accessibility Covid-19

Running a Successful Online Meeting

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Guest Author Glenn McKnight

As we all try to cope with a different world given the COVID-19 situation we need to adapt and continue our efforts by switching our face to face meetings to remote or online meetings.

#1 Pick a poison, Select a tool to organize your online meetings

Google Meets
This is an integrated into the Google Suite (including Google Calendar). You can log in online or call in with their cell phone or landline.

Basic account is free and it has Pro and two types of business service, It includes a cell or landline connection

Other tools such as Webex, BlueJean and Hipchat are also great tools ( see link at end of article for range of tools)

# 2 Organize your meeting

Select a moderator for the meeting which controls the features of the tool ie. sharescreen and recording. In advance to the meeting an agenda should be shared and most important clear instructions on how to log into the meeting with the URL, times, date and alternative phone numbers. In this example from a recent ICANN meeting which was emailed to the participants it also has a link to agenda page for participants. You should encourage people to add the meeting to their calendar

#3 Starting the meeting

The moderator needs to engage each person to test their video and audio. ( All newbies should come 5 to 10 minutes before the formal start of the meeting to get some one on one assistance) . The moderator will need to engage each person making sure they test their mics and video and where the icons are located to mute, unmute, hands up, chat feature and polling. Its critical that everyone are comfortable with the technology and are able to use the tools effectively. When you are ready to start remember to hit the record button.

#4 Say hello to my little friend”

The critical part of online meetings is the side conversations  While the session presentation is going on the moderator or an assigned volunteer needs to monitor the chat discussion. The level of chat discussion is a barometer to tell you how engaged people are and a place where people ask questions, Some people may be attending in a noisey environment and using the chat is a good alternative vs speaking up. The moderator or other volunteer should list questions and and read them out . This is important since the remote participants on phone will NOT see the chat. When the facilitator wants feedback/perspectives from the group, ask the moderator after hearing the question may elect to call out the specific individuals to elaborate more on their response.

# 5 Please be quiet.

Everyone should click on the mute icon so they are muted when they are not talking. This is essential to keep focus on the speaker and not someone’s accidental background noise. Depending on the level of service provider the moderator can mute all the lines and unmute the speaker at their discretion.

# 6 Lights Action Camera

Depending on the service, bandwidth capacity and end user equipment you can run a meeting with or without video transmission . Video is great for group calls and it improves participation and breaks the monotony of a long audio only meeting.  Remember to consider the lighting and background for the video call and your appearance as well. We all have bad hair days!

#7 Followup

Its important to followup with the meeting with Action Item notes, link to the recording and a short survey.

End Note

Please visit the Techsoup page for a list of excellent resources for Online colloboration.  Good luck and have a great meeting online

Glenn McKnight is a Director with the Foundation for Building Sustainable Communities and located in Oshawa Ontario. His online footprint for remote meetings normally is from 10 to 25 hours a week with a host of International organizations he is involved with.