7 Tips to Address the Unique Challenges of Online Meetings

May 12, 2021

How to run an online meeting that doesn’t drag on, have people tuning out or talking over each other?

Don’t you love meetings? Okay, most people don’t, and the challenge of online meetings is that while technology brings us together, it can also push us apart. Whether that’s from internet delays, background noises or missed communications because you can’t see everyone’s body language.  Here’s how to address those challenges, plus some tips especially for NYNJA users.

1. People Arriving Late

It’s frustrating enough when you’re in a physical space and people arrive late, but in an online meeting they can be very disruptive by video or sound announcing their arrival. You can address ahead of time by communicating that everyone needs to get online ahead of time. Put it on your meeting invite, to join ten minutes before and announce the start will be right at the given start time. Needless to say, if you’re running the meeting, be early!
NYNJA Tip: use a Scheduled Meeting and have NYNJA automatically call everyone at the appointed time. You can choose if that’s 5, 10 or 15 minutes ahead or right at the start time. For participants who are not on NYNJA, use your calendar’s reminder option. 

2. Background Noise

Dogs, babies, other people in an adjacent space talking, mobile phones ringing… This one is pretty simple to address from the start: ask everyone not speaking to mute their microphone. Put a reminder in the meeting invitation for everyone to join and mute their mic, and remind them again at the start of the meeting. 

3. People Talking Over Each Other

Whether or not you have a full video chat, it can be frustrating to participants if they don’t feel heard. You need to have a chair for the meeting who will run logistics like speaking time. When you get a bunch of voices trying to talk over each other, either ask who has something to say, or use the cues from your conferencing software, and make a list of the names. Then invite each to speak in turn. If you have a chat option you can have participants message you to get a turn. 

NYNJA Tip: You can either use a group for chat, or have people message the person chairing the meeting that they want to speak. If you scheduled a meeting and chose participants individually NYNJA will have created a group for you for the call. If you used an existing group then invite everyone to message within that group. 

4. People Tuning Out

There are many things that can provide distractions, probably number one is people checking other messages. Tell everyone at the start to put their cell phones away and focus. Promise that you will make the meeting efficient and get everyone out on time, and make sure you do. For some tips on running effective meetings that people will want to stay tuned in to, see How to Run an Effective Meeting

Another tip is to go round the ‘table’ or list of attendees to solicit their input on a particular discussion point, or near the end of your meeting to provide their takeaway or action item from the meeting. While it may not have stopped them tuning out in this instance, they will be paying more attention in future! 

5. Low Volume or Unclear Speaking

The sound quality can vary greatly depending on the device people are using, but sometimes it’s the volume of someone’s speaking voice. In online meetings you do need to use a higher volume than you would normally, but you don’t want to shout. Start the meeting off by going through all participants for a check in that doubles as a sound check. 

6. Understanding the Content

When you’re presenting in an online format, it can be hard to know if people are understanding the points you are communicating. Check in with the audience or other participants every little while to make sure. If you have both a presenter and a chair for the meeting, get the chair to ask questions of the participants, or to recap your points as you go as that’s also a way to confirm you are communicating clearly. Having visuals is a good way to visually communicate your information. To keep everyone on track, you might even just post the agenda. 

NYNJA Tip: Use the Screen Share feature for calls, and add supporting documents to your call group! Post a meeting summary in the group, especially any action items, and use it as a place for everyone to ask further questions, update status, or report on accomplishments. 

7. Social Connection

At any time, building your team’s social bonds is important, but when your meetings are all virtual, it’s even more important to build rapport and patience with each other. Add a few minutes in the agenda, either at the beginning or end, for everyone to touch base on news, or ask a few people about special events in their life, or what they are doing for the weekend. During the time of COVID-19, it’s good to know no one is alone, and you can share tips with each other for activities, home schooling, and de-stressing. 

NYNJA Tip: decide on a space to share photos, emojis and other social, less work related items, whether it’s the call’s group or a new one just for virtual coffee breaks.