If you're like most people, you've probably had your fair share of frustrating experiences with online meetings. 😅
You know the drill: you join a video call, and half the participants are distracted by their email, while the other half is trying to figure out how to unmute their microphone. 🙊 Or even worse, everyone is talking at once, and no one can hear anyone else.
There's no doubt about it: remote meetings can be a pain.
But they don't have to be. With a bit of planning and forethought, you can run remote meetings that are not only more effective but also more engaging and productive.
If you're responsible for leading an online meeting, here are 10 tips to help you have a successful virtual session — and avoid the much-dreaded Z**m fatigue.
10 tips and best practices for running more engaging meetings
Tip #1. Define the purpose of the meeting
Before you even send out the meeting invite, take a step back and think about the purpose of the meeting.
What is the goal? What do you hope to accomplish? Does this meeting need to exist in the first place, or does a memo or a Loom video serve the same purpose?
Deciding what you will not focus on during the meeting is equally important!
Answering these questions will help you determine who needs to be on the call and what type of format would be best suited for achieving the outcomes you're hoping for.
Tip #2. Stick to an agenda to keep it focused
Before each meeting, take some time to write down a list of topics that need to be covered. This will ensure that everyone stays on track and that all critical issues are addressed. Otherwise, people might tune out quicker than you can say "next!"
Send the agenda ahead so everyone can prepare and come to the meeting with questions or ideas.
Time-box each activity to ensure you spend the right amount of time for each. This puts some healthy pressure on participants to move forward toward their common goal—rather than endlessly talking in circles.
When it comes to meetings, less is almost always more. Many people appreciate the efficiency of an online meeting. So keep it focused so you start and end on time!
🧈 Butter tip: In Butter, you can prepare your agenda beforehand to help you keep track of time during the session!
Tip #3. Create a safe and engaging space to encourage participation
For remote meetings to be truly effective, everyone needs to actively participate. People can easily tune out if they don't feel they're being heard or their input is valued. As the facilitator, it's your job to encourage participation from everyone involved.
Set clear rules of engagement at the start of a session, so you can create better connections and trust among your participants. This helps them understand what environment you're trying to create, and might inspire them to contribute wholeheartedly to the conversation.
Encourage everyone to share their thoughts and make it easy for both introverts and extroverts to participate. Some ideas you can explore:
- Use polls to ask get-to-know-you questions or capture honest feedback anonymously
- Invite people to ask questions or share ideas by raising their hands or passing the "talking stick" amongst each other
- Give time for people to self-reflect and put their thoughts in their own private notes
- Sense check how everyone is feeling through reactions
- Leave sufficient time for Q&A at the end
This makes it easier for people to follow along and provides an opportunity for them to contribute meaningfully.
You can also keep things interactive by adding elements of delight. For example: start a project kickoff by getting everyone to share what they're most excited about in a Miro board or end the meeting on a high note (literally) with a team theme song playlist.
These activities not only bring up the fun, but they also help ensure that everyone is actively involved throughout the session.
🧈 Butter tip: Check out our ultimate list of icebreakers and energizer templates to keep your sessions grooving!
Tip #4. Take breaks
Just because you're not in the same room doesn't mean you can't take breaks!
In fact, taking breaks is even more important when working remotely since it helps reduce distractions and allows people to recharge their batteries (literally). So make sure you schedule some break time—rule of thumb is to schedule a 5-minute break after an hour-long session.
Tip #5. Use breakout rooms to change up the dynamics in your session
Breakout rooms can be a lifesaver for creating energy in sessions. They give everyone a chance to be heard and to work as a team, where smaller groups can discuss specific topics in more detail.
It has its fair share of challenges, but if you set clear breakout tasks in advance and allow people to share back what they've discussed in the main group, it can bring your sessions to the next level!
🧈 Butter tip: You have many options for making breakouts effective in Butter. From setting tasks and tools, to observing the room as needed—we have you covered!
Tip #6. Keep an eye on audience cues
When you're presenting or screensharing, occasionally ask people to react to make sure they're following what you're saying. It can help you focus on clarifying things that might be unclear!
