Read: 7 Ways to Improve Remote Meetings

We are all in far too many video meetings, so if we can make them more effective - and maybe even Awesome, would that be great?

We've hosted and been a part of many awesome online meetings, and have learned a lot. Here are 7 specific tips and some applications to help you improve your online meetings.

Use video versus phone.

When you can't be physically together, video calls provide a much richer experience than phone. Wherever possible, use video and encourage everyone else to, as well. At minimum, video for your one to one calls is essential, so you can read body language and facial expressions during feedback discussions or coaching. If anyone is new to the team or the team is new to working together, video will be critical to building trust and connection at the beginning of the relationship.

Exceptions: Video calls are exhausting, so empathizing with people who are emotionally drained and understanding that they may opt to be off video sometimes is important. Another important consideration is that some people don't have a professional office space, so if psychological safety is lacking, they may opt to not come on video with larger groups. Show everyone virtual background options in case they're not aware, so they can choose to use that if possible as an option.

Always Start with a Check In

We have found this to be essential to our video meetings. We always start with a check-in question that everyone answers. For large groups, we may use the chat app for this, but as much as possible, everyone speaks up and shares their check in answer. Check ins range from topical questions like "what's the most important thing you get out of this meeting" to connection focused questions like "if there was a movie about your life, who would you like to play you, and why?"

Check-ins are a way to bring everyone into the meeting "space" and ensure they are present. They help to build connection on a continual basis. They can serve specific purposes, as well - to get people thinking laterally and creatively, to focus them, or to break the ice and get everyone talking from the start.

Check out these two tools for Check-In Question ideas:

Watch for "Unmutes"

Once people are comfortable with your technology, they will get used to "unmuting" themselves to speak. Watching who unmutes while others speak is an indication they have something to add. Make a note of who unmutes rather than interrupting the person talking, and once there is a pause, you can call on them to share.

You may suggest people use another function in the software - some have "raise hand" icons or other applications that can help people to "put their hand up".

Use Digital Body Language

Amy Morse from Shopify shared a great digital body language tip with us. At the beginning of meetings, she explicitly explains what it means when her eyes look various ways. For example, she might look at her computer clock and say, "when my eyes look this way, I'm checking the time. Or she will look to the left of her screen where she has a document to take notes, and explain, "when my eyes look this way, I'm making a note."

Where possible, move the videos of those in your meeting close to your webcam. I often shrink the video down and place it right under my webcam, so that when I'm looking at the video, it feels like I'm looking at the people in the meeting, as my eyes are nearly looking into my webcam.

And of course, watch other people's body language. Are they typing while others are talking, without a need to take notes? Are they interacting when asked? Do they seem distracted or focused?

Use the Video Space for Interaction.

While we aren't in the same room, we can still interact physically with our teams. Small movements make a difference. "High 5" people by putting your hand up to the webcam. Do a group high five by having everyone high five the person "next to" them on either side of their video screen. Hold a vote by having people hold up a number of fingers versus typing in a chat. Have them bring something to the meeting for "show and tell". Do a 7th inning stretch.

There are many ways to get people moving and using the space within their video camera screen to engage. We've done zoom rollercoasters, mirror movements and more. Get creative!

Bring in Other Apps for Collaboration

There are many ways to simulate a whiteboard in a meeting room, and most are simple and have a free version. Our favourites are:

  • Mural boards - great for simulating post it note brainstorms, can use for agile processes, they have many template boards to start from, too
  • Google's Jamboard - similar to mural, without quite as many options but great for a simple board
  • Mentimeter - great for larger meetings, like Town Halls, AMAs, or All Hands. You share a code that people enter into a website on their phones, and they can ask and answer questions anonymously, and you get the data in real-time.
  • Random Retros - try a different way of having an interactive retro discussion. This site provides many.

Level up with a Liberating Structure

If you really want to take your meetings to the next level, try a liberating structure. As the Liberating Structures website asks, "When you feel included and engaged, do you do a better job? Do you think teams in which people work well together produce much better results? Have you noticed the best ideas often come from unexpected sources? Do you want to work at the top of your intelligence and give the same opportunity to others?"

Liberating structures are a 33 different ways of facilitating your meetings for various purposes and to engage people in various ways. Check out the app, which we find very helpful.

What else have you seen or done to make your online meetings engaging and effective? Share in the comments below!

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