Online meetings are here to stay

How to get the best out of Online Meetings

In our role supporting architectural practices and designers within Design Teams, it’s clear that online meetings and workshops are here to stay. There are some obvious advantages of face-to-face meetings. However, a number of the practices that we work with have noted that the Teams and Zoom meetings will continue once we are out of lockdown. There are some definite advantages specifically in relation to reduced need for travel (sometimes overseas) and better flexibility. It is important though to recognise that approaches to attending, chairing and leading design meetings and workshops are different between face to face and online. Here are our quick thoughts on what we have learned over the past 12 months:

· Even more so for an online meeting, make sure there is a fixed agenda, and someone designated to lead the meeting. The best agendas are those which clearly state what challenges are to be fixed during the meeting rather than a 5-minute round up from each discipline.

· Keep introductions brief. It works well for the lead person from each company to introduce their own team members rather than a more time-consuming introduction from each person individually – not always simple online where internet speeds are inconsistent. We have seen some introductions take up to 20 minutes which is not a good use of time.

· It is important to keep attendees engaged. Attendees can become distracted when at home and not face to face. The chair should be asking questions, seeking thoughts, summing up regularly etc. so that all those present have a chance to contribute.

· Feel free to lay out some ground rules at the start of the meeting. We have seen some meetings where attendees are asked to Keep cameras on – this improves the engagement and minimises the chance of distraction.

· There is a reason why people on the radio speak slower than normal. Speak very clearly and ideally in room with a sensible reverberation time.

· Microphones off increases the clarity of the meeting or workshop if you are not directly participating.

· There are some useful pre-installed tools to capture visual information shared on screen. Microsoft’s “Snipping Tool” offers a convenient solution to capture and annotate information shared on screen.

· Incorporate breaks. Online/screen time has been proven to be more tiring than in person. Yes, we still need coffee, the toilet, not to mention lunch.

· Time lags can make verbal interruptions come across badly. We have seen that the ‘hands up’ function is a useful tool, but the chair should always keep an eye out so that those who use it have their say.

· The person leading the meeting should sum up the top five priority issues at the end of the meeting as well as any subsequent sharing of presentations also. This should signal the end of the meeting and avoid scenarios where online meetings fizzle out without a clear understanding on what happens next.

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