3 P’s of effective online meeting
Purpose, Preparation and Participation
Select a Meeting Space
After discussions with your executive team, select a meeting space and create an account. Alternatively, you may be able to use a District sponsored online meeting space. Check with your trio.
Trial your Online Meeting Space
Step 1: create a free account with your online meeting room provider. Each tool will step you through the process for doing that, and some do it better than others. Some provide useful videos on YouTube and websites for their community of users.
Step 2: try out the software on your own, to establish an overview of its functionality and any special features for which you will need to provide instructions.
Step 3: where possible, try setting up a meeting with one or two people in your executive team. This will give you and them opportunities to trial without pressure.
Step 4: when you have a good grasp of the software and know how to manage your account and invite guests, notify your club that you will be conducting a trial.
Step 5: send invites to each stating the date and time, at least a week prior. Provide them with the World Clock Time Conversion link so they may be sure of what time the trial will be for them. Specify the duration of the trial meeting and send a brief overview of the agenda or purpose of the trial.
If you have already set up your social media space, this will be a good place to promote the event. For example, if you have a Facebook Group or Page, post an invite or use the Event manager to notify your team. Be sure to include some instructions on how to join your meeting, what hardware they need and where to go for help. Let the trial team know what they should see on screen, if there is a ‘waiting room’, and what to do in case of technical issues. eg Zoom provides a waiting room option for early connectors, whilst waiting for the host to open the meeting.
Step 6: Create an agenda for leading the participants through the trial meeting. You might include one or more of the following:
- showcase slide(s) that show the users how to participate in the space eg audio/video
- set greeting and speaking protocols eg. how not to speak over each other
- discuss the method of managing online meetings in the space eg special roles
- encourage participants to share in the inter-activities eg chat, share screen etc
- invite feedback from participants and record their comments eg copy chat text
- provide information about cost of upgrades and other services of the provider
Step 7: Send personal reminders to participants, with a direct link to the room, at least an hour prior. Specify any special requirements for participation. eg headset with microphone.
Step 8: Open your room about 15 minutes prior to start time and be sure to keep your Facebook Messenger or Email open for any last minute requests for help.
Finally conduct your trial and have fun while you are learning!
Case Study: Inaugural Toastmaster Club Meeting Online
Define the purpose of this first meeting online as ‘entice the members to Participate online‘.
First experiences are so important and worth taking extra time in getting them right!
The leader (let’s call her Kim) has created a social media group and has invited members to attend the inaugural meeting. She has created an agenda and assigned roles for those who had volunteered. An Event was posted in the Facebook group with details on how the participants could prepare to join the meeting online. Details of the meeting location and its URL were sent to all registered members via email.
Kim structured the online time into two segments:
- an initial half hour setup time in which participants could be assisted with technology and meet the others from a variety of locations
- one hour Toastmaster meeting agenda consisting of speeches, evaluations, table topics and reports.
During the pre-meeting, a few experienced on-liners provided technology assistance and networking for those who were new to the environment. Kim also checked that all role takers were present and ready to perform their roles. The major roles were filled by experienced Toastmasters to bring stability and continuity to the meeting and the newer members and guests were included in a Table Topics segment designed to get to know them better. One or two stepped up confidently to fulfill roles they had never done online before – this was a real bonus. Kim learned that this type of flexibility would enhance the enjoyment factor and bring an element of surprise.
Kim chose a traditional Toastmaster facilitation method for the hour, one that the audience could relate to. This provided the ‘comfort zone’ element to ease some of the ‘fear factor’ that was expected in an inaugural online meeting. At all times it was positive and instructional – giving advice on how things could be done online. A great example of this was the assistance given to the Timer who was able to improvise his timing device inventively. (Think about how you might be an innovative timer in an online meeting!)
Between each segment of the program, Kim provided smooth and insightful segues, moving the meeting forward promptly and professionally. There was a solid feeling of trust imbued by Kim and all participants felt empowered. This is an absolutely essential skill required by the online meeting facilitator.
During the formal speeches and table topics members were encouraged to use web cams and audio to create a dynamic screen presence. This is similar to how you would invite your guests to approach the lectern in your land-based clubs – gentle pressure – to push beyond their comfort zone.
There is much to see and hear in an online meeting – often with far more clarity and audible content – an up close and personal experience. Nevertheless some tactics are required to keep everyone attentive and engaged. Laughter is the best tactic and there was plenty of that in this inaugural meeting.
I provided a presentation with PowerPoint slides to illustrate ‘Online Clubs Overview‘, upon which were a series of questions for audience participation. Answers were typed into the text chat and this created a different type of interactivity during my speech.
Evaluators ably provided their verbal feedback to speakers and promised to send their handwritten notes on downloaded PDF versions of the Project Evaluation Guides.
Guests were given the opportunity to give verbal feedback on the meeting and there was even time for a short club business segment in which new club officers were nominated.
This inaugural meeting of the Toastmasters Without Borders was an all round success!
It had purpose, preparation and participation – the 3 P’s of effective online meeting management.
Your first meeting online will also be effective and successful if you practice the 3 P’s.