Knowing how to run an online meeting is becoming more and more important in business. Top leaders are equally comfortable working online or face-to-face.

Why learn to run online meetings? Web conferences, done right, will save you money and emprove communications with remote offices. Follow these 8 guidelines and you’ll be ahead of the game.

  1. Send an agenda in advance. Yes, I know this is a standard recommendation. It’s still an important part of a successful meeting. More so online, where we have to add more visual and verbal cues to keep things on track.
  2. Practice with your web meeting software. As a leader, you should know how the features work. Planning to use the whiteboard? Figure out how to use it before the meeting. Only want to share one document from your desktop? Again, practice once and learn what to do. Few things are more irritating to meeting participants than waiting five minutes while the leader mumbles “hmm can you see this now?” in vain.
  3. Check on whether participants have done their prep work. For reasons I’ve never understood, people seem more willing to blow off preparing for online meetings. You’ll want to gently nudge with a reminder. I prefer to do this over the phone.
  4. Remember to smile while you speak. Call center staff the world round know that your facial expressions translate into your voice tone. Even if there’s no one to see you, smiling (with authority) works wonders.
  5. Keep background noises to a minimum. Start with a request that cell phone ringers be turned off. Don’t type near the phone’s receiver. If you’re at home, put the dogs in a different room.
  6. Have minutes be taken by another attendee. You will be using your computer to present content (PowerPoint, Spreadsheets, whatever) and should never ask people to watch you type meeting minutes. It’s like watching paint dry…
  7. Check to be sure points are understood. Online meetings don’t give us the chance to read facial cues – which often help us figure out whether everyone understands or agrees. As the meeting leader, make a point of asking for questions after each major topic. This works best if you specific questions about each main point rather than just saying “any questions?”
  8. Manage the participants. Some online meetings tend to mushroom – people pull coworkers into the conference to listen in “just in case” and suddenly you have a lot of unexpected inputs. At the very least, you should know who’s participating. Start the meeting with a request to quickly list who’s in each location – your participants will appreciate knowing who’s hearing their input.

These tips will take you a long way in your desire to run a successful online meeting. Still feeling uncomfortable? Sign up for a free trial with a internet conference vendor (see resource box for helpful links) and practice a bit with a friend. You’ll both emerge knowing exactly how to run a meeting online.