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3 Essential Questions You Might Not Be Asking Yourself Before You Set Up An Online Meeting

How often have you walked out of a meeting thinking it was a waste of time and energy? Maybe you felt that a lot of the information went over your head, or that it wasn’t even necessary to have one in the first place. 

The answer to these problems can be broken down into 3 categories: consideration, preparation, and empathy. 

I want to help you make better use of your time, and teach you how to think more strategically when it comes to making decisions about ways to communicate a specific message.

Running any kind of meeting requires thorough preparation, but online meetings are another animal. They demand careful consideration in regard to how you deliver your information, the format, and how you can get participants to listen and understand you. You also need to be aware of who will be attending the meeting, and how you will tailor your content and delivery style to suit their needs. 

Question #1: Do I really need a meeting, and what’s the most effective way to deliver my message?

What kind of information and data will you be delivering? Will people come out of the meeting thinking that it was a good use of their time? Before deciding to hold any kind of meeting, you need to think about whether an online meeting will be worthwhile. Is there a more effective way to convey your message without running a meeting?

Match the technology to the task. Meetings, whether they are face to face or virtual, are best suited to more personal and complex tasks, such as negotiating, gathering perspectives and ideas, and problem-solving. The more emotion involved and the more intricate the task is, the greater the need to be able to see and read others. 

Leaner text-based media such as email and chat are best suited to simpler tasks such as sharing routine information and plans and collecting simple data. 

Question #2: How I will deliver the information and how I will engage my participants?

Once you have decided that a meeting would be appropriate and beneficial, you need to consider how you will deliver your data and information. You can start by asking yourself what you want your audience to understand at the end of it, and how you will engage them so they remain focused.

An important thing to bear in mind is that the information and data being delivered needs to compliment the environment you are in. Presenting something in front of a face to face audience won’t have the same impact when presenting it virtually, so always keep in the back of your mind how the tools and format of your content will differ depending on your environment. 

  1. Start the meeting off with an ice-breaker. The sky really is the limit in how you break the ice before the meeting begins, but in case you’re struggling for ideas, here are 10 great examples.

  2. Creating lots of thought-provoking visuals that supplement your data and arouse curiosity. Tim Elmore wrote a brilliant piece on why teaching with images is so effective. He states in his article that the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. People comprehend (in their head) faster when they form a picture in their hearts. The entire brain is engaged.

  3. Make it interactive by pairing participants off and sending them into a breakout room to discuss key points and ideas. Having a “around the table” discussion afterward gets people involved and encourages them to participate by explaining what they’ve learned in their own words.

Who will be at the meeting? What is their level of knowledge on the subject? What language level do they have? Will you need to tailor your vocabulary and pace of speaking? 

Who will be in the meeting? What is their level of knowledge on the subject? What language level do they have? Will you need to tailor your vocabulary and pace of speaking? 

“I was in a meeting once with some colleagues from Saudi Arabia. Half-way through the meeting, they just walked out without saying a word and I was left wondering if I had said something to offend them. It was only, later on, I learned that Muslims pray up to five times per day and is a fundamental part of their culture and day-to-day life."

If everyone in the meeting has a good understanding of the subject, that’s great and by all means, stick with what you have. But if there are 1 or 2 participants who may not be up to speed, perhaps a very quick update on the topic before the meeting starts will help bring them up to speed. However, if most of the participants have little to no knowledge of the topic you will be discussing, then maybe the best course of action is to postpone the meeting until they have an adequate understanding of the subject. 

Another thing to bear in mind is what nationalities will be attending your meeting. You need to think about potential culture clashes that may occur during the meeting and think up an action plan to prevent them from happening. I remember a client once told me about a meeting she had with her colleagues from Saudi Arabia. Bang in the middle of the meeting 3 of them got up and walked out without saying a single word to anyone. What my client failed to realise is that they got up to pray and that it’s common for Muslims to do this up to 5 times per day. What will you do to ensure you don’t fall prey to cultural misunderstandings?

Lastly and most importantly, although English is the working language of the world, not everyone may have the same level of English as each other. If you are working with diverse teams from all corners of the globe, you might want to rethink some of the language and terminology you use in the meeting. Simplifying your language by sticking to short, simple sentences, and stay away from business jargon and idiomatic phrases. Re-read your notes and slides and ask yourself, “if I was someone who didn’t have a high level of English, would I understand this?”

In short:

The three things you need to ask yourself before you consider holding an online meeting are:

  1. Do I really need a meeting?

  2. How will I deliver the information and how will I keep my audience engaged?

  3. How will I accommodate my audiences’ needs?

There are many things to take into account before setting up a meeting, but these are the 3 I believe to be the most overlooked. By asking yourself these questions, your online meetings will be more productive and meaningful for everyone involved.

If you want to learn more about communicating clearly and effectively when working with global colleagues and clients, I’ve made a free downloadable guide/cheat sheet with 10 strategies that you can use right now to connect with your virtual teams and close the communication gap. You can download it for free here: https://ascommunications.wixsite.com/guide