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10 Tips for Keeping Control of Your Online Meetings

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No matter if you're an attendee or the meeting leader, you need to know how to conduct online meetings properly. This brief from collaboration expert, Gihan Perera outlines out how keep control of …

No matter if you're an attendee or the meeting leader, you need to know how to conduct online meetings properly. This brief from collaboration expert, Gihan Perera outlines out how keep control of online meetings to make sure the agenda is accomplished cordially and efficiently.

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  • 1.       10 Tips for Keeping Control of Your Online Meetings By Gihan Perera  
  • 2.  Online meetings are pretty ubiquitous these days especially in timesof tighter budgets, saving time, and dispersed work teams. However,many people don’t know how to manage online meetings effectively.In this report, we give you ten tips for managing successful onlinemeetings – whatever role you’re playing in the meeting.1. Understand the technologyOf course, technology is the key difference between online meetingsand in-person meetings. On the positive side, it can be very efficient(because attendees participate from their desk), but that gain can bewiped out by problems with the technology.Do your best to be familiar with the technology and comfortable withusing it. Make sure you’re using a technology that is intuitive and easyto use, because if you’re competent and confident with it, that will berecognized and rewarded.People also interact differently when they are not all in the same room.Even on a video conference, there are differences in body language,posture, use of space, moving around, and even the seatingarrangement. In most cases, an online meeting feels moreapproachable because people can’t use their physical presence tointimidate or coerce.2. Know your outcomeRegardless of your role, the most important thing you can take into themeeting is a clear outcome. Knowing this in advance helps you keepthe meeting on track. Even if you’re a junior participant, be clear aboutyour outcome.Ask yourself these questions to get clear:• Who are the key groups at the meeting?• Who are the key individuals in each group who will influence the others?  
  • 3.  • What would you like them to think / feel / do / say after the meeting (in order for you to have achieved your outcome)?3. Look, act and sound professionalIt doesn’t take much to make a strong, positive impression in an onlinemeeting, if you prepare well, position yourself strongly and performclearly.Preparation:• Prepare and circulate reports ahead of time.• Write out and practice a presentation.• Anticipate questions and objections.• Test the technology if possible.• On video conferences, check your lighting, background and physical appearance.• On audio or video conferences, use a headset for optimal sound.Positioning:• Check your name, title and other details on the agenda.• Ask the chair to introduce you in a certain way if appropriate.Performance:• Be polite but not meek.• Be assertive but not aggressive.• Be clear but concise.  
  • 4.  4. Make your points clearlyWhenever you are called on to speak – whether it’s to present a reportor answer a question – you know what you want to say, but the otherparticipants don’t. So make it easier for them with a brief introduction:• Make your point first, before you explain it or elaborate• Tell them what you want them to do when you stop speaking (take a vote, approve your proposal, etc.)• If you need to make a number of points, put them in a clear structure (e.g. “I’m going to give you three reasons for …”)5. Answer questions confidentlyDon’t get nervous and flustered when called on to answer a question.You’re being asked because it’s in your area of expertise, so treat it asan opportunity to contribute to the meeting’s outcome.Write down the question as you hear it, so you can refresh yourmemory if necessary. If the question is vague or ambiguous, ask forclarification (e.g. “When you said ‘total sales volume’, were youreferring to this quarter or the previous quarter?”).Start your response strongly with a brief answer, then explain further.All the tips above for making your points clearly apply here as well.Finally, don’t shoot from the hip! If you don’t know, say so. Confer withothers, defer to somebody else, or offer to find out later.6. Manage difficult or hostile situationsThere’s a skill in managing difficult conversations, and a special skill indoing it in online meetings.Know as much as possibleThe more you know about what you’re likely to face, the easier it is tomanage it effectively and still meet your outcomes. Know who will beattending, know what they really want, know who has the real power to  
  • 5.  make decisions, know your walk-away position and BATNA (bestalternative to a negotiated agreement), know who’s on your side, knowyour option if things get out of hand.Get in earlyThis allows you to anticipate potential problems and plan for them,which makes it much easier to manage them. If you know you’ll befacing a hostile meeting, do more background research, ask individualsto share their views in advance, circulate proposals early, and try togain agreement – even partial agreement – in advance. You mightdefuse – or even resolve – some of the difficult issues before themeeting starts.Add formality and structureFinally, add more formality when facing a difficult or hostile meeting,and take control at the start of the meeting. You don’t need to adoptformal meeting procedure (for example, motions, seconding,amendments, points of order, and so on). You just need to add a bitmore formality and structure, so you can keep the meeting undercontrol. For example, here are some rules you could apply:• All participants must speak “through the chair.”• Only the chair has control over turning microphones on.• Only items on the agenda can be discussed.• There is a strict time limit on agenda items.7. Conduct board and committee meetingsThese are different from other online meetings, and sometimes haveimportant legal and regulatory consequences that you must get right.Check your organization’s constitutional right to conduct a meeting byonline meeting. Also understand the legal issues and consequences ofconducting an online meeting (for example, all directors must be given  
