Tips for online meetings

Tips for online meetings

Online meetings and events have become the norm. How can we make sure they are engaging and accessible for everyone taking part?

Over the past few months we've been learning through trial and error how to make our own online meetings better. We'll share what we've learned, and also link to other guides and resources that we have found useful.

Have you got other tips you'd like us to share? Please let us know!

Be prepared

The number one tip for successful online meetings is to be prepared – even more so that you would need to be for face-to-face meetings. Test your set-up to make sure you know how to use breakout rooms, display presentations and interact with participants.

  1. Have several people supporting the event
  2. Send out information beforehand
  3. Remind people about the meeting
  4. Be careful about inadvertently sharing data

The number one tip for successful online meetings is to be prepared even more so than you would need to be for face-to-face meetings.

Test your setup beforehand to make sure you know how to use breakout rooms. Display presentations and interact with participants You need to have several people supporting the event.

The chair or host is in charge of the agenda, facilitates the meeting and gives clear instructions to participants about etiquette and how the meeting will run.

A meeting support person monitors the chat box checks if participants wish to contribute and can act as an advocate reading out questions or comments from participants who are not confident or comfortable taking part. There should also be a technical support person whom participants can contact if they have any technical problems before or during the event. Send out information beforehand include joining instructions and any materials for participants to look at in advance. If you'll be holding a discussion sharing the questions beforehand gives participants time to think about the topic and can help them concentrate on what others are saying.

Photographs and short biographies of the people taking part will help participants recognise others in the meeting and is especially useful if people have never met in person. Information about people's roles and why they are involved can make the meeting more welcoming for members of the public.

Give clear instructions about how people can take part

Should they have their microphone muted?

Should they have their video turned off or on? and is it okay for them not to use video if that makes them feel uncomfortable?

Will there be a chat box for typing questions and comments?

How can participants indicate that they wish to speak?

By describing how the meeting is going to work participants can flag up any difficulties in advance and allow these to be addressed in time remind people about the meeting a day or two beforehand when people have to travel to a meeting they tend to plan for it but it is easy to forget an online meeting during the daily routine.

Be careful about inadvertently sharing data, check the security settings are correct, be aware that email addresses may be displayed in the participant list on some platforms. Do not share meeting details on social media. Advise participants to check what can be seen in the background on video calls.

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Involve everyone

A successful online meeting involves everyone.

  1. Log on 30 minutes early
  2. Create a welcoming environment
  3. Start with an icebreaker
  4. Give clear instructions and housekeeping information
  5. Introduce the speakers
  6. Asking questions
  7. Be strict about having breaks
  8. Keep the meeting short

A successful online meeting involves everyone. Log on 30 minutes early this gives time to test the video and audio and to upload presentations or papers. A holding slide can remind participants about meeting etiquette and display photos and biographies of the main speakers. It's a good idea to have someone there to welcome people as they log in and help with any technical issues.

Create a welcoming environment use the pre-meeting time as an informal space for participants to introduce themselves and get comfortable. Start with an icebreaker this can be done before the meeting to give people a chance to get to know each other or at the start of the meeting. Ask people a simple question which they can answer in the chat box or hold a quick poll.


Give clear instructions and housekeeping information remind people of things that will help the meeting to run smoothly.

Should they put microphones on mute when not talking? Should they have their

camera on or off? Are you using the chat box? Raise hand functionality and so on.

Will presentations be shared after the meeting? Will you be recording the meeting?

What will happen to the recording? The larger the meeting the more strict these instructions have to be. Introduce the speakers ideally you will have shared photos and biographies of the speakers in advance so participants know there will be more than one speaker. Signal changes in speaker clearly to avoid confusion.

Asking questions, a general question to all participants can result in several people talking over each other or else an uncomfortable silence. Start the conversation with a direct question to a named individual and encourage the others to use the chat box.

Be strict about having breaks, tell people when the breaks are going to be so that if necessary they can plan their support around these times. Keep the meeting short people's attention easily wanders online keep meetings as short as possible and use different methods to keep people engaged including presentations, videos, polls and breakout sessions.

Aim to have something changing on screen every 30 seconds or so.

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Learn from the experience

Running a successful online meeting doesn’t stop when the meeting ends.

  1. Save what you need
  2. Follow up with participants
  3. Involve everyone, especially those who were unable to take part during the meeting
  4. Ask participants how you can make it better
  5. Learn from your experiences
  6. Share your learning with us

Running a successful online meeting doesn't stop when the meeting ends. Save what you need. As the organiser make sure you have a copy of everything you need before you close down the meeting.

Have you annotated or added to any of the documents you shared?

Have you saved the results of any polls?

A transcript of the chat box can be useful for incorporating into meeting notes or minutes.

Follow up with participants, remember to close the loop with everyone who attended the meeting. Send copies of presentations, documents and recordings as soon as you can and remind people of actions that were agreed. Involve everyone. If any participants indicated they were uncomfortable speaking out during the meeting or unable to use the chat box contact them individually after the meeting to gather their views and feedback.

Ask participants how you can make it better. Contact them a week later and ask for suggestions for how to improve.

What would have made things easier or more engaging for them?

Learn from your experiences. Use the feedback from people to shape your meetings in the future, tell people what has changed as a result of their contributions.

Share your learning with us, we are collecting examples of how health and care services are overcoming physical distancing restrictions and continuing to engage meaningfully with communities at a distance. Go to to tell us your experiences and top tips.

Last Updated: 26 September 2022