Top tips for holding a meeting online

Setting up your meeting

  • Choose your platform. Many people use Zoom for online meetings and events (email us at activsm@foe.scot to borrow an account with unlimited time restrictions). See this guide to Zoom for more information about the platform. There are plenty of other platforms you can use which are free and more secure, such as Jitsi or Wire.
  • Communicate to your members in plenty of time when the meeting will be and how they can join.
  • Make a shared agenda which everyone can access, for example on a Google Doc or Riseup Pad. Check out our zoom guide for more tips of the technical aspects of using a zoom meeting

Making sure everyone can join

  • Share instructions for how to use the platform well in advance.
  • Consider having someone who can support others to get online and fix any technical issues.
  • Think about if there is another way of involving those that may not have a good internet connection, or find online meetings difficult for whatever reason. For example, could someone have a follow up phone call with them, or is there another space they can share ideas, such as by email or in a survey?

Keep it social

While you might usually have a few minutes at the start for informal chat between members, or a tea break, this is much more difficult in online meetings. You can try:

  • Doing a go round at the start. This gives everyone a chance to check in as well as practice at muting and un-muting their microphones
  • Use break out rooms for more in depth discussion in smaller groups
  • Use one of the icebreakers below.


Icebreakers can be a great way to break up a meeting, get to know each other and get people to think about something that isn’t on the agenda! Here are some you can try:

  • Share the best thing that happened to you this week
  • Get everyone to touch something blue, something red, something fluffy…
  • Give everyone two minutes to find as many orange things as possible
  • Try to count to ten as a group without speaking over each other. If two people speak at the same time, start again from the beginning!

Facilitation tools

Mute – background noise can be a big problem in online calls, ask everyone to mute themselves unless they are speaking to reduce the noise disruption.

Use the chat – if everyone has video and you can see all the screens you can ask people to raise their hand, but it might work better to use the chat box for people to indicate when they want to speak. Try asking people to put a * in the chat so you know the order of who will speak next.

Summarise – try to regularly summarise the discussion so far to help people keep track of the conversation. This is especially important for online meetings where it can be harder to concentrate, or people’s sound might break up briefly.

Co-facilitator – there can be a lot going on in an online call so it might be helpful to have a co-facilitator. That way one of you can work through the agenda and make sure the group is staying focused and making necessary decisions, and the other can keep an eye on the chat to monitor who wants to speak.

Breaks and timekeeping – online calls can be very tiring so timekeeping is really important to prevent calls lasting hours. If your meeting has to be long because you have a lot to cover, make sure to schedule breaks so people can look away from their screen for a few minutes or make a cup of tea!