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10 Tips How to Run / Participate in Online Meetings Like a Pro.

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, PhD

April 2020

In recent years I expanded my classroom leadership and now run many meetings in communities, conduct practicum supervision and co-chair business meetings. Here are ten tips for hosts and meeting participants to have a successful business meeting online.

The most important reminder for online meetings is to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Rules should be followed in the same way you follow them when meeting in person. Agnes Jozwiak in blogpost provides suggestions on how to implement Robert’s Rules of Order in online meeting:

  1. A Designated “Chair” Maintains Control to ensure the meeting is conducted in a fair and orderly manner
  2. Everyone Else’s Job is To Stay on Topicto keep the discussion focused on the subject at hand without going off-topic
  3. Participants Get Their Turn to Speak to ensure that everyone who wants to speak on an issue have a turn before allowing a participant to speak twice
  4. Courtesy and Professionalism are Paramount to avoid personality clashes or delving into ulterior motives

Jozwiak also lists rules to remember and sources to study Robert’s Rules. In addition to Jozwiak article please review Ann Macfarlane’s tips on how to run the meetings. On some of them, I have elaborated below as they apply to most meetings I chair/participate.

Tip 1: Time each agenda item. When creating an agenda for online meetings, estimate the time for each agenda item and write those estimates on the agenda to keep everyone on track.

Tip 2: Have a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order handy in case you need to consult them quickly. Check the summary version of the rules or print a five pager cheatsheet for Robert’s Rules of Order in case you need them during the meeting.

Tip 3: Know your online platform. Make sure you are familiar with the online web conferencing system you are using for the meeting before the meeting starts. The chair cannot provide technical support during the session, so if you might need technical assistance, please arrive 15 minutes before the meeting to test your audio/video. The chair can arrange to have technical support before the meeting by scheduling a test drive for the members of your group and ensure that everyone can hear and be heard. Check the video on some examples of the challenges one can experience during the conference phone call and video conference call and adequately plan to avoid them.

Tip 4: Prepare a doable agenda. A virtual meeting can’t cover as much as an in-person meeting. When you are charing online meetings, schedule critically essential items early in the session and the rest of the items later in the agenda. Ask members to read reports and other information in advance.

Tip 5: Prepare yourself and your “screen” for the meeting. Choose a professional-looking background for the meeting. Dress appropriately and comfortably. Check that you have adequate lighting, and your microphone and camera are working. Minimize background noise, review the materials and study the agenda.

Tip 6: Use the mute/unmute button when participating in the meeting. Good practice in starting online sessions is to mute yourself. Practice mute/unmute function and test your equipment before the meeting begins. If you dial from the phone, learn what combination of numbers (*6 or *7) can mute/unmute you. Kurt Birkenhagen offers more rules for conference call etiquette.

Tip 7: Minimize presentation length. Meetings should be discussion-focused. Long presentations are not okay for an online meeting. Background information should be provided and read beforehand. If someone needs to present, use screen sharing to guide the conversation, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.”  Read World Economic Forum article on more advise and additional resources on how to work from home and run a great virtual meeting

Tip 8: Be present and do not multitask during the meeting. As soon as the meeting begins, please stay involved in the meeting to contribute to its success. Klaxoon, an innovative company dedicated to collaborative meeting tools, in 2017 released the results of its “America in Meetings” study and found that 38% of respondents (2,000 American adults age 18+) during the meeting zone out and daydream when they’re not speaking; 30% work on other projects; 24% surf the web; 21% check social media; 18% think about vacation; 15% read the news and 12% shop online

Tip 9: Use meeting chat function strategically. Avoid using chat function for side conversations or asking questions without being acknowledged by the chair. Side conversations on chat distract the meeting as the chair focuses on the person who is speaking. The chat function can still be used during the meeting and serve as a voting system (only no and abstain vote should be recorded in chat). You can also use chat as a queuing system when people need to speak. Ask people to type “I have a question” and wait to be recognized by the chair. Such a process allows the chair to create a speaker list.

Tip 10. Keep online meetings short and efficient. Remember that meeting attendees might have already participated in many meetings online, so keep your meeting to the point. In addition to limiting presentations during meetings, stay focused on critical agenda items. Online meetings provide extra challenges for attendees to stay focused and not lose interest. Short and efficient meetings are the recipe for increased productivity and overall online meeting success.

In addition to the above tips, check online resources that can help you to design specific rules for your online meeting.  Each online session is different and might require additional regulations to be in place to run online meetings smoothly. Please review Jim Slaughter’s article “Let’s Have Our Meeting or Convention Online!” that can help you to decide what additional consideration you need to make to run meetings online successfully. And if you want to review extra tips here is the list of 16 ways to make remote meetings more effective and 50 Rules for Online Business Meeting Etiquette

27 Tips on how to host Zoom meetings like a Pro.

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, PhD

April 2020

This semester I used Zoom much more than merely an extension of my in-person classes for students who are unable to be in class in person. Zoom became my primary classroom for one month to complete all on-campus courses.

Here are 27 tips to make your classes run successfully on Zoom.

Tip 1. Schedule the meeting using Zoom security settings. When you plan to have a Zoom meeting, go online on Zoom and review all features on how you plan to run the session before sending the link to your participants. Check the Meetings tab on your Zoom profile. https://zoom.us/meeting/schedule

Tip 2. Once you set a security setting, make sure you send the link to your participants via e-mail and use the phone numbers from your country to avoid your meeting participants to dial in without paying long-distance charges. You can access zoom numbers online once you signed in to zoom account: https://zoom.us/zoomconference

Tip 3:  If you want people to register for your meeting, then tick the registration required box when setting your session, so you know how many are coming.

