Make Your Virtual Meetings Truly Participatory

Do you participate in virtual meetings?  How participatory are they?  Are people engaged or are they reading emails while you’re talking?

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not using the full functionality of virtual platforms, such as Zoom, Webex or Adobe Connect.  Here are 5 important tips to increase your interactivity and engagement. 

Improve your Meeting Productivity

  1. Let me see you!  Use webcams so you can see each other.  You’re missing a valuable connection if you’re just doing a conference call.  Seeing each other is critical, especially if you don’t meet often in person.  When you can see each other people are less likely to be doing something else, like checking their email! Also, the software like Zoom allows people to join by phone if they’re in transit.
  2. What kind of collaboration are you looking for? If you’re brainstorming ideas, you’ll want everyone to be able to see and write on a shared document, like a Google doc.  Create a document in Google, and give everyone rights to edit the document.  It’s a great time-saver and way to engage everybody.
  3. Use your time wisely: Get people’s input in advance of a meeting. 
    • Send out the questions in advance and ask for input on the Google doc.  Ask participants to read the document and write their comments and reactions to other people’s entries.  That gets people focused in advance of the meeting. 
    • Also, some of us (many?)  need time to think about important issues; we miss a lot by asking people to respond in the moment in the time pressure of a meeting.
    • If you’re convening a large group, you can use a special platforms for this kind of data gathering, like Meetingsphere.
  4. We’re always making decisions in meetings.  In the virtual space, you have to pay special attention to hearing from everyone.  The nature of the space allows people to stay silent while others are talking (and making the decision).  You have to deliberately check with everyone. You can also create a straw poll if it makes sense for your group. The benefit of a virtual poll is that you can make it anonymous, which you can’t do in person – which might also increase participation.
  5. Don’t limit yourself to linear conversation.  When we meet in person, we usually have to wait in line to speak.  In the virtual space you can get people’s reactions simultaneously.  You can use the chat window (or that Google doc) and ask everyone to type their reaction or comment.  For example, let’s say Evelyn just offered a new solution to a business problem.  Ask people: What questions do you have for Evelyn? Please type your question in the chat box.  Everyone types at the same time, and then go through the questions one at a time.  You can also increase people’s listening skill by priming them in advance; you could say:  Let’s listen to Evelyn’s idea and then each of us can jot down our question or comment in the chat box.

In this age of distributed office sites, and limited resources, we need better ways to interact virtually.  You can achieve “virtual travel” and productive meetings by maximizing the available meeting resources.  Don’t let people disappear in cyberspace!

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