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Take Your Meetings Online

September 1, 2008

 

By Carolyn Schwaar

Skyrocketing gas prices are converting even the most technophobic association leaders into firm believers of online collaboration tools. In fact, today’s Web services provide an inexpensive, often free, way to host live meetings, let workgroup members collaborate on the same document or project, and broadcast presentations online.

6 Tips for Better Meetings Online

Making the switch from a live to an online meeting requires a variety of adjustments for the facilitator and the participants—but the payoff is worth it. Not only do you save money on travel but you can ultimately increase communications and productivity. Here are six things you need to remember about online meeting etiquette that will help you get the most out of the technology.

1. Minimize disorientation. Start the meeting with a quick check-in so everyone attending knows who else is there and that the connections are adequate. Unless all of your meeting participants are well acquainted, ask participants to identify themselves every time they speak. Also remember to recap and summarize often and use a “round robin” technique when appropriate to ensure everyone’s opinion is stated.

2. Pay attention. Don’t think that because the other meeting participants aren’t in the same room with you that you can engage in peripheral activities, such as checking your e-mail or surfing the Web. Remember, other participants can hear the clickety-clack of your keyboard.

3. Take charge. When you’re leading a meeting, keep everyone engaged by keeping agendas and goals focused. Create an itinerary and stick to it. If there are questions that can’t be addressed within the meeting’s time frame, you can always invite follow-up conversations by e-mail.

4. Master your audiovisuals. During an in-person, you can be forgiven for displaying the wrong PowerPoint slide on the wall or taking a few minutes to bring up the right presentation. But with an online meeting, when participants often have nothing else to look at, every misstep is amplified. Take the time to run through your presentation before it’s in front of your board of directors. Also refer to slide number or page number if you are using a previously sent presentation.

5. Post-meeting to-do. The meeting is not over as soon as participants hang up the phone or log off. Without facial expressions or body language to rely on, inviting questions and thorough follow-up is essential.

6. Being social is good. In-person meetings often foster nonproductive filler, but Web-based meetings can strip that away, which is great for productivity but not for volunteer camaraderie. Since REALTORS® value the networking opportunities that volunteering provides, don’t eliminate in-person meetings entirely.

Adapted from “Virtual Meeting Etiquette” by Randi S. Brenowitz, Winston J. Brill & Associates; and “5 Tips for a Better Web Conference,” by Christopher Elliott, elliott.org.