Tip #7. Create a meeting culture that values productivity over small talk
While it's important to build connection upfront, people can get quickly tired when conversations feel too surface-level. Remember to balance focus with fun when running your sessions.
While each meeting has a different purpose, remember that the value of sync meetings is maximized when participants are actively contributing. Activities like brainstorming, co-creation, feedback sessions, and design critiques work particularly well since people are directly shaping the session's outcomes.
Tip #8. Don't forget to record — and follow up with action items after the meeting is over
The meeting may be over, but your work isn't done yet! Be sure to follow up with any action items from the meeting and send out relevant materials as soon as possible so people can reference them later. Assign someone to take notes during the session, or take turns doing it!
If you want people who weren't there to be able to follow what's been discussed in the session, record it! This way, people can watch or listen back at their convenience (and you won't have to take extensive notes).
🧈 Butter tip: You have many options to make recaps easier in Butter! You can easily summarize with shared notes, recordings that can automatically turn on when the session starts, and even autogenerated GIFs.
Tip #9. Let people know what worked (and what didn't)
After each online meeting, take some time to reflect on what went well and what could be improved for next time.
Then, share the learnings with your team so they can replicate those successes in future meetings—and avoid making potential mistakes again.
🧈 Butter tip: Once you've nailed your perfect meeting rhythm, you can create agenda and tool templates and share it with your team so they can use them in their own sessions!
Tip #10. Don't forget to have some fun!
…And there won't be any shortage of that in Butter! 😍
Here are some ideas to bump up the fun in your meetings:
- Doing a start- or end-of-meeting ritual, like playing high-energy songs to welcome your team or sharing thank-yous of the week on polls
- Asking everyone to show off their personalities with a custom background
🧈 Butter tip: Want your own custom background? Create your own custom one here!
6 meeting agenda templates to get you started
Don't have time to create your own agenda? No problem!
Use one of our meeting agenda templates to save you time and help keep your team focused on the task at hand.
A project kickoff meeting is the first meeting you hold with your project team. This includes your client, if you have one!
Use this meeting template to define roles and responsibilities, set expectations, and establish timelines at the beginning of a new project.
A project retrospective meeting is a collaborative session that allows your team to reflect after completing a project.
A project retrospective meeting—or "retro", as the cool kids call it—is a collaborative session that allows your team to reflect on what worked and what didn't as you complete a project.
Work smarter by using this agenda to ask what went well, what can go better, and what actions you'll take to improve.
Daily standups are an important daily ritual for every agile team—even virtual ones! They help you stay on the same page and keep in touch with your colleagues.
Run this agenda to help you align on priorities, summarize project statuses, flag any risks or remove roadblocks, and build trust on a daily basis.
Weekly team meetings can be a waste of time—if not done right, that is. Nobody wants to see that tired, bored expression on their colleagues' faces as the boss drones on for an hour.
Avoid the weekly Z**m fatigue, and use this agenda to celebrate your wins, address roadblocks and concerns, review team and individual priorities, and agree on high-priority actions.
Your company leaders can't make the best possible decisions if they don't know what each other is up to! Regular senior leadership team meetings can equip your leaders with all the information they need to make smart, quick decisions.
Use this leadership team meeting agenda to highlight wins, discuss roadblocks, and identify solutions with your company's senior leaders.
A company all-hands meeting brings everyone together to share updates, milestones, and create dialogue between your company's leadership and employees.
A great all-hands meeting gives leaders the floor to provide key updates to the entire organization at once, and also gives everyone else a chance to ask burning questions or share what's on their minds.
Run this company all-hands meeting to cover business updates, celebrate wins together, give each team the spotlight, and leave plenty of time for Q&A.
With a little bit of planning and effort, you can easily run remote meetings that are not only effective but also enjoyable for all participants! With the tips and templates we've shared, you should be well on your way to leading successful and more engaging meetings that get results.
Run more engaging and effective sessions on Butter
If you want to boost engagement and get energy levels up in your next online session, try Butter for free.
To browse our entire collection of meeting templates, check out the Butter Template Gallery.
To keep learning about how to level up your facilitation g, join the Butter Community!