The COVID-19 pandemic has us all communicating in new and different ways. Church services are being held online, we’re working from home, and digital media has become a bigger part of lives than we ever imagined. In an effort to contain this virus hosting more online meetings has become our new normal.
However, hosting online meetings can be intimidating. What if the internet isn’t working, or you don’t have enough bandwidth to handle the meeting? Is the sound on the computer working, or should you get external speakers? Does everyone on the call have the same online meeting application loaded on his or her computer? These are questions that may keep you awake the night before your meeting. However, a well-planned online meeting can thwart the nightmares of a digital meeting gone badly.
Until we are able to gather safely, we should consider the fact that, when done well, online meetings can save your congregation or presbytery time and money and may allow greater participation from members and churches. On the other hand, online meetings done poorly can be unproductive and create a negative experience for participants.
While organizations are using digital meetings much more frequently, face-to-face meeting decorum should still be applied.
In this edition of the Presbyterian Communicators Network, we provide some best practices for planning and executing your online meeting.
Best practices for online meetings
Before the meeting:
- Determine the participants and their roles during the meeting.
- Decide who will present what information.
- Develop clear goals and outcomes for the meeting. What do you want to accomplish?
- Develop an agenda that is easy to follow and understand but provides all the details participants will need. If participants live or work in different time zones, make sure everyone knows which time zone applies to the meeting.
- Send the agenda, along with a brief bio of each presenter and their presentation, as well as any other needed documents in advance of the meeting.
- Determine technical needs. A teleconference might be a more suitable format if your meeting is primarily discussion without visuals. If you’re using visuals, then a videoconference would be the better format.
- Let all participants know which online meeting applications will be used (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams. GoToMeeting, InterCall, Skype, Cisco WebEx)
- Test the equipment and technology.
- Rehearse the meeting with necessary technology.
During the meeting:
- Make sure all participants are introduced at the beginning of the meeting.
- State the goals and desired outcome(s) of the meeting.
- Follow proper protocol for online meetings.
- Establish ground rules for participation during the meeting.
- Allow adequate time for everyone to speak. Don’t allow a few participants to dominate the meeting.
- Take real-time notes to be shared with the group as the meeting progresses.
- Review all action items and agreements on any necessary task assignments.
- Determine a date for the next meeting if required.
After the meeting:
- Send meeting notes.
- Follow up on assignments.