I direct online meetings, trainings, and conferences. I’ve done this for over 10 years, and it’s fun for me. I enjoy not having to run out, get on the airplane or in the car to engage with someone. I’ve done it all; online masterclasses, webinars, e-courses with live teaching components, virtual board retreats, virtual staff meetings, and lots and lots of coaching sessions. Here’s what I’ve learned; Running online meetings with one staff person is easy. Running effective virtual nonprofit meetings with more than one person is something else again.
How do you start running better online meetings with your staff?
If you are a nonprofit leader looking to help everyone work from home, here’s how you can make it seamless.
First, consider the tools you’ll need to run the meeting. What are you comfortable with? What is your staff comfortable with? If they do not engage during the virtual nonprofit meeting, it might just be that they are unsure how to use the software effectively. Can you help them get more comfortable with the technology before the meeting? After the meeting? Make a point person to help staff all get comfortable with the technology. Consider in future onboarding packages for each staff member to include the online meeting and productivity/task tracking software.
Next, are you asking enough questions? To be a good nonprofit leader, what matters is the questions that you ask. Don’t just assume things will get done. You need to make sure everyone is on the same page. More than that, you need to ask probing questions to make sure your employees feel valued, and that they are using their strengths in this role.
Feel free to copy and paste these to refer to for your next virtual nonprofit meeting!
At the start of the meeting:
- Let’s check-in. How are you holding up? How can we support each other?
- Why are we having this meeting?
- What decisions need to be made?
- Could this meeting be an email?
During the meeting:
- Can we share our screens so we know what we’re working on?
- Who here needs a refresher on how our online tools work? We’re using; (Slack, Zoom, GotoMeeting, Acuity, Asana, Trello)
- What needs to happen next for this project?
- What’s most urgent and important right now?
- What’s the timeline on this?
Before the end of each meeting:
- Setting expectations. Are they CLEARLY stated? You need to ask: How Clear is This for You?
- Are they MEANINGFUL? How was this helpful for you?
- Are they ACHIEVABLE? Is there something you think we should be doing FIRST, before we do this? What problems am I not seeing? Is there anything you need before we go?
- Are they MEASURABLE? What are the next steps? By when?
- Are they AGREED UPON? On a scale of 1-5 how committed are you to taking action?
All of these questions can help you keep open communication flowing during any online meeting you run.
Finally, let’s talk virtual nonprofit meeting troubleshooting:
Online meetings bring a unique set of challenges. When you’re in person, you can tell if someone is distracted and looking away. In online meetings, unless people’s cameras are on, you can’t necessarily tell when you’re losing them. When productivity falls off, however, you can definitely tell something wasn’t communicated fully.
The first thing I like to do to make sure everyone takes action is record the meeting and make the recording and meeting notes available in a shared drive. I often do to make sure people can go back and listen and understand what they need to do. Aside from recording, make sure you send out a list of action items at the end of the meeting. And put the action items and meeting notes in an online folder that everyone can access if they need to refer to what was said.
Ask yourself: Can I record the meeting? Do I have everyone’s permission to record?
If people were late to the meeting, or were distracted, here’s how you can start that conversation.
- Is there a way to make this meeting more engaging for you?
- How could we do better with online meetings? Is there something you would like to see?
- Each of our meetings needs to be a single focus. Please make sure all devices are put away and you are not checking email during this time. Can we all agree to this?
- We send out the action items at the end of the meeting in an email. Is there a better way to get you the action items? What would work best for you?
- When everyone shows up on time, we can start on time. Is there something we can do to help you be on time? (For example, Zoom can automatically send reminders 1 day and 1 hour before the meeting.)
Do you have any suggestions for how to run better virtual nonprofit meetings? Please leave a comment!