  • 6.  adequate opportunity to review materials and participate in themeeting). If you’re not sure, get legal advice.Choose carefully whether or not to record the meeting. Importantdiscussions and decisions should be recorded in the minutes, and itmight be risky or inappropriate to keep a permanent record ofeverything else.8. Keep controlJust because you’re not chairing the meeting doesn’t mean you can’ttake a lead role in it – especially if the nominated chair isn’t doing theirjob.If there is no chairAn effective meeting should have somebody chairing it, even if thisisn’t a formal role. So if you call the meeting and nobody else is theobvious person to chair it, just assume the role of chair. And if you’reattending a meeting that nobody is chairing, offer to do it yourself.If the chair is weakIn most business situations, you don’t want to make enemies bypublicly and loudly criticizing the chair. Instead, you might be able todiplomatically take control, like this:• Offer to take the minutes – which gives you permission to interrupt verbose or vague people.• Offer to manage the technology – which allows you to subtly manage interruptions, allow certain people more (or less) “air time”, and so on.9. Make clear presentationsThere might be times when you’re called on to make a briefpresentation or report during an online meeting. The most importantthing to keep in mind is that you’re part of a larger meeting, so yourpresentation has to help the overall meeting outcomes.  
  • 7.  When you prepare, be sure you know specifically what the groupexpects of you, especially in the context of the overall meeting. Ifyou’re not sure, ask!Know your outcomes as well, so they don’t get lost in the overallmeeting outcomes.When you speak:• Start strongly: State your main point strongly, explain your structure (e.g. “I’ll give you three reasons …”), and be clear about what you want them to do when you finish.• Keep it simple: Be succinct, stick to your main points, and don’t over-use technology.• Take control: Be upbeat and energetic, speak quickly (but not too quickly!), and own the environment.End your presentation strongly. Be clear about what you want them todo next, and finish on time.10. Manage technologyUnfortunately, technology glitches are not a matter of “if”; they are amatter of “when.” Proving that you can manage these situations will domore than almost anything else to demonstrate your professionalismand authority.Prevent potential problemsUse the most reliable technology available – for example, landlinephones rather than cell phones, corded rather than cordlesstelephones, and reliable-high speed Internet. You don’t need the besttechnology in the world (and it might be outside your budget anyway),but these simple things can make a big difference to reliability.Urge your participants to use the best technology as well, so they don’thave problems at their end.  
  • 8.  If possible, test the technology beforehand. You can’t alwaysreproduce the exact environment of the real meeting, but a simple testcan identify – and prevent – many of the problems that could occur.Manage problems that occurEven with careful preparation, some problems can still occur. Soanticipate them and be ready to manage them.For example:• If some people can’t be heard (because their microphone is not working), they can contribute via text or chat messages, which the chair can read out to everybody else• If participants in video conferences have low Internet bandwidth, they might need to participate by audio only.• If you’re making a presentation with PowerPoint slides, send a PDF version of the slides to all participants in advance, in case they can’t see the presentation when it’s live.Recover gracefullySometimes, whatever you do, you can’t resolve the technologyproblems, and some participants might not be able to join the meetingat all. In the extreme case, you might even have to abandon the entiremeeting.If this happens, there might be some things you can do to recovergracefully:• Record meetings as a matter of course, so you can send the recording to those who couldn’t attend.• Have somebody taking the minutes, so important discussions and decisions are available to those who couldn’t attend.• If you’re working to a deadline, don’t wait until too late to convene the meeting – so you can re-schedule it if necessary.  
  • 9.  Finally, the best way to get better at online meetings is to participatein more of them, and to participate more in those you attend. Don’tavoid online meetings because you’re uncomfortable and unfamiliarwith them. Embrace them instead, and use them as an opportunity tomake a valuable contribution – and improve your meeting skills at thesame time.  
  • 10.  About Gihan PereraGihan Perera is a consultant, speaker and author, who helpsthought leaders and business professionals leverage theirexpertise. He is the author of the book Webinar Smarts and co-author of the book Best Practice Conference Calls, amongothers; and Forbes magazine rated him the #5 social mediainfluencer in book publishing. He blogs at GihanPerera.info andhis website is GihanPerera.com.About sponsorOnline Meetings Made Easy™GoToMeeting is the extremely simple, extraordinarily powerful web conferencing servicefrom Citrix. It integrates HD video conferencing, screen sharing and audio conferencing,allowing you to collaborate effectively online in a face-to-face environment. Hold unlimitedmeetings for one low flat fee and attend meetings from a Mac, PC and mobile devices.GoToMeeting will change the way you work – and perhaps a whole lot more.To learnmore, visit www.gotomeeting.comAudio Conferencing Made Easy™HiDef Corporate audio services offer easy-to-use, reliable conference calling so you canconnect with multiple people in multiple locations. These services increase reach andreduce costs with reservationless scheduling, web-based controls and no hidden fees.Tolearn more, visit www.hidefcorporate.comFor more best practices, visit news.citrixonline.com/resources