If you drive to work every day, park in your parking space and take the elevator to the floor where your team and desk reside, you still can't hide from virtual. I'd wager that even when you are sitting with your team, you are on a few other collaboration teams where you meet virtually. I would also make a wager and say that more than 50% of your meetings are held virtually. As I travel and work with client’s teams, I'm consistently getting more and more questions about virtual meetings and collaboration. More specifically I get questions about leading virtual meetings, being a participant in virtual meetings and presenting virtually. Fortunately, I write about and have delivered a few webinars covering these topics.
I'll provide a few tips here and then provide a few resources for you.
Understand the Context
First of all, as I said in the title to this article, you've got to change your mindset. Think about the differences between an in-person meeting and a virtual meeting. In an in-person meeting you bring your physical self into the room. Upon entering the room all your actions are being observed by others and you are observing their actions. From your attire to your facial expressions, all are on view for all to see. Everyone is taking in everyone else, measuring them. All of this is both done consciously and subconsciously. From your verbal interactions to your non-verbal expressions and attention. You can show without words that you are interested and conversely you can show your disinterest or disdain. Like it or not, there is a sense of community created when people gather together in a room. It just happens, and it carries its own energy. As the leader of an in person meeting you automatically, initially have control simply by being present. All of these things will not happen in a virtual meeting or conference call unless you make them happen. Everything has to be done intentionally
Make a Plan
Where we find meeting leaders go wrong is that they tend to plan less for a virtual meeting than an in-person meeting. This is a bad first step that could spell doom for your virtual meeting. Your mindset has to change to be intentional about creating all the verbal and non-verbal interactions and energy that happens in an in-person meeting. You also need to be prepared for anything to happen on this virtual call that could range from problems dialing in, to participants joining from their cars to platform technical issues. Last year there was a You Tube viral video parody of a conference call created by the maker of a popular virtual meeting platform. If you haven't seen it, click here: Parody of a virtual conference call It’s hilarious only because it rings so true. We’ve got to change the energy on these types of communications.
Given all the things that can happen in a virtual meeting or conference call, you must do two things well at the same time. #1- Rule the call with an Iron Fist and #2-Let the call unfold with collaboration and conversation. These two things sound opposite but they can be done at the same time. I would add one thing. The Iron Fist must be covered with a velvet glove. Meaning, you control things without people really feeling like they've been controlled. As the meeting leader you must:
- Act as you would if you were the host of a party at your home. How would you greet people as they entered your home? Would you ever not acknowledge their presence as I've seen on many virtual or conference calls? Just as if they've entered your home, you should greet them the same way, and with the same level of enthusiasm when they’ve entered your virtual meeting.
- Ask people to contribute verbally and tell them how much time they have to speak. For example, you might say "Sarah, will you provide us with a 90 second update on how your team handled last week's outage". If Sarah continues longer than 90 seconds you will want to jump in and summarize for her by saying " Sarah, it sounds like ... would you agree".
- Place participants on mute if their audio is creating noise that is interrupting the call.
- Utilize an agenda and publish it. If you have an agenda slide, consistently refer to it as a guide to where you are in the meeting.
- Use your time commitment to them (for example 60-minute meeting) as a way to keep the meeting moving. You may have to table some discussions or assign someone to do further research.
You can find other tips in our Free Webinar - Getting Results in Virtual Meetings Webinar. Click here to watch the recording. You will also be able to download tools for leading meetings and presenting virtually inside the FREE WEBINAR. See course card below.