Advancing Associations

How to Host Productive Online Meetings [Online Guide]6 min read


Posted on: 2nd Jul 2020

Remote, online ways of working have become the new norm for most of us during COVID-19. We highlighted this during a recent online guide for hosting webinars. However, how does this translate across to [possibly] the most crucially productive and socially active part of our working life – team meetings?

Regardless of our sector, discipline or team size we all have attended or have held a meeting at some point in our working lives. They are a core part of our working and organisational culture that open the doors to create new ideas, collaborate with each other and solve issues to real-world and working problems.

Unfortunately, this has been impacted heavily by the current global issues we are facing, which have forcibly created remote working environments for us all and detached ourselves from one another considerably [and it is also worth assuming that this is a situation we will find ourselves in for the foreseeable future].

So, taking all this in, how can we adapt ourselves and our way of working [in this case, the way we meet] to overcome current difficulties? What is the most productive form of meeting virtually? Is there even a ‘most productive’ form of meeting virtually that currently exists? A few thoughts to consider…but here are some ideas, collated from the CPG’s recent experiences and a wider look at the area.

1. Setup is Important

Unfortunately when we say ‘setup’, we are not talking about stance, ball position, grip or posture here…

To give a very brief explanation [because we highlighted this in our other recent blog for hosting webinars], we need to decide on the platform that we meet on – Zoom and Skype were good places to start.

Then, devising goals for the meeting are still an important part of meetings, albeit pretty different to a webinar. Once these are established, you can devise a reasonable structure to the meeting that considers:

  • What are the key topics / proposals / ideas up for discussion?
  • Who is best placed to lead each of the above?
  • Who is best placed to coordinate the entire meeting, and the above two points?
  • How long do you have?
  • Do you provide much scope for open-ended discussion?

Just as an example for our own way of working – we have a weekly ‘Catch-Up meeting’, held on a Thursday for approximately an hour. This follows an approximate 50/50 structure where for the first half a set agenda is followed based on various things and points to tackle that we work through. This is then followed by the final half where each team member provides an update on their own work in a more open-ended discussion.

It has worked really well for the past six months, and has provided that much needed, regular information and connection with colleagues to function as a team, combined with the day-to-day frequent individual contact that takes place.

2. Create a Network of Meeting Bubbles

There needs to be an acceptance that it is going to be pretty difficult to get through as much as you would normally do in person and as a group. Practically, it is impossible – connectivity issues often persist and there are those amusingly-awkward time delays where we realise we have both spoken at the same time and then decide to wait for one another to speak. These are simply unavoidable elements of online meetings.

Therefore it is important to use a ‘whole-team’ meeting as one to catch up and provide overview to the current ongoings and developments, not necessarily as a time to solve every issue that the organisation is facing. By having smaller ‘bubbles’ [excuse the COVID-19 buzzword], we can collaborate more effectively with one, two or three members of our team outside the normal meeting space.

For example, there are regular Communication and Events catch-ups during the week with specific team members to solve issues and work through various documents and content together. We can then go away on our own and action these points, and then report this work to everybody at the team meeting later.

The key premise from this is that it is more important than ever to trust one another, and understand that colleagues will be working with one another without direct knowledge or awareness they have been used to in an office. This can pose challenges with tracking work, but there is a growing body of research that supports remote-working environments to be more productive than the office scenario.

3. Maintain Colleague Engagement

The premise of chatting to colleagues through a laptop screen can quite easily encourage technological fatigue, loss of concentration and enthusiasm across the board. Online meetings certainly fill a sociological void, but they do not offer a complete solution to satisfying our innate need to interact face-to-face with others.

Therefore, encouraging greater interaction with one another is an important part of online meetings. This can be achieved through simple tasks such as group breathing exercises [check out Dr. Brian Hemming’s Webinar – 14min 30 secs for a good example on this], allocating time for a quick fire quiz, or allowing everybody to introduce themselves and discuss various non-work related topics that would normally form a natural part of general work chit-chat.

The most important part of this is for the meeting leader and moderator to be aware of the situation – that it is a team meeting and not just a presentation. By ensuring every person has their time to speak and become involved in discussions, they will not only be more engaged but will contribute positively to a more productive online team meeting.

4. Share notes

Once you have conducted your online meeting, the key final stage is to ensure everyone has the information they need from it. Sharing notes is often a lot easier in person because you can physically hand them agendas, outcomes and minutes as you see fit. Doing this over the internet is slightly trickier.

A platform to share notes is the best port of call. Outlook’s Planner function is a really easy way to do this. You can create various sub-topics for each meeting, based on the agenda set. In the CPG’s case, these sub-topics include tournaments, education, members, golf development etc. Then list all the key actions and tasks for each.

It is really easy to use, provides a ‘live’ access point for all colleagues to see and add notes to and ultimately keeps everybody you need to in the know about what is going on, or has gone on from various meetings.

If this is too much, creating a word document from the meeting that can be shared with everyone via email afterwards is a perhaps more laborious way of doing things, but nonetheless equally as effective…