Whether it’s a global pandemic, a shift towards technology, or a global client base, online meetings are a standard business practice. They allow us to connect to anyone in the world from our home, a coffee shop, or even the beach. Although in-person meetings have their advantages, sometimes they just aren’t an option.

Generally, in-person and online meetings are not that different. Instead of heading into a board room, you’re heading into an online chat room. In this article, we discuss some tips to make your next online meeting more productive and efficient. This includes regular meeting best practices, leveraging phone dial-ins, turning on video, assigning a timekeeper, and limiting the number of participants.

Stick to regular meeting best practices

Realistically, meeting online is not significantly different from meeting in person. A lot of the rules and best practices remain the same. This includes:

  • Setting an agenda on what the meeting is about and the objectives. It’s good to send out an agenda via email the day before.
  • Making sure that participants understand their individual action items at the end. Someone should send a summary of the meeting afterwards via email and highlight action items.
  • Allow for some time for people to socialize, but make sure it’s limited so that the meeting doesn’t go overtime.
  • If the meeting is long, allow for a five-minute break.

Make sure that there’s a dial-in option

A lot of people may not have great Wi-Fi when they work from home. A bad internet connection can lead to a horrible meeting. Whenever the participant with bad internet speaks, their words ends up choppy and laggy, and anything they receive ends up the same way. No one wants a meeting filled with “Sorry, you were just cut off. Could you say that again?”

Many video conferencing options, such as Zoom, allow users to dial in from their phone so that their audio is not dependent on internet connection. Even if their internet cuts out, people can usually still participate in the conversation.

Make video expectations clear

Many prefer to keep video off, but there are advantages to turning it on. As humans, we communicate with physical gestures as much as we do verbally. Although when meeting online, it’s harder to pick up on subtle gestures, having video on is usually better than not.

Another advantage of having video is the opportunity to put a name to the face. Some participants in the meeting may have never met before. Video conferences let freshly minted relationships go beyond a voice and ultimately instill a better bond between new and old acquaintances and colleagues.

If you do mandate video at your meetings, however, make sure that participants are informed beforehand. A notice will let people prepare themselves.

Assign someone to keep track of time

Although keeping track of time is important for regular, in-person meetings, it’s even more important for online meetings. In in-person meetings, we’re often limited to the amount of time we book a meeting room for, but online meetings remove this limitation. Without time constraints, our meetings are free to go off tangents and push the limits of some people’s patience.

In your virtual meetings, make sure someone provides reminders of how much time is left. The agreed-on end time should be a hard stop. This can cut short any off-track conversations so that everyone can go back to their usual business at the promised time.

Just because you CAN have 300 participants, doesn’t mean you should

Similar to the time limitation of physical meeting rooms, virtual meeting rooms often remove the limit on how many participants can attend. But more is not necessarily merrier. When setting up a meeting, make sure that only the people who need to be there are invited.

Fewer people ultimately mean fewer distractions, like off-topic conversations and rabbit trails, and that gives you a better chance of achieving meeting objectives. This means that your meeting ends at its intended end time. Or better yet, it means you won’t have to book a follow-up meeting to go over what you and your team didn’t have time for.

There are plenty of other ways to get the most out of an online meeting. New features from video conference software can completely change the game in the future. For now, it’s important to continue these best practices to get the most out of the digital workplace.