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Best Practices for Online Meetings

Page history last edited by Amanda Rust 6 years, 4 months ago

LES Virtual Participation Task Force -- Conducting Online Meetings

 

This is designed to be a living document, so please edit as needed.

 

For procedures and how to reserve an online meeting through ALA, see our Online Meetings Policies and Procedures.

 

Main Goals

  •  All participants can hear.
  • All participants are heard.
  • All participants have the same access to information pertinent to the meeting.
  • Virtual attendees can fully interact without confusion via well-directed and moderated discussion.  (Participants will be missing physical cues on who is speaking, and when someone wants to break into the conversation.)

 

 

Before the Meeting

  • Publicize!
  • Plan to follow general good-meeting guidelines: create and stick to a focused agenda, take good minutes, keep good track of who is responsible for what action items and deadlines.
  • Email agenda and list of expected participants to all attendees.  If possible, include a short bio (job title and university) for each participant. This also ensures all attendees have email contacts for the group.[1]
  • Email all pertinent documents to participants before the meeting, including, the meeting invite and login info. If necessary, also upload pertinent documents to online meeting system ahead of time. 
  • Test meeting technology and prepare backup plan.  (Backup may be as simple as a mobile phone on speaker —be sure to test volume – or group chat box.) Notify participants of tech backup plan.
  •  If meeting has more than five virtual participants, designate ahead of time an in-person participant to be the “online facilitator”. 
  • Chairs/meeting hosts should stay in contact via email, since there may be last minute requests to join or for help. 

 

 

During the Meeting

 

Presenter/Chair

  • Explain role of online facilitator, if used (see below).
  • Start with round-table introductions for smaller groups. (The online discussion groups, discussed more below, may have too many participants for a smooth introduction.)
  • At start of meeting, and every 20 minutes or so, check that all participants have good audio.
  • Don't be afraid to ask participants to mute themselves, or use the meeting software to preemptively mute participants during non-discussion portions. 
  • Remind participants to speak more loudly or clearly as necessary.
  • Pause for frequent checks for input from virtual participants (eg, after discussion, specifically ask virtual participants if they have comments).
  • If confusion between virtual participants speaking at the same time, pause conversation and ask for input one-by-one.
    • One method to reduce confusion is to only take input in order, ie asking for comments by name in clockwise order around the “table”.
  • Narrate activity such as changing pages of a document or forwarding PowerPoint slides.
  •  Repeat questions and comments as necessary, for clear communication.

 

 

Online Facilitator

  •  Serve as “eyes” for virtual participants, possibly monitoring chatroom, collaborative whiteboard, or other interactive tools.
  •  Repeat questions and comments as necessary, for clear communication.
  •  Monitor chat box, Skype lines, or conference calls for connectivity.
  •  Monitor conversation and help coordinate question-asking; eg, if questions from the chat box, or raised hands and other signals from Skype and conference calls, pause in-person meeting to give those participants a chance to break in.
  •  During round-table motions (introductions, votes, etc.) verbally notify virtual participants when it is their turn to participate (eg, “Okay, how does Virtual Participant One vote?  Virtual Participant Two?”)
  •  Serve as general advocate for virtual participants, and help Chair remember to pause for input from all participants.

 

Participant

  •  Preface every comment with name, for the benefit of other participants who cannot see who is speaking.
  • Find quiet place to participate and mutes phone and/or microphone as necessary to keep out unnecessary background noise.
  •  Log onto specialized meeting software 10-15 minutes early to allow for technical difficulties.
  •  Speak up, and be patient if there are technology difficulties or confusion between in-person and virtual speakers.

 

 

After the Meeting

  •  Distribute minutes clearly stating status of each item and follow-up items and tasks with owners and, if necessary, deadlines clearly marked.
  •  Remind all participants to ask any questions and give any further feedback they were not able to give in the meeting.
  •  Seek feedback on virtual participation!  Ask virtual attendees what could have been done better, and share that info with your group as well as the LES VPC.

 

Special Notes for Discussion Groups

  • Since these online groups have had up to 40 participants, you have the toughest facilitation job! Don't feel bad if the meeting is a little chaotic.
  • Consider asking participants to introduce themselves in the chat window, rather than using their microphone.
  • Designate one co-chair to be the chat monitor. That co-chair's job will be to integrate the chat conversation, often very rich, into the voice conversation. 
  • Use meeting software tools to mute or un-mute participants as needed, since feedback can be an issue for such large groups.

 

Further Reading

 

BNet's 3 Tips for Holding Non-Agonizing Virtual Meetings

http://www.bnet.com/blog/virtual-manager/3-tips-for-holding-non-agonizing-virtual-meetings/154    

 

 

Running an Effective Teleconference or Virtual Meeting

http://www.cio.com/article/184550/Running_an_Effective_Teleconference_or_Virtual_Meeting?page=1&taxonomyId=3160

 

 

Meeting Best Practice Checklist

http://www.luminosityglobal.com/images/resource/pdf/Virtual%20Meeting%20Best%20Practice%20Checklist.pdf

 


[1] Additional tips on designing interactive agendas and moderating a virtual meeting in “Running an Effective Teleconference or Meeting”.

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