5 strategies for Your Online Meetings & Negotiations

5. May 2020

1. Assign responsibility for Your meeting process = appoint a moderator

As explained in my previous post, not all meetings are meant for “equality” for a variety of reasons.

A moderator helps participants focus, and guarantees security about the process and rules. Depending on the rules of the meeting, no one can speak without the moderator’s consent, and shy contributors are being nudged to share with his active invitation. This is even more important for online meetings, given the lack of body cues and failing audio or video quality issues.

Tip: Make sure you write down the expected outcome together with the expected time for the meeting. Don´t hesitate to reiterate or even ask somebody what you´re all here for if people get lost.

2. Set a meeting objective & make sure, people know it

Call it whatever you like: “Agenda”, “Reason to meet” or “Outcome expected”, but make sure there is a clear goal to your meeting, and people know about it. If you want to socialize that´s fine, just make sure everyone is on board, lest you lose your credibility once you want to achieve any substantial discussion.

Tip: Make sure you write down the expected outcome together with the expected time for the meeting. Don´t hesitate to reiterate or even ask somebody what you´re all here for if people get lost.

3. Distinguish between “required”, “helpful”, and “tolerated” participants

Inviting everybody remotely interested feels tempting. People perceive you as being active on the one hand, and making sure nobody feels left out on the other. Especially when working remotely for an extended time, as we do have to do now during the Covid-19 lock down, it might also feel nice to getting face time with people that you are used to having around.

However, there is one big problem: Meetings don´t accomplish much when many people are taking part who don´t actively contribute towards the meeting objective. If there are many people in the online meeting, many feel obliged to contribute anything in order to justify their presence.

Tip: To solve that quagmire, introduce roles, like “required”, “helpful” or even “tolerated” with definite expectations linked to them. People can “come by” without feeling an urge to disturb.

Tip: Introduce roles, like “required”, “helpful” or even “tolerated” with definite expectations linked to them. People can “come by” without feeling an urge to disturb.
Don´t hesitate to play with the roles and actively call out the change of a role, e.g. from “required” to “tolerated”, e.g. when participants played their part and can´t contribute any longer. This might also help them leave and go to something more productive than losing the urge to linger.

4. Conclude with meeting notes & simple/clear follow-up terms

Many meetings end with vague smiles from all participants, happy to go back to their To-Do lists.

It is the your responsibility as moderator to summarize and point out meaning and action for each point tackled of the agenda. Like a good journalist, the key task is to spell out headlines and identify action items.

Tip: Summarizing the results in the end either in writing, or by recording the final oral summary of the moderator can help making sure decisions are being followed up and remembering which person is responsible for its delivery.

5. Agree on basic regulatory framework. Start with mute/unmute and video/no video protocol

It’s important for you to show early that rules are set and enforced for everybody, if you don´t want people to settle for the easiest, but mostly worst, option. Start with technical issues, and follow up with whatever is needed for the group to be efficient.

  • Default to video: It’s easier to pick up facial clues and avoid interruptions when you can see your counterpart
  • Mute your audio when there are more than four people: it is nearly impossible to avoid background noise which wears everybody down. If there is no lively discussion between just a few people, mute your mic and spare everybody the noise
  • Clarify: as soon as possibly that contributions are only welcome if they are advancing the discussion towards the stated aim. Online meetings require very clear communication to keep everyone on task.

Of course, one of the biggest pitfalls is to have somebody of the team being responsible for “rule enforcement”. It is hard to stop colleagues from repeating themselves the third time when you might need their support at a parallel project.

Tip: Have people moderate meetings who don´t have to worry about their appearances and can stay neutral. Sometimes HR will be able to help. Best results (and shortest meeting times) will be achieved when getting support by outside professional (online) moderators.