Online meetings can be an effective way for dispersed employees to connect and collaborate. But as with anything that happens frequently, they can get boring. 

With so many people working remotely today, it’s crucial to keep employees engaged during online meetings. That way they can absorb the information they need to do their jobs well. Whether that involves providing a detailed meeting agenda or curating the attendee list, there are a number of ways to improve online meetings. 

1. Use the Right Tools

To keep employees interested and involved, you need the right tools. No one wants to sit in front of a screen and be talked at for an hour and a half. Instead, use conferencing software like Slack for your online meetings. This platform lets users make video calls, share files, and chat back and forth. 

According to Securities and Exchange Commission data, 87% of users on Slack say the platform improves communication and organization within a business. Messaging platforms like Slack let groups of co-workers chat in real time before, during, and after the meeting. This gives employees a shared space to ask questions and discuss any concerns. 

2. Provide a Detailed Agenda

In any business meeting, it’s easy to lose track of time. Some might say it’s even easier when you’re working from home and your schedule isn’t as rigid. Having a detailed agenda will help online meetings stay on track so employees remain engaged. 

It’s a good idea to send the agenda prior to the meeting and clearly lay out the discussion items. Make it clear what the meaning will focus on, who will be speaking, and what will be expected of participants. For example, should employees come prepared with questions? Should they be ready to offer solutions to the issue being discussed? Is this meeting a good time to discuss other topics (work schedules, upcoming projects, etc.)?

Also, don’t forget to specify the length of the meeting — and stick to it. If the meeting is set for 30 minutes, you shouldn’t still be talking an hour later. If the meeting does go over, many of your participants will start to zone out. You should also avoid having meetings back-to-back. Zoom fatigue is real, and employees need time to decompress before getting online again. 

By providing an agenda ahead of time, you’ll ensure employees feel more involved in the process. Knowing what to expect and what is expected of them will help employees keep their heads in the game from start to finish. 

3. Narrow Down the Attendee List

A good way to cause poor engagement in online meetings is to invite the wrong people. While collaboration is important, you don’t need every team member in every meeting. Not only can those large numbers be distracting, but there’s no way to make the information relevant to everyone. And if the information isn’t relevant, why would employees pay attention? 

Before inviting all and sundry to an online meeting, review the participant list to make sure the agenda relates to those invited. For example, if the meeting is focusing on audience development issues, you probably don’t need client success on the call.

One way to ensure you’re inviting the right people is by meting out tasks. Make sure everyone in the meeting has a role. For example, assign someone to take meeting notes, assign someone to moderate the meeting, assign someone to create action items, etc. When each individual has a task, they can’t help but stay present throughout the meeting.

4. Don’t Neglect the Chitchat

A great way to enhance engagement is through conversation. Instead of diving right into the meeting, start with some conversation. Since you’re sticking to a detailed agenda, make “catching up” agenda item No. 1. Begin by asking co-workers about their weekend or whether they’ve watched any good movies on Netflix recently. 

You might think small talk is pointless, but it can make employees feel more comfortable and more likely to engage during the meeting. This is even more true during periods of remote work, when people aren’t chatting in the breakroom or the hallways. 

A 2020 study revealed that employees find small talk both uplifting and distracting. On balance, though, small talk had more benefits than negatives. So consider starting the meeting with a quick round of “new and good.” And of course you should make introductions if you’ve recently hired new people. 

5. Amp Up the Interest

No one wants to sit through a boring meeting. But unfortunately, tedious meetings are a staple in the workplace. Try to change that! 

Leverage your videoconferencing software to mix things up. Platforms like Slido and Vevox let you conduct snap polls. Use your screen-sharing feature to walk participants through a new strategy document. Add some color, animation, or video to that PowerPoint presentation. Have everyone choose their favorite virtual background and vote on whose is best. 

If a majority of your meetings are about company updates, host a few meetings where you’re talking about something else entirely. For example, host a Q&A where employees can ask executives whatever they want. Or hold a kudos meeting where teammates praise one another for their work accomplishments.

There are myriad ways to make online meetings more interesting. Summon your creative energies and develop something fun.

6. Don’t Forget to Ask Questions

Carve out some time before the meeting is over to ask your employees questions. A Q&A session is an important part of every meeting. Not only does it allow workers to feel heard, but it gets them involved in the conversation. Asking questions also helps ensure employees understand the information that was covered in the meeting and will be able to run with it. 

Speaking of Q&As, consider asking employees for feedback on your online meetings. Have them share what they like, dislike, and how you can make the meetings more productive and engaging. 

Remote work has become a part of our new normal. Home offices, virtual training, and online meetings aren’t going anywhere — so why not make them more engaging? To ensure your business thrives in our remote work landscape, use the tips above to make online meetings interesting, relevant, and helpful.