Tip 4: Only enable “join before host” Zoom function if you are setting private meetings, and you trust participants that they will be able to manage the session before you arrive.  It can also be a useful function if you might be late, so other participants can connect before you arrive.

Tip 5: Good practice in starting Zoom meetings is to mute participants before they enter and to greet everyone when possible. It will allow everyone to learn the mute/unmute function and test their equipment when they reply to your greeting.

Tip 6: Never record meetings and ask participants to do the same to protect the privacy of all attendees. If I need to record a video, I usually do it before or after the Zoom meeting. The only time you can record the meeting if you receive prior written consent from all participants and inform participants before signing in that the session will be recorded.

Tip 7:  Embed password in the meeting link for one-click join. In such a way, you protect your password. Be mindful that the one-click links can be shared, and you might get some unwanted participants to join your meeting.

Tip 8: To prevent Zoombombing (unwanted participants from taking over your meeting) enable a waiting room in your meeting set up on zoom.us and only allow registered participants to join the main room by screening the waiting room. In such a way you will have attendees full name and e-mail addresses to report if they are acting inappropriately

Tip 9: Prevent participants from saving chat by clicking the appropriate box on the basic in meeting setting tab on Zoom to avoid any personal data exported from the chat. Participants can still do a screengrab, but nothing can stop participants from doing that without your knowledge.

Tip 10: When you start the meeting, inform participants that no screen recordings, screenshots are permitted during the session. If any information is shared from the session, participants will be liable for the breach and will face consequences that are similar to classroom conduct violations.

Tip 11: Only allow chat and file transfer in chats between participants when you trust participants that they will not abuse this feature and will not transmit viruses\malware software through Zoom chat.

Tip 12: Use breakout rooms to allow participants to do a group project and have small group discussions. Breakout rooms allow participants to work in teams, and the host can always enter the room if any team might need help.

Tip 13: Use annotation/whiteboard Zoom functions to allow participants to create art collage / crowdsource ideas, practice arts and have some fun brainstorming session

Tip 14: Only allow trusted participants to share their screen. Disable desktop/screen share for users when setting your meeting to avoid unwanted participants to take over control over your meeting

Tip 15: Mute audio/video for the participant when you noticed that they forgot to do it by themselves or do not know how to do it to avoid potentially embarrassing moments that are widely documented #Zoomfails

Tip 16: Allow participants to rename themselves to protect their privacy. I encourage my students to use their first name only, so I know who is present, but no full name is displayed in case someone takes a screenshot of the meeting.

Tip 17: Share your screen only when necessary to avoid possibly sharing any personal information that you have on your computer as the screen share shows everything you have on your screen.

Tip 18: Allow users to replace their background with any selected image. Choose or upload an image in the Zoom Desktop application settings. The virtual background will allow participants to hide their room background and avoid any embarrassing moments in case someone might be in the room (check #Zoomfails). You can also sit closer to the wall to avoid any distractions in the background.  

Tip 19. Having all participants with their faces on the screen can be overwhelming. Teaching to a no face screen is challenging too. Ask participants who can share their videos to do so and be okay when someone is not sharing their video.

Tip 20: Show a “Join from your browser” link and allow participants to bypass the Zoom application download process, and join a meeting directly from their browser. This is a workaround for participants who are unable to download, install, or run applications. Note that the meeting experience from the browser is limited

Tip 21: As a host be prepared to remove anyone who is not conforming to your Zoom room rules. Zoom allows the host to remove any participant from the meeting and ban them from attending the future meetings. Use the waiting room feature to screen for anyone who can disrupt the meeting.

Tip 22: If you need to post any Zoom screenshot, please blur out any private/sensitive information to avoid potential privacy breaches (e.g. Boris Johnson inappropriate post on Twitter).

Tip 23: Go Mobile.  There is a mobile Zoom app for your smartphone. In case your computer is not working you can still run Zoom meeting on phone. Zoom app is full-featured and a great tool when you need it.

Tip 24: Add a picture to your Zoom profile. The image will be present when your video is turned off. 

Tip 25: Invest in good microphone/headset. A dedicated microphone and headset may provide a better experience for participants rather than using the integrated/built-in microphones and speakers in your laptop. I use Jabra Evolve 65, but the price went significantly up after the COVID-19 due to increased demand. If you do not need a wireless headphone, choose something more reasonably priced.

Tip 26: Use Zoom Customer Support  Zoom has excellent support. Their customer support center is available 24×7 and they maintain a wealth of excellent resources to guide you through almost any scenario. My students never needed to contact support center as Zoom worked for them perfectly and is a reliable system that proves to be working when other web conferencing software fail, crush, freeze, or stop working.

Tip 27: Share your privacy concerns with Zoom to make the platform even better. There is a reason why many use Zoom: it simply works. If your university/organization is not recommending Zoom, ask them to reconsider their decision as Zoom is used by millions and address many security concerns that were recently identified in the media. Instead of banning Zoom, help to make the Zoom platform more accessible, secure, safe to use for everyone.

My students praised Zoom and commented on the great experience they had using it in times when they cannot attend classes. Know that Harvard School of Education uses Zoom. The University of British Columbia and BC Schools licensed Zoom to support students learning. Check their webpages to learn about any new security measures Zoom installed to make your Zoom experience even better.

If you have any other tips for using Zoom successfully, please let me know, and I will add them to the list.

Watch helpful videos on Zoom Youtube Channel or check my Youtube playlist with many useful videos on how to use Zoom successfully.

Learn more on how to use Zoom in your classroom in the following academic article:

Sutterlin, J. (2018). Learning is Social with Zoom Video Conferencing in your Classroom. eLearn2018(12), 5.