Insights: 6 Simple Steps for Online Meeting Success
Public outreach, meetings, and conferences are now starting to move forward in an online format due to the delays caused by COVID-19. Online meetings and webinars are great tools to interact virtually with your stakeholders; however, did you know that these meetings take more preparation time than the traditional in-person events?
C&S’s Kelly Moulton recently chaired the first-ever virtual conference of the Southwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (SWAAAE.) The event consisted of coordinating two days of webinars, online meetings, and social time. It was the countless hours of behind the scenes preparation and planning by Kelly, SWAAAE leadership, and the conference committee that led to the successful event attended by nearly 250 aviation professionals. This process of preparation and practice, outlined below, was crucial in recent C&S project-based outreach and visioning sessions in San Diego and Indianapolis.
While we are all quickly becoming experts in the art of Zoom, WebEx, Teams, Etc., running formal meetings in this new format is a challenge. Here are a few simple steps to ensure a successful online meeting experience:
Plan, practice and repeat
Advanced preparation is key to a successful meeting. Before your meeting, schedule a full run through with all speakers and behind the scenes support. Make sure cameras and microphones are working and practice transitions between speakers. Remember, when in an online format you won’t always get to see the visual cues that tell us when a slide needs advancing or someone is done speaking.
Make yourself comfortable
Be comfortable in your own space and make sure nothing around you (that the camera can see) would be distracting to your audience. Also, spend the time to be comfortable in your virtual space. Online platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, Teams, and others all have similar capabilities yet, are uniquely different. It can be a challenge to share a screen, talk into the video camera, and monitor the chat at the same time – take the time to practice in advance.
Ask for help
To allow those speaking and moderating to focus on the meeting itself, assign an individual to monitor the chat window, waiting room, and other virtual tools. The monitor can respond to administrative questions and filter any content related questions. They can also remind the audience of any meeting specific information like remaining muted, or to ask questions in the chat.
Your backup plan needs a backup plan
Each speaker and presentation is only as good as their internet connection. Spend the time to decide who the “understudy” is for each segment and speaker in the meeting. Will the meeting pause? Does someone else carry on? Do you switch to the next topic until they can return? If this is a commission meeting, what happens if one of the commissioners drops off? A few minutes of contingency planning will avoid confusion during your meeting.
You have practiced but, what about your audience? Always assume at least one person is a novice to online meetings and virtual engagement. It’s worth taking a minute at the beginning of the meeting to review housekeeping items to avoid confusion later on. At the beginning of an in-person meeting, we often review restroom locations, and emergency evacuation protocol. The online version of housekeeping includes reviewing the specific features you are using in the meeting – the chat box, raise hand features, or a reminder to unmute yourself.
Relax and have a great meeting
Finally, do not be intimidated by the new format. Just like any other new skill, it takes time and patience to master. Investing the time to make sure that those running the meeting are comfortable in their role and know what to do if something goes wrong – will pay off in the end. With advanced planning and preparation, in person meetings and conferences can smoothly transition to an online format.
Considering hosting an online meeting, conference or webinar? We’re ready to help guide your team through the online meeting and outreach process. If you would like additional tips or guidance, contact Kelly Moulton at 916-210-0529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.