• Helen Chapman

How to have a really good online meeting

“Who even uses PowerPoint anymore!?” is a question I’ve heard three times this week already. It is both a question and a statement and is another sign of change.

I still value PowerPoint in the right time and place, but the days of never-ending decks can’t continue. So, move over PowerPoint and welcome new online collaboration spaces and tools that are brilliantly designed and intuitive to use.

Five top tips for great team collaboration for any online meeting

Even though online tech from companies such as Miro, Mural, Confluence and Trello are continually improving and getting better at supporting distanced working, online meetings are repeatedly hitting a glass ceiling because human behaviour is struggling to keep up. Our resistance to change is so ingrained, we’re clinging to trusted and faithful tools (such as PowerPoint) for as long as possible.

Many of us have been ‘meaning to get better’ at online meetings for years.

There’s no time like the present – in fact, we have no other choice. After all, there’s nothing like desperation to force the need to learn.

At TFP, we’ve been strengthening our online facilitation skills and we’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to have really good online meetings.

Here are our top five tips for great team collaboration that can serve you well for any online meeting:

1. Use a good online meeting space

Get yourself a Miro or Mural license (you’re very welcome Miro and Mural). These brilliant spaces are tooled-up with online stickies, templates, pens and more to set you and your team up for great online collaboration. Then, add Confluence for team follow-up.

2. Work well visually

In the same way that having a flip chart in a physical meeting room doesn’t guarantee a good meeting (after all, the flip chart can’t do the work for you), you can’t rely on online meeting tools to make a great meeting happen – you have to learn to use the tools and use them well. Practice really pays off, so set your team up for success by asking for practical pre-work such as adding sticky notes into a template. Doing this gets the group to come to the meeting prepared for the work to be done together. Plus, participants can see each other's thoughts whilst getting to grips with the virtual way of working. It's a win win.

3. Avoid the online meeting trance

  1. Vary the length of team collaboration sessions and make sure they’re never longer than three hours.

  2. Change the use of your time by using breakouts, paired thinking and quiet reflection. Encourage everyone to get some fresh air part-way through.

  3. Create a unique atmosphere with music, personalised backgrounds, shared lunches and Friday beers.

4. Mind the gap

Online team collaboration spaces are brilliant because the work you do in them stays up (no need to photograph charts before rolling them up and stashing them in a cupboard). We find teams visit and revisit their online spaces to add reflections, check on actions and to keep others in the loop. In this way, the gap between formal sessions encourages ongoing collaboration.

5. Have a pro-online mindset

If you believe online team collaboration is second best, then it will be. It’s time to shift your mindset toward the benefits of working visually online rather than pre-fixing every team session with, “This would be better if we were all in the same room”. We’re not. We can’t be. Online is here to stay for a while, so let’s max the good it brings.

To conclude: I’m encouraged to see the lingering reluctance to collaborate online is fading and TFP is certainly working really well with many teams online. Even more encouraging is that the two-dimensional approach to online team collaboration (simply sharing a PowerPoint deck on Zoom) is also fading fast and we’re quickly shifting gear into a 3D online world – proving that (almost) everything that’s possible physically is possible online. All that’s needed is for us to show each other how.

Have you had a great online meeting recently? I’d love you to hear about your experience and any tips you might have – please message me on LinkedIn. And if you’re looking for someone to lead your next really good meeting, you know where we are.