Online meetings often diverge from the intended course in one of two ways. Either they become silent like a funeral with monologue after monologue delivered to a void of mourners. They can look like a group of sales associates celebrating a large contract in an airport lounge. Everyone is voicing their opinions with no direction or focus. This doesn’t have to be.

These guidelines will help you make your online meetings as fun and productive as that held face-to-face.

Make sure to use a formal plan.

An absence of a plan signals attendees that you are more interested in “having a conversation” than getting business done, exchanging ideas, or making decisions. Send the agenda to attendees at least two days in advance for review and preparation.

Continually project it as you go through your meeting. (You’ll find out why as you continue reading.)

State topics in question form.

This is a common topic format.

-Sales in the 3rd Quarter

-Tradeshow booth at ITH Conference

-Competitors’ Marketing Campaign during August

Instead, ask questions to make your discussion laser-focused and not rambling.

– What percent of your 3rd Quarter quota have you met?

-Is it worth the $35K and 2 days spent exhibiting at ITH?

– What’s the best way to sell against Logard’s August marketing campaign?

The ultimate guide to meeting

Find out how to create high-quality meetings that are efficient and effective for your company.

Please specify the format of each agenda topic.

The format of each topic should be stated on the agenda. As the meeting leader, you may only have intended to raise an issue or gather input. Let the group know your purpose upfront to help them feel accomplished, even when discussing such topics.

Allocate time for each topic.

As you go along, you can adjust the timing. It gives everyone an idea of the time you are expecting. If Deepak’s agenda says he will report on laboratory results in 5 minutes and the time allotted is only five minutes, he won’t waste time creating a slideshow lasting 30 minutes.

Notify any responsible person so they can provide the necessary information.

Don’t be surprised if Jana shows up with data to support a discussion. Make sure she is listed on the agenda as the “responsible person” so that she arrives ready.

Summarize the conclusions and delegate any follow-up actions – ON the agenda.

Online meetings are especially important because of the temptation to let attendees’ attention wander to their phones or piles of paperwork. Take the key decisions, summarize them, and write them down in the blank column of the plan. Next, write the follow-up action in the last column.

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