Insights + tips

How To Structure An Online Meeting

" Setting out a behaviour agenda at the start lets everyone relax and feel like they're in the hands of an expert. "

Our audiences hate confusion, and they dislike having to do much thinking!

Setting out the ‘behaviour agenda’ at the start of your online presentation and meeting helps everyone to relax and feel like they’re in the hands of an expert.

A ‘behaviour agenda’ is more than just laying out the order of information – it’s about how people should engage with each other and the technology.

A good ‘behaviour agenda’ will clearly lay out:

  • Timings (Overall meeting length and individual segments)
  • Purpose of the meeting.
  • When, If, and How the audience should contribute.
  • Use of technology (video on or off etc).

It might not be obvious, but this approach works well even with the most informal of online meetings and presentations.

A client of mine asked me to help her with her Team Check-Ins. She described them as ‘Just informal catch-ups really’.

They weren’t going well – there was often a lack of engagement, or the usual suspects dominated the conversation, and the meetings were feeling like a waste of time for everyone.

Although everyone had to attend, my client felt like they were doing more harm than good, but didn’t know what to do instead.

I explained to her:

 Having unstructured time online is the digital equivalent of marching your team to the water-cooler and saying ‘Right, now we’re all here let’s have a relaxed, spontaneous informal chat’. It’s not going to work! 

Next time, she applied structure to the meeting. She sent out an invitation with some instructions for the team, and began the meeting like this:

‘Hi everyone, I’m glad we could all get together today.

Could you please all put your video on – the official part of this meeting is just 20 minutes long. I’m going to start by giving you an update on what I’m currently focused on, then I’m going to tell you one thing that’s worked really well for me over the last week, and one thing which I have found difficult.

Then, I’d like to go around the team, as explained in my email and ask you to unmute yourself in turn and give us a 2-minute update – one thing that’s worked for you, and one thing that’s been difficult.

At the end of that, we’ll have 5 minutes for anyone to make any suggestions which might help with any of the problems they’ve heard. Then we’re officially done, but I’ll leave the meeting running for another ten minutes in case there’s anything else anyone wants to catch-up on.’

Giving her team clearer instructions actually made it much easier for them to have a free-flowing, spontaneous conversation and she found that the ten minutes at the end wasn’t enough, as her team were enjoying the conversation so much.

A ‘behaviour agenda’ works well for nearly all meetings and presentations. A presenter speaking to a large number of people might begin:

Good morning everyone, there are 30 of us on the call today, so to keep things simple you’re all muted at the moment. I’m going to present an overview of where we’re at for about 10 minutes, and then I’ll take some questions. You can either type your questions into the chat bar, as I go, or just raise your hands when we come to questions and I’ll unmute you …’

Starting with a structured agenda will help in many ways – it boosts your credibility, as it’s clear that you’re prepared and ready. It also helps gain the trust of the audience, since they feel like they’re in safe hands. It keeps meetings shorter, more relevant and more focused.

Starting with this kind of agenda also helps boost your confidence, as it’s very easy to do and once you’ve done it, you’re ‘warmed-up’ and ready to get into the main content.

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