Skip to main content

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Pre-meeting planning best practices

For choosing your collaborative tools

  • When deciding which modes you will use to collaborate with colleagues, there are some key questions you should ask of yourself. Remember, that main goal is to create a space for you to collaborate and centralize the information of your project.
  • Overarching questions for your team
    • Can everybody have access to this tool? This should overrule the “best” tool => adoption
    • What team standards should we set on how to use these tools? Example: sharing a new document -- prefer adding document to the shared drive and send the link rather sending it as an attachment
    • Allow flexibility

For addressing low bandwidth or connectivity issues

  • Ask colleagues, collaborators, and students about their level of access to technology. Use that information to inform the technology choices for your meetings, and make accessibility a top priority. 
  • Solutions for home networking issues
  • Consider limited bandwidth. When possible, share slides and presentations via document sharing, rather than screen sharing to limit bandwidth demand. 
  • Build redundancy into the meeting so if/when a video conferencing connection fails for someone there are other ways to communicate and/or stay involved. Examples are a meeting Google Doc, Slack channel, WhatsApp group. Additionally, make sure that if the host’s connection fails that the meeting does not end and someone else can jump in to lead the meeting.

For accommodating time zone differences

  • Recognize that meeting time is especially precious when working across multiple time zones. Try to maximize the use of synchronous time to support each other as a community combined with using collaboration software to solicit asynchronous contributions from your group. 
  • Clarify group expectations about reviewing asynchronous contributions before shared meeting times.
  • When possible, hold your session at a time that is within reasonable working hours of the global community.
  • For recurring meetings, consider varying the timing to “share the pain” of inconveniently timed meetings across the group
  • Recognize that “working hours” are not universal across cultures and respect cultural differences when scheduling meetings.
  • Consider limiting multi-day meetings to 3-4 hours per day if possible, with breaks built in.
  • Be open to leading the same sessions multiple times to include more people within your group. In these cases, it is critical to have “regional leads” who will host the call and lead the meeting and will be the main point of contact between regions 

For accommodating differing abilities through universal design (low vision, closed captioning, etc.)

  • Ensure that participants have access to the internet and the relevant software installed ahead of time. Many video conferencing softwares have a toll-free call-in option
  • Seek input from participants in advance about any accessibility needs they may have (e.g., low vision, color blindness, limited hearing)
  • Remind presenters of universal design principles at the time presentations are solicited. 
  • Ensure web accessibility for colleagues with disabilities when using online learning or remote instruction. See this webinar and this document for specific examples.

Meeting best practices

For creating effective virtual meeting agendas

For collaborative note taking

  • Collaborative note taking allows participants to more easily follow the conversation even when it is not in their native language or their audio connection is not ideal. It also allows participants to immediately check that their meaning has been captured. Any shared document application such as Google Docs or HackPad will work for this. Google Docs have the added advantage of being well integrated with your Drive: 
    • Note-taking works best when a specific person is assigned to take notes during a specific session, but everyone can also contribute. 
    • The link can be shared in a pre-meeting email or an in-meeting chat. 
    • Sometimes it is useful participants who are not the primary note-taker to add comments/corrections to the notes using the “suggesting mode” that allows easy tracking of user contributions.

For document sharing

  • Here are few recommendations for collaborative sharing of documents with your team:
    • Share the link to the uppermost folder of your working group rather than to specific subfolders, as it is not possible to go to an upper folder when you a subfolder link
    • Do not drag documents outside folders, as others can lose access to them
    • Use a web browser to manage and edit documents. We currently do not recommend using the Desktop application, as certain file formats (MS Office, PDFs, …) are not locked during local editing within the desktop app.
    • If you click on “Add to My Drive” from a folder shared with you by someone else, the folder will count under your Google drive quota.

For increasing interactivity for all thinking modes

  • Begin the meeting with a quick overview to make sure everyone is comfortable with the software (i.e. that they know how to mute/unmute, where to find chat, etc.) and for participating in the meeting (i.e. that your meeting norm is to mute whenever you are not talking). 
  • Ask meeting participants to consider the settings for their display names. Invite participants to edit their name on display and choose how they would like to be addressed. Suggest they consider adding a preferred pronoun and/or a pronunciation guide. 
  • Provide different options for people to "speak up." Conference call software offers various ways to hear from people, like a “hand-raise” symbol, a chat tool, or a live external Q&A. For quick questions ("Can you see my screen?" or "How are you feeling about the material so far?") just ask for a thumbs up or down. 
  • Consider co-creating a set of shared principles or a code of conduct (for examples, see the Mozilla Foundation and Simply Secure.)
  • Be patient with one another during text and video conversations. There can be a tendency to want immediate answers, and typically friendly ways of communicating can break down without deliberate effort to maintain kindness. Try to be as clear as possible in online conversations. Don't assume that broad, sweeping statements will be fully understood. 
    • Consider using emojis 😎. They exist to provide emotion that written text sometimes cannot convey
  • Be kind and understanding regarding expectations. Relax requirements that can be impositions, such as requiring business attire for virtual meetings. Remember that people may be operating without resources and access to many material items and services. Keep the focus on what is most important. 

NCEAS technology primers

Working with Zoom 

  • Features, tips and tricks from NCEAS
  • Prevent unwanted guests from accessing your Zoom event through these Zoom guidelines. Zoom bombing, in which uninvited individuals share offensive content in the chat or via screen share, often targets and alienates individuals from oppressed groups.

Making the most of Slack