Five Mistakes NOT to Make When Holding Online Meetings

Style Magazine Newswire | 3/26/2020, 11:44 a.m.

Working from home (or WFH) is quickly becoming "the new normal." The COVID-19 pandemic kicked the WFH movement into high gear, and many experts believe it will continue long after the crisis has passed. (This article makes a solid case.) But before we can optimize this new way of working, Howard Tiersky says we're all going to have to get proficient at one of the biggest work-from-home fundamentals: the virtual meeting.

"Remote meetings are inherently different from in-person meetings," says Tiersky, coauthor along with Heidi Wisbach of Impactful Online Meetings: How to Run Polished Virtual Working Sessions That Are Engaging and Effective—Zoom|Webex|GoToMeeting|Skype|Google Hangouts (Spiral Press, 2020, ISBN: 978-1-734-41533-9 (eBook), $.99). "If you're not used to running them, you're going to make tons of mistakes. And those mistakes can have major ramifications in terms of how well people perform once they log off and get back to work."

The good news is that well-run online meetings can be extremely powerful, says Tiersky. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, online meetings can be even more effective than in-person meetings when done right. But first you need to be aware of what not to do.

In his book, Tiersky offers a wealth of tips for making online meetings as impactful as possible. He also refers readers to his website, impactfulonlinemeetings.com, so they can be notified of book updates and also access other helpful supplemental resources.

Here, he identifies five mistakes virtual meeting newbies commonly make:

MISTAKE #1: Neglecting one (or more) of the "big five" success keys of online meetings. If you are seeking to bring people together to share information, come up with solutions,

make decisions, coordinate activities, and/or socialize, you will be successful if you:

Have a clear purpose

Get participants in the right mindset

Get them fully engaged behaviorally

Incorporate high-quality content aligned with the purpose

Make it easy to participate

"If you do all of these correctly, you will have high-impact online meetings," says Tiersky. "If you don't, there's going to be a lot of awkwardness and inefficiency. Worse, bad meetings can lead to bad workplace performance, which is the last thing any of us need right now."

MISTAKE #2: Holding voice calls instead of videoconferences. When everyone has their cameras on, you can expect a 200 percent-plus improvement in the effectiveness of online meetings. This keeps people engaged because they know that what they're doing is visible to everyone else. They're far less likely to multi-task, which is one of the greatest obstacles to audience engagement.

MISTAKE #3: Failing to be strategic about sequencing. The first item on your meeting agenda should be a restatement of the purpose of the meeting. After that, strategize on the sequence of your activities. For example:

If there are any "elephant in the room" topics, deal with those early or they will be a distraction.

If you have some sort of fun or exciting announcement, you may want to hold it for the end, letting the participants know that it is coming but keeping the outcome a surprise to create suspense.