Remote meetings are becoming more and more popular these days. Oftentimes, it is the only way to catch up with a contractor from the other side of the world. What’s more, thanks to online meetings, companies are able to cut travel costs by 30%.

Working remotely is nothing unusual these days. Because of that, it is hardly a surprise that mobile video and real-time data-sharing are used every day by 66% of executives.

On the other hand, it’s not always easy to remain focused when you’re all on the line instead of sitting next to each other.

To make the online meeting productive, you need to keep all participants engaged.

With this article, you’ll learn how to do it.

What makes people less engaged during online meetings

People often say that online meetings are less effective than face to face ones. So, why exactly is it so hard to keep employees engaged throughout the whole meeting?

First of all, it is easier to lose your focus when you are looking at the screen rather than at a real person. What’s more, when the participants are not sitting in the same room, they’re more likely to get distracted by a phone or other devices.

There is always a way to look at your phone but during an online meeting, you will feel less embarrassed because it’s much harder for the other participants to realise that – especially when your camera is off.

During an online meeting, it is also much harder to build a personal connection with your participants. This is another reason why people don’t feel so obliged to stay focused.

When you see someone face to face, you establish a bond, maintain eye contact, observe the body language.

All these factors make people more involved in the conversation. By arranging an online meeting instead, you’re missing all of these opportunities.

Last but not least, people often lose their focus during formal meetings because they’re more informal, especially if they call from home.

They feel relaxed because they can conduct a meeting from their living room, with their cat on the lap and Facebook opened in other browser cards.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling comfy, yet the point is to remain focused nevertheless.

How to keep your participants engaged in an online meeting

So, how do you keep the participants engaged throughout the whole meeting? We know it may be hard.

Below, we’re sharing our best tips for effective online meetings.

First things first: to make your remote meeting productive, you need to remember about technical details. Be sure to use a reliable internet connection, as well as a trustworthy app for video calls.

1.  The shorter, the better

Stick to the agreed timing and do not exceed it. As we mentioned in another article about effective meetings, the optimal meeting time is between 15 and 30 minutes. If it’s not necessary, it’s much better not to choose longer time frames.

Even if you exceed the meeting time, people won’t be fully concentrated anyway. Nowadays, the attention spans are getting increasingly shorter – the only thing they will focus on is counting the minutes until the end of the meeting.

2. Break the ice

Online meetings give you fewer opportunities to create a bond with the participants.

The time slots are usually quite tight, too, which has its purpose, but it doesn’t give you much space for small talk either.

On the other hand, you don’t need that much time – all you need is to do is create a friendly atmosphere at the start of the meeting.

A simple “How are you?” goes a long way.

Starting with informal chit-chat can make participants feel more comfortable and, eventually, more involved in the meeting.

3.  Introduce all participants

Some apps don’t display all participants of the chat, some only show a small profile pic. What’s more, the camera has a pretty narrow angle too.

If there is a group on the other side, you may not be able to fit everyone in the frame. This is why it’s always good to introduce everyone personally.

People are more likely to get involved when they get to know who’s on the other side.

4.  Create an agenda and share it before the meeting

Respect the fact that you’re not the only one that has a lot on their plate.

Meetings, even online ones, take time. This is why you should also take some of your time to come up with a plan that you'll stick to and know exactly what issues you need to raise.

It is also a nice gesture to send the agenda to all the participants beforehand.

This way, everyone can prepare for the meeting properly and avoid distracting questions during the meeting.

5.  Get smart with scheduling

Using a dedicated tool for scheduling meetings can work wonders.

For instance, Harmonizely allows all participants to choose a convenient time for a meeting and set notifications beforehand.

This will make them more engaged and focused, as it gives a feeling of control. They are free to manage the schedule of all meetings, which makes life much easier.

6. Invite the right people

How many people should be invited to such a meeting?

Most of the time, the fewer people participate in the meeting, the better. Research suggests that the most productive meetings involve 5 to 8 people only.

Be sure to invite those who can contribute to the case. This way, everyone will have the opportunity to speak and present their position.

And remember - the fewer participants, the lower the chances of having any problems with the internet connection.

7. Stay focused on the goal

Reminding of the main objective throughout the meeting can help your participants stay focused on the main point.

If it’s possible, you may want to write it on a whiteboard and put it within range of the camera.

Tricks like these will help you stay focused on the main point and not move away from the subject.

8.  Ask questions directly

Don’t you just hate it when two or three people are talking at the same time?

Unfortunately, this is even more likely to happen during online meetings.

Sometimes the voices may overlap because of poor internet connection and the entire thing becomes a huge mess.

The solution? When you ask a question, ask it directly. This will help you avoid misunderstandings and everyone will know that it's their turn to speak.

It is also a handy tip to during face to face meetings.

9. Don’t skip the review

Once your meeting is over, finish it with a quick recap.

Give the participants a space to share their feedback and ask questions. Encourage them to indicate the most and the least useful parts.

At the very end, highlight the most important aspects of the meeting and remind them what are the next steps to take.

We know that it takes some skill to conduct a truly engaging online meeting.

We hope that these tips will help you conduct even better online meetings from now on!