Best practices for conducting online meetings

1. Preparation and planning.

  1. Invitation: Send a clear invitation to the online meeting. Include details on what will happen, and when and where the meeting will take place. In the invitation, also specify the working methods to be used during the online meeting, how participants should prepare for the meeting, and what is expected from participants during the meeting. Participating in a lecture-style event is different from participating in a meeting where active pre-preparation, the use of a camera and microphone, participation in small group discussions, or interaction through chat, reaction buttons, and survey responses are expected.
  2. Getting to know the participants: If the participants of your online meeting are unfamiliar to you, or if you are, for example, unsure about their expertise related to the topic of the meeting, consider how you can acquaint yourself with the participants either before the online meeting or at the beginning of the meeting. Also, think about how you can assess their knowledge on the subject.
  3. Visitor: If you have a visitor attending your online meeting, arrange a practice meeting with them before the actual session. Ensure that the connections and audio are functioning properly, and confirm, for example, successful screen sharing.
  4. Meeting Structure, Activities, and Materials: Create the framework, activities, and materials of the meeting in a way that engages the participants regularly and promotes a sense of psychological safety.
  5. Psychological Safety: Psychological safety is enhanced when participants are aware in advance of the expectations for their participation in the meeting. During the meeting, psychological safety is further promoted by ensuring that participants know how the meeting will progress and understand their roles.
  6. Breaks: Remember to include regular breaks in both longer and shorter meetings. It may be helpful to add slides to your presentation material that remind you of the breaks and encourage, for example, participant activation through some physical exercises.
  7. Additional screen as a laptop aid: During the online meeting, an additional screen makes working much easier. For example, you can share the additional screen with the participants of your online meeting and follow the meeting chat and participants’ video images on your laptop screen.
  8. Headphones: High-quality sound is essential for the success of the meeting. Ensure that you know how to connect Bluetooth headphones to your laptop.
  9. Internet Connection: A reliable internet connection ensures clear audio and fluent video during the meeting.
  10. Second host for the meeting: Consider whether it is worthwhile to organize the online meeting together with a colleague. In this case, you can plan the content collaboratively and share responsibilities. You can add a second host to the Zoom meeting when creating the meeting link (Alternative host). This way, either of you can start the meeting and manage it. The second host can address the participants’ technical support requests or assign participants to Breakout Rooms in the background, while the other host manages the actual program of the meeting.
  11. An E-learning Designer to help you plan the online meeting: Involve your E-learning Designer in the planning phase of your online meeting. They can provide valuable insights for the smooth execution of the online meeting, considering both the participants’ and the organizer’s perspectives.
  12. Mastering technology with the E-learning Designer: Ensure that, together with the E-learning Designer, you are proficient in using the various features of Zoom. Practice activities such as creating Breakout Rooms or annotating on a shared screen. Also, take into account that if you are using Teams as a tool, the functions might be slightly different.

2. Start the online meeting actively.

  1. Open the Zoom meeting: Open the meeting 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start time.
  2. Audio Test: Test the functionality of your microphone and speakers at the beginning of the Zoom meeting (Test Speaker and Microphone).
  3. Participants joining the meeting: Monitor participants as they join your meeting through the Participants view. When you notice a participant has connected their audio, you can welcome them with a “Good morning, Lisa!” Personal greetings are easier to respond to. At the same time, you ensure that their microphone and speakers are working.
  4. Casual chat: As participants join the meeting and the meeting start time approaches, you can engage in casual conversation with them, inquire about how they are doing, and activate them through features like annotation or chatting on topics related to the meeting theme. Through casual chatting and your own video presence, you also ensure that participants are aware their audio is working, and their meeting entry has been successful.
  5. Schedule and objectives: When the meeting officially begins, outline the meeting schedule and objectives. Explain why you have gathered and the steps you will take to achieve the meeting goals.
  6. Meeting rules: Go through the common rules for the online meeting. There are, for example, various ways to request the floor depending on factors such as the number of participants in the meeting. In a small group meeting, one can directly activate the microphone for comments. In a slightly larger discussion group, it might work to turn on the video camera as an indication of a desire to speak. If you request the use of a video camera, the Raise hand gesture through Reactions, or chat messages as a way of requesting floor, make sure you can also monitor the video feeds, raised hands, and chat comments in Zoom.
  7. Using the camera: It’s also good to collectively establish rules for camera usage and, if necessary, explain the significance of having the camera on to the participants. It might be beneficial to agree, for example, that the camera is used at least when one has a speaking turn or when working in small groups. It could also be helpful to discuss that participants can turn off their own cameras, for instance, when they want to reflect on a topic or need a short break. You can test the camera functionality by asking participants to show their morning coffee mug on camera or raise a thumb in response to a question.
  8. Recording: If the meeting is being recorded, inform the participants. At Jamk, Zoom meeting cloud recordings are saved directly to the Panopto system.
  9. Privacy: Ensure that participants know how to use a virtual background or blur their background for privacy.

3. The meeting is on.

  1. Share your enthusiasm: Show your participants in the online meeting that you are passionate about the topic at hand.
  2. Diversify the meeting: Divide the meeting into stages concerning content and methods of operation. Use breaks and participant-engaging segments to support learning.
  3. Take breaks: Have clear breaks. It helps you as the meeting facilitator to stay sharp, and the participants are more likely to engage effectively.
  4. Acknowledge and activate: Recognize meeting participants in different ways and employ diverse methods to engage them. Various ways of participation enhance the feeling of psychological safety. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to ask for opinions, comments, or ideas in the chat or check participants’ understanding with a brief poll. If opening the microphone feels challenging, provide different options for expressing opinions or ideas.
  5. Set the stage for group work: Provide thorough preparation for group work and consider clear methods for debriefing the work.
  6. Be silent: If you ask participants to write in the chat or ponder answers even to rhetorical questions, give them time for reflection and writing for a few minutes. Explore chat responses and highlight interesting perspectives.
  7. Articulate your actions: Communicate your actions, for example, announce that you are about to open the Breakout Rooms and that the participants will transfer directly to the Breakout Rooms. This way, the transition to Breakout Rooms will not surprise the participants. You can also ensure that participants have understood your instructions, for instance, by asking them to turn on their cameras and show a thumbs-up or by clicking the thumbs-up reaction button in the Reactions menu.
  8. Return to the objectives: At the end of the virtual meeting, revisit the meeting objectives and assess whether the goals have been achieved or how progress toward the objectives can continue after the virtual meeting.
  9. Don’t close the meeting immediately after the official matters are concluded: If possible, stay online for a while after the meeting’s official business is concluded in case participants have questions or comments they did not want to raise during the meeting.

4. After the online meeting.

  1. Thank the meeting participants: You can thank the participants by sending a message through Moodle News forum. You can acknowledge the students’ engagement, praise their efforts, and offer encouragement. Provide instructions on how to proceed next.
  2. Share the recording and meeting materials: If you have recorded your Zoom meeting, share the Panopto link on Moodle. The Panopto link can also be shared outside of Jamk.
  3. Reflect, brainstorm, and improve: Reflect on what went well in the meeting, identify areas for improvement, and consider the key points you want to emphasize in the next online meeting. Reach out to an E-learning Designer to discuss how your online meetings can be enhanced and improved.