TechSoup Europe is glad to continue our series of tips & tricks on how to run effective virtual meetings. The key to a successful session is not only an interesting agenda but above all: an engaging presenter. What do we need to bear in mind when moderating virtual meetings?
Start running the meeting a few minutes before its official start. While waiting for the participants, you may want to put on some relaxing, background music. If anyone arrives early (they always do…), make use of the remaining time to chat, get to know each other a bit, or talk about the weather.
Do not start right away at the appointed time, give the participants a few minutes to connect and overcome any technical problems they may be having.
During the session, do pay attention to whether any of the participants has suddenly dropped out of the meeting or is visibly struggling with some technical problems. Maybe they are talking to you, but forgot to switch on the microphone? Remember, it is only technology, plus people. An explosive mix! 😉
Set the rules
Start the meeting with a reminder of “netiquette”. Decide whether you should call each other by your first names or in a more formal way.
Ask if you can take photos, screenshots, or make recordings. Both: online and offline, be mindful of the rules regarding using your participants’ images and ask them for their permission to do so. You wouldn’t want to unexpectedly see your face on some random Facebook post photo, just because someone took a print screen of a meeting you took part in, without telling you, would you?
Turn off your microphone when someone else is talking. We don’t want to hear your dog barking in the backyard or a kettle wheezing in your kitchen. This rule also applies to breaks (oh, how many times have we struggled not to hear snippets of private telephone conversations of our participants who thought that if they could not be seen, they could not be heard either…) So, before the break, do remind the participants about using the “mute” option and turning off their cameras.
Take care of the right background
YouTube is overflowing with videos of virtual meeting slip-ups. From half-naked partners lurking in the background, to people in formal attire from their waist up, who suddenly need to stand up because the courier rings their doorbell, and the rest of the participants are forced to look at their underwear…
So, as moderators, YOU need to lead by example: make sure you are fully dressed for the occasion and have a clean background (in the absence of tidiness and possible houseguests in the background, it is best to choose the “blurry” filters for your virtual background).
Be friendly and flexible
You are the one who needs to do your best to create the right conditions for a friendly meeting. Your bad mood will surely affect the atmosphere of the whole event. If you are enthusiastic and proactive, the participants will appreciate it and get more involved.
Try to make your meetings as interesting and engaging as possible; keep it short and simple: don’t just sit there rambling on, especially in the online format, when we are all tired of the plentitude of virtual meetings, we have each day.
Be attentive and active
Sometimes conditions at home do not allow the participants to fully enjoy the meeting. Don’t force people to turn on their cameras and microphones if they are not in a position to do so. Remember that anyone can have a bad day (even more so in times of isolation and pandemic). Try to create a safe and friendly environment for conversation to take place.
Also, do remember what the purpose of your meeting is – if it’s going to be a discussion, make it one, instead of giving a lecture or allowing a monologue by one of the participants. Ask questions, be active, and be attentive.
Mind the time
You are responsible for the meeting program and its time frame. If you make an appointment for an hour, you should not exceed the scheduled time. If you plan a 10-minute break, get back to the meeting at the appropriate time and check that everyone is back before starting the next part.
Have a “Plan B”
Haven’t we all been in a meeting where the Internet went down, or the connection was so weak that the participants had to turn off their cameras and were only able to answer the questions or add comments via the chatbox? To avoid such situations, when being the meeting organizer, it is a good idea to appoint another person as a “co-host”, to keep the meeting going in case of technical failure. Keeping your mobile phone handy as a backup Internet source is also a good idea!
Speaking from our own experience, it did happen to us as well that in lieu of a colleague who was struggling with shaky Internet connection mid-presentation, another one of us needed to be prepared to quickly jump in and pick up where he’d left, literally mid-sentence (we’d like to take this opportunity to send our best wishes to our colleague’s Internet provider!). We were only able to deal with this situation so quickly and seamlessly, as it did happen to us many times before, so we needed to come up with a safe alternative just in case it happens again (which it did!).
This is the basic list of rules we have compiled here for you. What else would you add to these seven, golden rules?
If you would like to learn more about offline to online education transformation and how to convert your trainings from an offline to an online format, read our guide!
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This article is has been created in the frame of the Digital and Training Skills for the Social Sector’ project.
Fundacja TechSoup implements ‘Digital and Training Skills for the Social Sector’ project in the frame of Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development that is co-financed from European Social Fund.