10 tips for organising effective online meetings | workshops

13 November 2020 Consultancy.eu 5 min. read
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The global pandemic has shifted most collaboration and communication activities to online. For online meetings to be effective however, a well-designed structure is needed, combined with content-rich, interactive, and well moderated sessions. Experts at consultancy Minkowski share 10 tips for organising effective online meetings. 

Planning a full day or several shorter sessions?

We tend to believe a full day online session is not productive. However, we don’t realise that when planning shorter sessions, participants probably will have other online meetings before and after your session. Hence, it might make more sense to plan a full day, which will give you control of the flow of the program (plan for breaks and intermezzo’s like music) and energy of participants.

In any case, make sure you plan, script, and time your session from beginning to end, and make sure you prepare all elements up front (e.g. break-out rooms, polls, collaborative tools).

Design beyond the session

Unfortunately, sessions are often designed without spending much attention to the participant experience before and after it. What happens before and after the online session is just as important as during the session; think from the total experience that participants get instead of just focusing on the details.

Think about your communication with them before, during and after your session. Engage with them before, and follow up with them afterwards coherently. Provide them with a total journey instead of individual touchpoints.

You probably will not be able to run the show alone

In the offline space, it is often easier to run a session alone compared to doing so online. Digitally, there are so many more different things to manage and take care of. We recommended to ‘assign a Yoda’ when working with break-outs and/or collaboration tools. 

Have one (lead) facilitator to take the group through the steps, explain the exercises and challenge the participants, and another to ensure the tech is ready and functioning properly for participants to have a smooth experience (e.g. set up break out rooms, manage the Miro or Mural boards, etc.). 

Plenary presentations should be kept to a minimum

Virtual sessions can be draining, so make sure you incorporate breaks and keep it interesting. For starters, cut up plenary presentations into smaller blocks. We recommend a maximum of 15 – 20 minutes each. Or, use an interview setting instead of a traditional ‘keynote’. At all times, alternate with interaction; have speakers engage with the audience, for example by asking them questions.

Capture what’s being said (in different ways)

Our minds often forget a significant amount of a meeting’s content after a few days. It is therefore crucial to recap and summarise the session. Offline, you can easily do so by taking pictures of the session’s cue cards. Since online sessions are less suitable for such methods, decide upfront how you want to capture what’s being said.

Using a mix of options like a visual artist that scribbles along, make screen captures of the session, record the session (video & audio – edit them before sharing!) and take screenshots of the session and its output. It helps to share a nice compilation of the points discussed and materials used. 

Use online collaboration tools, but only if they add value

Hosting an online workshop doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use all kinds of collaboration tools (Mural, Miro, etc.). They can also be unfamiliar to work with, and in some cases distracting. Some functionalities are already offered by the video platform (e.g. break out rooms, annotation, polling), so use them! And when using then, send participants a short (video) tutorial upfront so they are familiar with the platform when starting the session. 

Create trust and openness

Understand that participants do not only watch and listen to you and others in the session, but that they are also conscious about their own appearance on camera, which could reduce their willingness to participate. Although we think that it is crucial to use cameras in collaborative workshops to engage a culture of trust and openness, consider shutting cameras off during polls or discussions to foster anonymity and hence increase participation. 

Design for social interaction

People want to connect and get to know each other. Hence, make sure you incorporate multiple blocks where participants can meet each other and work on an exercise together in break-out rooms. Also, incorporate check-ins or create a “virtual water cooler” as an opportunity to connect on a more human level. 

Don’t neglect the offline possibilities

Using paper and pen stimulates focus, learning, and creativity. Have participants work by themselves offline while participating in the online session. Or send participants a box with markers and cue cards before the session to already prepare them for the online session and / or send them a (visual) summary afterwards. 

Honour the work-life balance

Since working from home can easily infringe on people’s work-life balance, make sure you start and end the session properly. Before the session, ask participants to avoid screens at least 15-30 mins before starting, which will result in a fresher, calmer and more concentrated mind.

Also, when running sessions at the end of the day, make sure that in the last 15 minutes, no more content is discussed, so participants can readjust to their home situation.

More info: For more information on the design principles and tips download the ebook from Minkowski.

Minkowski is a Dutch consulting firm with years of experience in designing and facilitating sessions. With the coming of Covid-19, the consultancy adapted to online facilitation and currently helps many clients with running their online workshops.