Whether you are already conducting meetings on the phone or with online tools, or you are considering doing so, here is a general checklist of things you might want to consider. Not all of them apply all the time, so choose what makes sense for you. If you'd like to learn more in general about online meetings, check out the Online Meetings
It is helpful to think about what you want to accomplish and how, with an online group or community. Take a few minutes to fill out this checklist. Ignore any questions that are not relevant to your situation, or which you don’t know how to answer and add any particular context that is missing.
Purpose/Outcome of the Meeting
What is the desired purpose and outcome for the meeting? What is the INTENT behind the purpose? People are busy and if they don’t see and understand the purpose and its value, they won’t participate. If appropriate, get input from meeting attendees on the agenda.
Don't create more items than you can accomplish in the allotted time. Generally 60-90 minutes is all people can pay attention to well in an online environment.
How will you communicate this purpose in your meeting invitation? If it is a complex offer, try out your communication on one or two people to make sure they understand what you intend. Text communication is not always 100% effective, so consider calling and personally inviting people when you really want them to participate.
What are the outcomes of the meeting? Ideas? Decisions?
Who Should Attend?
Who do you want to draw in or need to participate in your meeting? Can you require their attendance or not?
What is the minimum number of people you need for a successful meeting? Maximum?
How might your meeting expand if there is greater interest?
If this is a pubic event and you don't know your invitees, where will you find them?
Type of Participant Interactions
To achieve your meeting purpose, you generally design a set of activities. What kinds of member interactions do you want to foster? In other words, what activities must the group do to achieve its goals?
What tools will you use?
What are the participants' technology contexts?
What kind of Internet access do most participants have?
o 28.8 modem
o 56.6 K modem
o T-1 access
o DSL or Cable Modem access
Is the Internet access available at all times; are there any limitations? (i.e do people have to pay for access, go to an internet café, etc.)
Have you identified the minimum technical requirements for your online tools? (Remember, you will need to communicate this up front.) Do participants have adequate computer equipment to have a satisfactory experience on your system?
What is the expected level of comfort and skill of the participants in using a web browser?
Does the target audience use mobile devices? More than computer based devices?
Are there any organizational firewall issues? (This can affect some synchronous applications such as Skype and some chat and web meeting tools.)
Are there any prohibitions about downloading and installing applications?
Do you have an online conferencing platform, need recommendations on a platform host or some other combination?
What technical support can you offer your participants? Who will support YOU technically?
How will you support the technological side of the meeting (or why you should have a "Plan B")
Time Frame: Synchronous or Asynchronous
How long do expect the online interaction to last? Think back to your tasks. Generally 1 day F2F equals at least a week online, sometimes longer if your participants are online daily. For example, many of our colleagues in Africa don’t have daily access and may have to catch up during one day. Plan for longer time frames in this type of setting.
Are there specific timelines or a project to be accomplished? Is there adequate time to accomplish the goals?
Is it time-delimited event? If so, how long?
Is it an ongoing online interaction space for conversation? If so, how will you keep up interest?
6. Guidelines, Rules and Governance
What kind of agreements, rules or governance do you want/need for your online interaction space?
Will there be strong and defined rules, or more general and/or casual guidelines? Remember, balance control and emergence. People like enough structure to be comfortable, but not so much control as to feel oppressed or controlled.
How will you communicate this to your members?
Will there be problem resolution processes? How will you share that process?
If this is a work team, what processes and agreements will you need? Virtual teams benefit from explicit processes and it is worth investing time in them. Short term events won’t usually sustain a lot of attention for process issues.
Do members have to agree to a “Terms of Service” or other form of agreement before becoming members?
Who makes decisions in the community about the online interaction space?
The online interaction leader(s), or sponsoring organization(s)?
Who will host or facilitate in your online interaction space?
If not you, how will the hosts/facilitators be trained?
What will be their responsibilities?
How will they be supported and/or compensated?
What kind of reporting will you have them do to monitor as needed?
Measuring Meeting Success
How will you know if your meeting has reached its goals?