Whether your online meeting is a Language Exchange, Study Group, Lesson, or any other kind of online meeting - the opening is a key part of it. How you start your meeting can determine the entire experience and it is key for keeping your audience engaged and entertained. Here are some Pro Tips for getting this part right!
1. Arrive on time
"Time is money" and people in the online world are less patient than ever. People who arrive at a meeting and get a message "please wait for your host to arrive" are more likely to give up on your event and do something else with their time. Arriving a few minutes early to an online meeting you are hosting is important so that you have ample time to deal with setbacks, get set up and properly greet your participants.
2. Greet each person as they enter
Entering an online meeting is like flinging a door open and bursting into a room filled with people with a spotlight on you. If it is a participant's first time attending your online meeting they are likely to leave if they are not acknowledged and greeted within the first few seconds of their arrival. They may not be sure they are in the right place or what their role in the meeting is. A simple "Welcome Mr. X", a small wave, and a smile can make a world of difference. You can also encourage the new participant to turn on their microphone and camera so that they can communicate and settle in. Don't be afraid to interrupt an ongoing conversation to greet people, the other participants will understand and cooperate!
3. Have your Camera and Microphone on!
When people can easily see and hear you it makes them a lot more comfortable and sets the tone for the entire meeting. Some people mistakenly associate keeping the camera off with privacy, but on the contrary, people feel safer when they can see the other people in the meeting.
4. Explain the rules of the game
The beginning of an online meeting is the time for introductions. What is the purpose of this meeting? How will it be conducted? Who is it meant for? What language should we be speaking, and when? Providing a few simple guidelines and directions at the beginning of the meeting helps focus people and removes the restraints of uncertainty.
5. Don't Skip Self-Introductions
This is a critical, and often disregarded, element of a successful online meeting. Some amateurs might disregard this opportunity for people to introduce themselves because it "wastes" valuable time from the "real" content of the event. On the contrary, participants who get a chance to introduce themselves are more likely to take an active part in the rest of your event and cash in that spent time.
6. Bonus Tip - Divide and Conquer
Every online meeting has some issues. Someone's microphone isn't working, a bad internet connection, or trouble connecting to an unfamiliar new platform. The beginning of the meeting is when we want to help people with any issues in a way that doesn't ruin the experience for all the other participants. Instead of working through it while everyone else sits around quietly and waits, give brief instructions and divide the non-challenged participants into a separate room or table. To prepare for this situation you need to make sure that your content is dynamic (i.e a conversation topic or questions) or that you have an assistant host.
To successfully manage this you also need to be using an online video conferencing platform that lets you split participants into rooms or tables such as the paid service Zoom or the Free Langroops Schmooz.