, and the action items that are up next. This is absolutely necessary to ensure that projects stay on track and that online meetings are just as effective as an in-person meeting would have been.

Follow Up

Sending out an email to follow up after an in-person meeting or phone call feels natural for many professionals, but sometimes the follow-up gets lost in the shuffle after virtual meetings. Don’t let that be the case! 

Share a follow up message with those in attendance at your virtual meeting. Sending out meeting notes, a quick recap, information about who is doing what in terms of next steps, etc. is a terrific way to ensure that everyone stays on task working towards the same goal despite working remotely in different locations. And it helps to keep progress moving forward (hence making your meeting more effective) once everyone has logged off.

Make the Most of Online Meetings 

Luckily, many of the principles that enable effective online meetings are similar to the principles that apply to effective in-person meetings. While there is an extra technical component to online meetings, once you’ve mastered that (and you’ll likely have it mastered once you’ve done it once or twice), you’ll be well on your way to online meeting success!

Some people love online meetings, while others would much rather meet face to face. (We weigh the pros and cons of both meeting styles here.) No matter which camp you fall into at this point, online meetings are a reality in our professional lives right now – and they will likely stay that way to some extent, even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. 

With these basic online meeting tips, you can make the most of virtual meetings (and avoid making a fool of yourself when you log on for the first time)! 

Hoping to improve communication with your team? Effective communication is key when it comes to making online meetings and working remotely work. Check out our 7 simple tips for bettering your team communication.

Looking for other ways to work effectively when you can’t make it into the office? Check out our list of tips to make working from home work for you.

Working from home for the first time? We share 5 things no one tells you about working from home so you can be prepared for some of the challenges that might come your way.