“Do you see the L?”
“Yes, we see the L,” came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, “Do you see the O.”
“Yes, we see the O.”
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed … ” (source).
Technology has come a long way since the first ARPANET link was established from UCLA to the Stanford Research Institute in the late 1960s. The technical core of what would become the Internet more than two decades later, researchers of this era knew the capacity to communicate with others at remote locations over a network held extraordinary promise. The power to hold virtual meetings with team members and clients in geographically diverse locations is now commonplace in today’s business landscape. Recognizing that virtual meetings need to be facilitated differently than face-to-face meetings is the first step towards a beneficial, collaborative, virtual discussion.
Ways to Hold Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings usually incorporate telephone conferencing, videoconferencing and/or web conferencing. Products like GoToMeeting, Skype, etc. often offer these services in combination. Web cameras have made video conferencing using these inexpensive services ubiquitous. Yet holding a web conference is still a meeting, and we all know meetings can be counterproductive, boring and resource drains. Yes, you can take a short workshop or read a book on “how to conduct good meetings” but it always surprises me how many meetings are conducted “on the fly” without thought or meeting leadership. Here are some tips gathered from other Internet sources. I plan to create a poster with these ideas and place it in every conference room.
|Here are my top five suggestions based on my weekly virtual meeting experience:|
|Use web conference technology to share a pre-prepared PowerPoint for meeting agenda communication, and use the PowerPoint to take notes together and save (see technographer).|
|Mandate the use of live video camera for at least first five minutes for introductions and “discussion of the weather”. This is important for socialization. I am always amazed at the impact of seeing people’s faces.|
|Encourage team members to id themselves before they speak.|
|Review how to conduct a good meeting (principles still apply). More info: Book, Website tips|
|Follow Agenda and make sure action items are completed before finishing on time.|
|Rules for Working with a Team Virtually (source)|
|Participants must identify themselves when they speak.|
|Establish protocol for asking questions, particularly when they should be asked.|
|No sidebar conversations.|
|Decide how “mute” technology should be used. Non-active speakers might want to keep phones muted to minimize the call’s background noise.|
|Keep the number of participants low. Only include people that absolutely need to be in the meeting.|
|Keep the meeting focused and on point to avoid participants need to multi-task (checking email, attending to other projects, etc.).|
|Finish on time.|
|Tips on Conducting Virtual Meetings (source)|
|Create a team display to introduce participants and where they are calling in from.|
|Use facilitators at each location.|
|Create a common visual focus. At a basic level, PowerPoint can help keep participants moving through a content-dense presentation.|
|If you do not have a live video feed of each meeting location, provide color commentary (the play-by-play). Non-verbal communication such as a nod of the head might not be seen by people at a remote location.|
|Set up the room in advance, have technology support on hand in case any issues should arise.|
|Supplement with other virtual forms of communication.|
*This blog post does not imply an endorsement by or partnership with mentioned companies.
Visit Interaction Associates online for more ways to improve virtual meetings.