Online meetings – from Yawn to Yay

Esther Barrett shares her favourite tools and techniques for making your meeting interactive, engaging and accessible for your colleagues

So you are having your meetings online now!

How do you know if your colleagues are taking everything in? Are they checking their emails?

Have you been to a really slick online meeting and thought you’d like to try that?

You can make your meetings more interactive by using some built in tools and simple techniques. Also you can help colleagues who find it difficult to concentrate or prefer to type their thoughts.

Plan well and follow some of these tips for a productive and engaging meeting that colleagues will value and enjoy!

Empty meeting room (Pixabay)

Getting Started

Research your platform and find out what interactive functions it has.

You may have a basic web conferencing set up like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Or perhaps you have access to virtual classrooms like Adobe Connect, Webex, Blackboard Collaborate or Big Blue Button. (Many other brands are available!)

Basic platforms usually allow colleagues to answer yes or no, make annotations, and message the room using the chat pane.

Set your settings

Make sure you keep your meeting safe by sharing the link in an email. In some platforms you can keep people outside the room until you let them in.

If you are using Zoom there’s a handy guide here.

Make your colleagues comfortable

Welcome your colleagues into the room and let them know about the ground rules.

Let them know how long the meeting will last and if there will be a comfort break. Tell them if they’ll be using mics, chat or other interactions and where the buttons are.

Be accessible from the beginning by asking future meeting participants about disabilities and plan accordingly.

If you are chairing the meeting, try and include everyone. Give people the opportunity to make their points using the tools you have available.

Start and finish on time! Colleagues may have other meetings to attend or they might need a break from the screen.


Chat can be very useful, but it may feel like a distraction from business in hand. Let your colleagues know how and when to use the chat pane!

Depending on numbers, you can open mics and videos for the duration or allow mics at certain times. Not everyone has the tech or the confidence to speak, so check they can use the chat to participate. If it’s a bigger meeting, make sure colleagues know they should turn off their mics when they are not speaking.

Screen sharing is very helpful, and you can often hand over this function to others. Slide decks, web sites and documents can help colleagues understand and explore the topics.

Some platforms allow annotation, and this can spark creativity and fun. Try asking your attendees to scribble on a plain white board or write notes on a slide.

Your meeting might include some brain storming or sharing ideas. If you don’t have a corporate space, (free), Padlet and Miro (freemium) are excellent tools if you want to get your colleagues collaborating and collating before, during and after the meeting.

Work station
The new normal (Esther Barrett)


A recording of the meeting might be useful to some people, but remember to share your content in another, more concise format. You could list the notes in a document and share this along with the recording.

If you are using Teams or other shared platforms all these resources can be stored together.

The new normal

Using a few of these tips and will make a difference to the tone of your meeting, making sure everyone is engaged and no one is excluded. Colleagues will value the meeting when they are able to participate fully and share their ideas. Aim to get the best out of the experience!


For more advice see Chris Thomson’s ‘Online meeting survival guide’

Also by Dr Esther Barrett COLF, CDOL

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