Top5 tips on facilitating great online meetings

Siim Sutrop, June 2, 2020

Online meetings have become an essential part of our workflow — the primary way of communicating in our various teams across the globe. But what are the best ways to facilitate online meetings so that the communication is clear, participants feel engaged and the best discussions take place? Here are my top 5 tips!


For the last decade, by facilitating thousands of offline and online meetings, I have acquired a valuable understanding of what works and what doesn’t. We all love meetings with active discussion and brainstorming, meetings where decisions are made, and actual results are achieved. This can be hard to accomplish within the physical meeting rooms, but it’s even harder online because of the added layer of complexity.

Leaving technical topics aside for today, the most significant problems when facilitating online meetings are that it is more difficult to:

  • Engage people in an active discussion because you cannot look someone directly in the eye
  • Understand if people are listening to you, especially when the camera is off
  • Co-design something and aid decision-making because you cannot gather around a physical whiteboard or work with big sheets of paper

But it doesn’t have to be that hard. Based on my own extensive experience, and without further ado, here are my top 5 tips for facilitating productive web meetings.


Tip No. 1: Keep the movie playing#engage 

  • Use a virtual whiteboard to complement what you present (try whiteboards from MS or Invision). Experiment beforehand!
  • Highlight the text you are reading or referring to when showing a Confluence page.
  • Use more slides with less information on each.
  • Use more graphics or animations for bullet-points, etc.
  • Ask everybody to have their cameras on.

The more continually changing visuals you have in your web meeting; the less likely people are to start looking for stimulation elsewhere.


Tip No. 2: Activate the brain #focus 

  • Gauge the mood of participants via
    • emoticons
    • texts
    • pictures
    • g., at the beginning of the meeting, ask: “Post your current mood with an emoticon.”
  • Ask brief open-ended questions and let people answer in the chat. (e.g., “Write in the chat one challenge we are facing as a team right now?”)


Tip No. 3: Create a frame and ask directly #discussion 

  • Give a framed request instead of a general question:
    • “What do you think?” -> “I’d like to hear from 2 or 3 people what they think about this topic.”
    • ​​​​​​​”Does anyone have any comments?” -> “In 1 to 3 sentences, I’d like to hear from everyone whether this is a good or bad idea and why.”
  • Be direct
    • “What about those who have been silent so far, I’d like to hear your side as well.”
    • “Peter, what do you think?” … (after he has given his reply) … “Peter, who should answer next?”

Tip No. 4: Poll for #feedback 

  • Measure with
    • Emojis (thumbs up, thumbs down)
    • Simple texts (yes, no, dash for undecided)
    • A rating scale (“On a value scale from 1–10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest, type into the chat how valuable you feel this meeting is right now.”Then follow up with a discussion about how to make it more valuable and move it closer to the 10.)

Tip No. 5: Use the human touch #relationships 

  • Begin your sessions with something personal yet non-threatening
    • Ask everyone to share something you would typically see in a physical location (e.g., picture of everyone’s shoes, what everyone sees behind their screen, what everybody sees when looking out of their window, etc.).
    • Begin with something personallike: “Using one word, type into the chat what’s on your mind right now.”
  • Share appreciation and kindness — these are even more crucial in the virtual world
    • “Thank you for your active participation in the chat.”
    • “I like that you were present today and focused on the meeting.”
    • ​​​​​​​”Thank you for arriving on time!”
  • Share appreciation and kindness — these are even more crucial in the virtual world
    • “Thank you for your active participation in the chat.”
    • “I like that you were present today and focused on the meeting.”
    • ​​​​​​​”Thank you for arriving on time!”

Essentially, a virtual meeting is similar in many ways to an offline meeting. And yet, as meeting facilitators, we have a smaller playground, so we need to be savvy and more creative to captivate the minds of our participants.


Siim Sutrop

Siim Sutrop

Siim Sutrop, Learning & Development Architect at Nortal, has a mission to support people in their journey of growth. Having worked for years as a system analyst, Sutrop is now invested in crafting better learning and development opportunities for Nortal’s staff. Find out how you...

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