Inclusive online meetings – top tips and best practice

According to Microsoft, there was a 200% increase in virtual meetings via Microsoft Team between March and April.

With most meetings remaining virtual due to the coronavirus outbreak calling for remote working, it’s important that facilitators ensure that meetings are inclusive and engaging for remote delegates.

Below are some top tips looking at considerations before, during and after a meeting.

Before the meeting

Send the meeting agenda and any reading material to delegates for pre reading. This allows delegates to prepare for the meetings and gives them insight on the topics that will be covered.

Ask your delegates about their accessibility needs and any reasonable adjustments they need before the meeting.

Reasonable adjustments are changes to the work environment that allow people with disabilities to work safely and productively. Reasonable adjustments should be considered for all virtual meetings.

You should consider:

  • if you have a hearing-impaired delegate, put on your webcam – with webcams, users can see one another in real time, making it possible to lipread or use sign language
  • some video and call conferencing facilities include closed captions (subtitles) – before the meeting, provide a detailed step-by-step guide to delegates on how to use this
  • if your pre-reading documents are in PDF or in a format that cannot be adapted by the reader, some neurodivergent delegates may ask for any pre reading material to be sent in a particular format

How easy to use is the platform you’re using to hold the meeting?

Send information on how to access the platform when sending the join in instructions.

In the event delegates are having trouble signing in, is there a dial in number that they can use to access the meeting? Ensure that this is also sent in the join in instructions.

With timing, try to hold meetings at varying times to see what works best.

During the meeting

If the meeting is interactive, you could maximise inclusion of participants by letting attendees know at the beginning of the meeting that you would like participation and the appropriate times to do so. For example, if there will be an opportunity for a Q&A or a chat box function for delegates to join.

Do check in’s during the meeting to make sure everyone is following and comfortable with the pace of the meeting.

During discussions, encourage people to unmute and speak if they wish and also use the chat box.

Manage interruptions effectively. If a delegate interrupts another person speaking on the call, do not ignore it. Instead, say something along the lines of ‘thank you for your point, we’ll come back to you once we finish hearing from person x’.

Recognise all input by:

  • saying thank you
  • trying to address the points raised if you have time
  • asking the person who raised the point to explain if you do not understand 

After the meeting

Be available for questions offline.

If the meeting is an online event, capture feedback using a survey or an anonymous poll.

Try to send delegates a summary of what was discussed.