No matter what you sell or how you run your company, meetings are a necessity.  They may be dreadful for many of us, but there are ways to make them go quicker and be more effective, resulting in less meetings over time.  When you have off site employees, online meetings can cut down on driving time (or may be the only choice for far away contractors), but can become easily disorganized if not planned properly.  Here are some ways to keep those online meetings on track.

Audio Choices:  Have both Call-in and VoIP options available when hosting a meeting.  This allows employees who are on the road to call in from a cell when they are away from computers.  The opposite can also be an issue, as I have often found myself with internet access but with poor cell signal.

Agenda:  Have an agenda and stick to it.  It is easy to get side tracked on a subject when meeting online.  Without visual cues to let someone know their time is done, people tend to talk more on the phone or computer.

Keep it Short:  Focus on a single subject or two at most, and keep the meetings under an hour.  Meetings are a good way to discuss future plans and project instructions, but you can’t put those plans in motion if you are stuck in meetings.

Direct your Meeting: Controlling your meeting is absolutely essential unless you want everyone talking over each other.  Directing questions to each person and cutting off people when they have said their piece will keep the meeting moving quickly and prevent overlap.

Limit Background Noise:  Make sure your staff knows if they have annoying background noise that could interrupt the meeting.  Things such as fans, televisions, or even family members for those of us that work at home, can cause disruptions during meetings or make it hard to hear speakers.  Many times staff don’t realize how loud the noise is, and having them mute their mic or phone when they aren’t speaking can help the meeting.

Encourage Interactivity:  When staff are engaged in discussion, they are more likely to be productive.  If you speak the whole time, and leave no time for them to get a word in, they will lose interest and stop trying.  Ask for opinions and promote discussion amongst your team.

These are just a few tips to help improve your meetings.  What little things have you found that help your meetings go smoother?  Let us know in the comments!