6 ways to make the most of online meetings

The dog is barking at the mail delivery, your kids want a snack, the wifi is acting up, and now yet another Zoom/Webex/Meet/Skype/etc. meeting is about to start even though you’re not yet finished with the actual work you have to do. Almost makes you miss that cool, quiet, empty conference room at the office.

Sorry, but we can’t help with any of that.

What we can help with is the meeting itself. And after four months I hope most of us have learned a few things about organizing, running, and participating in virtual meetings. But if you’re struggling (or know someone who is), here’s a cheat sheet, listed below as well.

The first thing to appreciate is that preparing for an online meeting requires a lot more than sending an invite and putting on a clean shirt. The next thing to do is read these basic tips that will help you make the most of online meetings.



  • Test the devices and applications you’ll be using to make sure everything works
  • Learn where the app’s controls are so you can quickly and easily mute, adjust the camera, and respond to conversation threads
  • Share the apps with all participants ahead of time, so they can download and test them too
  • Make sure the device you’re using is plugged in or has enough charge to get through the call
  • Silence other devices if notifications may be disruptive


  • Prepare and agree on a realistic agenda and use it to guide and time the meeting
  • Designate needed roles amongst team members (lead facilitator, note-taker, tech support, etc.)
  • For client calls, establish a backchannel for your team to discreetly communicate
  • Have the team share content whenever possible; showing what you’re talking about helps people stay engaged
  • Everyone should have all documents they intend to share easily accessible or already opened


  • Sit close to your wifi router if you often have connectivity issues
  • Ensure your visible work area is uncluttered and looks professional—or use a virtual background
  • Set up in a place you can focus undisturbed (maybe hang a sign asking for “Quiet, please” or “On a call until 3 pm”, etc.)
  • Have a refreshing beverage and a snack on hand


  • Ask people to use video if possible
  • Allow participants to introduce themselves via a simple icebreaker
  • Establish rules of engagement at the start (e.g. should participants interject with questions or save them for the Q&A period?)
  • Use specific information-gathering exercises to engage the group
  • Pause speaking occasionally to allow others to join the discussion

online-mtgs-15. COMMON ISSUES

  • Mute yourself when not speaking if there’s background noise
  • That said, ensure that all voices are heard—monitor and respectfully engage the quiet folks
  • If one person is having technical or user-error issues, have your tech support person direct chat them so the meeting can proceed
  • If digital sharing starts to lag, ask participants to turn off video


  • Announce if you are recording
  • Everything runs at ~80% speed when working virtually, even though your instinct is to blaze through things—slow down a bit
  • Take breaks on long calls—people feel obligated to stay visible on camera, so “take 5” every so often
  • Sarcasm and jokes can fall flat when delivered through screens, so be careful :-/

You can do this. Download these tips as a one-pager PDF here: Tremendousness – Online meeting tips.pdf

Scott Goldstein and others contributed to this post. Main photo by Nastuh Abootalebi and small photo by Chris Montgomery, both on Unsplash