Heading an online meeting comes with its own unique set of challenges. There are a lot of similarities to in-person meetings – like assigning roles and following an agenda. But in an online meeting, there are other things to consider, like keeping everyone’s attention over the Web and utilizing technologies effectively.
When you’re the leader of a meeting, everyone else in the room looks to you for guidance. How you act and what you do play a big role in how well the meeting turns out. These five steps will help you keep your cool in the online boardroom, oversee the discussion and interactions, and master your leadership skills.
Get a Grip on Your Technology
No online meeting would be complete without a technology glitch or two. A minor problem can be expected, but if you don’t show leadership in your technology skills, your audience will have little confidence in your abilities. Know the technology you’re using – from the mic and web cam to file-sharing programs – backwards and forwards. You should also be able to help out meeting participants with their own technology issues (hint: they’ll be counting on you). Always do a test run a couple of days before the meeting to save time for troubleshooting.
Have a Goal and Stick with It
Meetings most often get derailed when participants lose sight of the goal. The goal should be stated clearly at the beginning of the meeting, and ideally written out on the agenda. Keep your eyes on the prize and ensure that everything you say and do in the meeting is working toward it. If others get off track, make it your job to steer them back in the right direction.
Look and Act Professional
It goes without saying that when you’re leading a meeting, you should dress for success. But aside from your clothing, how you carry yourself, introductive yourself, and demonstrate competence will also factor in to how you’re judged as a leader. The best thing you can do to be taken seriously as a professional is to adequately prepare beforehand. Write out your presentation and practice it so you don’t need as many notecards during the real thing. At the meeting, speak clearly and make your comments precise and poignant. Treat others with respect while being assertive on your key points.
Answer Questions with Confidence
Anticipate the kinds of questions that your group will ask you. Even if you’re thrown a curveball, stay calm and don’t get flustered. They’re not asking you to quiz you or prove you wrong; they really think you know the answer. If you don’t, it’s best not to say that directly, but rather mention that you need to consult a resource to get the answer. But don’t pretend to know the answer when you don’t. Make your initial answer brief, then elaborate as necessary. Also, it’s OK to ask for clarification if you don’t quite understand the question fully. It’s better to do that than give the wrong answer.
Manage Conflict Efficiently
Many meetings pass without involving a lot of conflict. However, sometimes there are strong personalities in the room or a topic is contentious and the potential for an argument increases. As a meeting leader, you can’t be afraid of conflict. Instead, learn to embrace and manage it. Sometimes, conflict can be a good thing – it just needs to be handled in the right way. As soon as you see a storm brewing, step in as soon as you can. Intervene calmly and professionally by applying your knowledge of the situation to resolving it. Setting some ground rules before the meeting can help avoid conflict, so make sure you communicate a code of conduct to your meeting participants.
Despite being more flexible in nature, online meetings need structure just like in-person meetings. Much of that structure is built into the roles that are assigned, the agenda, and the style of the person running the meeting. The next time you’re in charge, consider how you like meetings to be run when you’re a participant. Make a comprehensive list of what the perfect meetings looks like: how long it should be, what the agenda should look like, and how the attendees interact. Then, devise solutions that meet these ideals. Being in the leadership role is a lot more work and effort than being a participant, but the extra time you put into it will make the meeting go that much more smoothly.