And the UK is leading the way on the world stage with the successful implementation of hybrid working, according to Microsoft research.
Whilst most people are probably used to hosting work meetings online by now, it's still worth remembering how you & your team can get the most out of virtual meetings.
8 top-tips for holding a successful online meeting
1. Find software that works for you, and invest in it
The first step is to find an online tool that does the job well.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here; it very much depends on your business and the purpose of your meeting. You need to find a tool that works for you - and it could even be a different tool than the one you've been using for the past two years.
There are a few options out there for you to investigate, but here are our top recommendations:
This is just a handful of options - here's a handy guide from TechRadar with a full list of recommendations.
2. Prep your team
You’ll next need to make sure your team are fully equipped and ready to go.
Make sure they know how to use your chosen software. It might be worth having a group call beforehand to run through how it works, or you could send out some instructions via email.
You’ll also need to make sure participants have suitable earphones with a microphone, WiFi that’s up to the job and a quiet set-up for meetings.
If anyone works remotely with frequent background noise, some online meeting tools have introduced noise suppression settings since the pandemic that have saved many a virtual meeting.
Making sure everyone’s prepared will get the meeting off to a smooth start and minimise any teething problems.
3. Communicate beforehand
Let attendees know the purpose of the meeting and if there’s anything they need to prepare beforehand.
If you can, make sure every attendee has a calendar invitation (we use Outlook for this) and everyone is on the same page about when the meeting is taking place.
You may need to consider time-zones here if you’re meeting with overseas employees or clients.
4. Create a solid agenda
Creating a clear agenda will mean the meeting has structure. Without one, it’s easy for a meeting to become disorganised and conversations to go off on a tangent.
Assemble a plan of what needs to be covered during the online meeting – and stick to it.
If your schedule is packed, perhaps even allocate a set amount of time to each topic.
It's often beneficial to send attendees the agenda beforehand, if you can. This way, they’ll know what to expect and will have some time to prepare if they need to.
5. Delegate responsibilities
Give your attendees different roles and responsibilities to help your meeting flow smoothly.
Delegate jobs like time-keeping and note-taking. It’s also a good idea to assign someone as the chair/moderator for the meeting to ensure discussions stay relevant, productive and on-track.
Communicate this beforehand so attendees are aware of their responsibilities and come to the meeting prepared and ready to go.
6. Set clear expectations
Before the online meeting, it’s a good idea to communicate general etiquette and expectations so that everyone is on the same page. This could include things like:
- Muting microphones to avoid people speaking over each other (or being aware of when you've accidentally muted your microphone when trying to speak. How often have remote workers chorused "you're on mute" over the past two years?)
- Reading the agenda beforehand
- Sitting in a quiet environment
- Giving full attention during the meeting and not working on other tasks
- Having phones on silent
- Giving everyone a chance to contribute
- Having video switched on so everyone can see each other
By clarifying this beforehand, your team will come along knowing exactly what’s expected of them.
It may have been a while since we first forayed into remote work during the early days of the pandemic, but it's always good to have a reminder to not check that Slack message mid-meeting.
7. Interact and engage
It’s a nice idea to have a few minutes of casual chit-chat before the meeting officially starts.
Whether you all know each other well or you’ve just started working together, a fun, friendly conversation can engage your team and get the meeting off to a great start.
You could even do a quick round-robin wellbeing check-in using a scale of 1-10, just to see how everyone's doing.
As the meeting gets into full swing, check in with your team and ask for their opinions on topics being discussed. It’s important everyone feels valued, especially for the introverts who may not be so confident speaking up.
Making sure everyone is engaged (and that everyone has a chance to speak up) is key to a productive and successful online meeting.
8. Follow up
Any meeting can be a bit of a whirlwind of ideas, so it’s important to follow it up with a summary.
This could include what was discussed, a list of key actions, responsibilities and deadlines.
Packaging this all into an email means that nothing is missed and reminds the team of key discussions and ideas.
Running an online meeting can be a daunting prospect, but if you take some time to prepare and communicate beforehand, it can work like a dream.
Follow our 8 top-tips and you're all set for a successful, enjoyable and productive meeting.