Simply follow the five-step process outlined below, and you’ll be hosting top-notch digital gatherings in no time!

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1. Choose the Right Collaboration Tool

There are plenty of online collaboration tools on the market, but not all of them are designed to help you run online meetings. You need to invest in an online meeting platform.

Just like every other software category, there is a wide variety of options. The key is to choose the right tool for your needs so that you can easily communicate and collaborate with your team no matter where you all happen to be located.

We suggest making sure your online meeting platform of choice will let you:

Maintain Security. Digital security is always important. You and your colleagues will likely be discussing company strategy, proprietary processes, and other information that you wouldn’t want your competitors to know. Choose an online meeting platform that prioritizes the safety of your private details.

Access Collaboration Features. Ideally, the video conferencing tool you use will do more than film your face and record your voice. Look for an online meeting platform that includes features like screen sharing, text chat, a digital whiteboard, polls and surveys, and detailed analytics. That way, your tool doesn’t restrict your collaboration.

Record Meetings. Like we said earlier, the ability to easily record meetings is one of the biggest benefits to digital get-togethers. So, make sure your online meeting platform of choice will allow you to do this!

It’s also important to ensure the team collaboration tool you choose is user-friendly. Solutions that are difficult to operate will bog down your online meetings and make digital collaboration a chore for you and your team.

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2. Plan and Prepare

The best online meetings are almost always well-planned. You should know exactly what you want to discuss, who you want to discuss it with, and how long you want your discussion to last before you enter your digital meeting room.

When you have all of these things laid out ahead of time, your meetings will be much more productive because you won’t waste time deciding what to talk about.

Once you’ve determined the purpose of your meeting and who you want to invite, create an agenda that includes key talking points, meeting structure, what you expect from each attendee, and any files/documents you want to share during the get-together.

By creating this kind of document and sending it to attendees ahead of time, your colleagues will be able to prepare themselves, leading to more productive collaborations.

You also may want to include time in your agenda for attendees to “shoot the breeze.”

It’s widely known that colleagues who are comfortable with each other generally collaborate more effectively. Consider leaving time at the beginning of your meeting for attendees to talk, joke around, and build stronger relationships with each other.

3. Enforce Proper Etiquette

You’ve prepared for your meeting and created an agenda. Attendees are now joining you in your digital meeting room, and you’re ready to get started.

If this is the first time you’ve ever met with your colleagues in a virtual environment, don’t launch into your agenda right away. Instead, take a few minutes to go over proper attendee behavior and etiquette to ensure your meeting goes smoothly.

Here are a few suggested etiquette guidelines to follow:

Start with Introductions. If your team isn’t familiar with each other, start your online meeting with introductions. That will help your team feel comfortable with each other and help to facilitate better communication and collaboration.

One Speaker at a Time. Your attendees should never feel like they have to shout over one another to be heard. Only allow one person to speak at a time and don’t let boisterous team members interrupt others mid-sentence.

Always Remain Attentive. Ask your attendees to refrain from checking their email or fiddling with their phones during the meeting unless absolutely necessary. Speaking to an audience of seemingly inattentive listeners isn’t an enjoyable experience.

Try to Limit Distractions. Lastly, pay attention to the environments of each attendee. If they are, for example, in a loud coffee shop, the noise could distract other team members. Ask all meeting participants to attend your meeting from a quiet location or mute their microphones when they don’t have anything to say.

As the meeting host, it’s your job to both put etiquette guidelines in place and enforce them if needed. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply remind attendees of the guidelines before the meeting starts so that no one forgets.

4. Engage Your Attendees

You might have planned your meeting to perfection and created a few etiquette guidelines to keep it on track. But if your attendees aren’t engaged, your meeting won’t be as successful as it could be. Fortunately, we have a few tricks you can use to boost engagement:

Give Attendees Jobs. If each attendee has a specific task to perform during your meeting, engagement levels will automatically rise. For example, you might ask one team member to write down all of the ideas shared during a brainstorm session, and another to run the slideshow presentation.

Ask Specific Questions. Another way to boost attendee engagement is to ask the opinions of specific people. This strategy works especially well for shy team members who don’t normally feel comfortable voicing their opinions. Pull them into the conversation by asking them what they think about a certain topic.

Use Eye-Catching Visuals. Compelling visuals can also draw team members into your meetings. When speaking about complex workflows, try illustrating them via your online meeting platform’s screen sharing feature. If you plan to share detailed metrics, create a graphic so that the information is more easily retained.

Some of the things we’ve already discussed — making time for small talk, starting each meeting with introductions, etc. can help increase engagement as well.

5. Follow Up Post-Meeting

Last, but certainly not least, follow up with each attendee after your online meeting has concluded. This is usually easiest to do via email. Make sure your follow-ups have:

Clear Marching Orders. Every team member should know exactly what they’re supposed to do after your meeting. Reinforce this by including individual marching orders in your post-meeting follow-up message.

Agreed Upon Due Dates. You’ve assigned tasks, but did you also include due dates? Make sure your team members have deadlines for the tasks you’ve given them. That way, progress on projects can be easily tracked.

Planned Check-In Dates. When do you plan to meet with your team again? Picking a date ahead of time will allow everyone to ensure their schedules are clear. Include any check-in dates in your after-meeting email.

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