How to Keep Focus During an Online Meeting

Anyone can show how business video conferencing systems such as BlueJeans has transformed their work day for the better, mostly by allowing them to work from home more often, sometimes even full-time. But for all the advantages, the lack of physical interaction has made it easier for people to switch off during meetings, multi-task instead of focusing on the speaker, or think they can get away with many other things just because their colleagues and bosses aren’t in the room with them. If you regularly host online conferences, these tips will help you and others retain focus during conferences and remain productive at all times.

  1. Use Visual Aids

Nobody particularly liked the traditional boardroom setup, but nobody likes doing nothing but look at somebody’s head and shoulders for an entire meeting either. You can break up the agenda and bring attention back when people start to drift off by using regular visual aids such as slides, images, interactive whiteboards, and particularly streaming video. It is easy to upload the video to your conferencing software, play it to all participants during a meeting, and sometimes even pause or speak over the video during playback.

  1. Cut Down on Conferences

If people are nodding off regularly during online conferences, it may not just be the meeting itself that is putting them to sleep but that they have already sat through a dozen conferences that week and are getting sick of it, particularly when it keeps them from their regular work. The Dummies Guide suggests not cutting out meetings entirely but instead cutting them down to only the essentials and holding better, more productive discussions rather than multiple conferences throughout the week. If what you are discussing could be communicated a different way, such as through e-mail, then use that rather than a long meeting.

  1. Include Everyone

Just as people don’t want to sit through long talks, neither do they want to sit and listen to a single person talk at length. The entire purpose of a conference is the free and open exchange of ideas, so it is impolite for a single person to dominate the conversation and not include others. While moderating online conferences, encourage everyone on the call to share their views and ideas without starting arguments or interrupting each other. You can mute all but the person who is currently speaking if this helps. Encouraging everyone to provide their contribution also prevents shy people from becoming overlooked or failing to share their ideas.

  1. Schedule Social Talks

While some social interaction is necessary for retaining working relationships, you don’t want them taking up too much time or interrupting a meeting. Nerds On Site recommends setting aside about 15 minutes at the start of each webcast to let people settle in, solve any technical problems, wait for latecomers, and ask initial questions. Amongst other advantages, this will allow people to break the ice and get their social obligations out of the way so that they don’t hold up a meeting. Remember that with multiple communication channels, there is always time for personal chats later on so save both the socializing and business talks for the appropriate times.

  1. Troubleshoot

Another advantage of setting aside a few moments at the beginning of each conference is that you can get any technical issues out of the way before they disrupt a meeting half way through. A person who is experiencing a slow internet connection, distorted video feed, or is even having trouble accessing the software won’t be able to get their opinions across, will miss a lot, and accidently provide several more time delays. As well as encouraging others to get to know their software and how to troubleshoot their issues, ask them to take a few moments before each meeting to adjust their video and audio settings as needed and test the strength of their internet connection. It is much better to spot and sort them out early rather than five minutes into an important pitch.

  1. Keep it Brief

You may want to cover all the bases and let everyone voice their opinions, but be sure also to keep talks as brief as possible so that everyone can get back to their work and other commitments. Bring any tangents back on topic, stick to a pre-planned agenda, and try to make questions and statements as to-the-point as you possibly can.

It isn’t always easy to sit through a meeting late in the day, whether it is online or in an office. But by taking the above measures, you can still ensure that your colleagues will remain alerted and focused during your online discussions, and you can always make the most out of them without interruption, multi-tasking, or taking time away from more important duties.


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